Ambassador Sison’s Remarks for ELAN Haiti 2018

Good evening!

Mr. Mayor,  ladies and gentlemen –


Thank you for inviting me here tonight.   Even though I visited Jacmel as a young diplomat in the 80s, this is the first time that I’ve visited this beautiful city since I arrived as the new U.S. Ambassador in February.  For the past three decades, I’ve been honored to represent the United States around the world.  I’ve had the privilege to serve as a diplomat in our Embassies in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, as well as at the United Nations.  But I always wanted to return to Haiti, and I am so happy to be here with you tonight in Jacmel.

I’m very impressed by your presentations and with your proposals.  You, the youth, represent the future of Haiti. What you have accomplished is amazing,  and I encourage you to keep working on these issues. Thanks to your vision and thanks to initiatives like ELAN, Haiti is leading its own development journey, designing and implementing solutions to its own unique challenges.

The United States and Haiti share a long history, and our futures are closely linked through the nearly one million Haitian-Americans who contribute every day to prosperity in the United States and to the economic growth of Haiti.  When I think back to my first diplomatic assignment to Haiti, in the 1980s, it was clear even in those days that Haiti needed strong institutions, good governance, and transparency to ensure prosperity and economic growth.

This is also true today.

We are working to support the goals and vision of the Haitian government and the aspirations of its people for self-sufficiency.  On the economic front, we want to work with the private sector to help unleash the talents and entrepreneurial potential of Haiti –  economic activity that produces inclusive economic growth, raises standards of living and allows for self-sufficiency.  To support Haiti in its development, we want to support programs that promote reform, enhance local capacity, and mobilize domestic resources.

But this solid economic partnership between the United States and Haiti can only succeed when the private sector is able to prosper in a climate conducive to economic growth.  Security, good governance, and transparency are key factors in this growth.

Tonight, I want to talk more about the four themes of “ELAN Haiti 2018” that you’ve been working on – Local Governance, Citizenship, Urban Planning, and Health. I would also like to share with how the U.S. government is working with the government of Haiti to help address these issues.

First of all, governance and citizenship:

To achieve long-term stability and economic growth, I think that you’d agree with me that Haiti must strengthen its institutions so that these institutions can better serve the citizens.  This morning, I met with the local authorities here in Jacmel.  We discussed the issue of mobilizing municipal resources for the citizens of Jacmel.  Through USAID, the U.S. government is working with the Haitian government to support governance through several projects.

Through USAID, we promote transparency and government accountability through an Integrated Financial Management System project, which provides automated financial functions, enhanced control of revenues and expenditures.  We are  supporting decentralization by building the capacity of nine targeted municipal governments to more effectively and transparently plan, collect, and manage revenues and deliver basic services.  We are also modernizing civil service by improving government human resource management, including introducing competitive hiring in the public sector through a partnership between USAID and the Haitian government’s Office of Management and Human Resources (OMRH).

In addition, inclusion in citizen participation is also very important. So we are also working with civil society in Haiti to increase civic and voter education as well as ensuring that women and persons with disabilities can fully participate in the electoral process.

You have also discussed urban planning.

A longstanding challenge in Haiti, the deficit of adequate, affordable housing was significantly exacerbated by the 2010 earthquake. USAID played a critical role in the housing sector in Haiti during the immediate response to the 2010 earthquake. Now, as Haiti continues to rebuild, USAID is concentrating on finding solutions to barriers for adequate supply of affordable housing stock in the country. By collaborating with the Government of Haiti and leveraging key partnerships, USAID is focusing on upgrading infrastructure in existing neighborhoods and increasing access to housing finance. This approach builds on Haitian citizens’ own efforts to secure improved housing and create settlements solutions themselves.

The U.S. has also been active post-Hurricane Matthew with the USAID Build Back Safer initiative carried out with local partners. The program is enabling communities to repair their damaged homes using improved building techniques with the assistance of trained and certified construction technicians and carpenters,  and has benefitted thousands of households throughout the south of Haiti.

In fact, local institutions – private sector partners and civil society organizations – are economic engines for growth and opportunities in Haiti.  A key element of our strategy is to improve the capacity of local institutions and organizations in Haiti.

As Haiti works to improve its public infrastructure to further benefit communities’ well-being and productivity, we are supporting the rehabilitation and expansion of water points and water networks in communities here in the south affected by hurricanes. This morning, I visited Domingue Water Point here in Jacmel. USAID works with UNICEF to ensure that sites like this one delivers safe drinking water through infrastructure that can withstand winds from future storms. They help community water associations manage and maintain water delivery on a regular and reliable basis. Our work rehabilitating these water systems has improved access to safe drinking water to around 8,500 people — 1,700 households– here in Jacmel. Access to drinking water and sanitations systems are limited in Haiti and diseases will persist until access to water and sanitation is improved.

You have also discussed the health sector.  The U.S. government works with the Haitian government to strengthen health systems in Haiti.  Tomorrow morning, I will visit a hospital supported by our American agencies CDC/PEPFAR – the Hôpital Saint-Michel de Jacmel.  Last year, this hospital treated more than 1,100 people living with HIV, screening and preventing mother to child transmission of HIV for thousands of pregnant women and infants.  I am also pleased to see the integrated Specimen Referral Network in action, which plays a critical role in the surveillance of diseases and provides the Ministry of Public Health with the ability to better diagnose and treat patients throughout the country.

According to the latest studies, many of Haiti’s health indicators continue to improve.  Through CDC, USAID, and PEPFAR, the United States has worked with the Government of Haiti and partners to combat HIV/AIDS, improve the delivery of basic health care services such as vaccinations, maternal and child health, nutrition, labs, and public health research. All of these areas of partnership share a common objective: to improve the health outcomes of the Haitian population.

One of my key goals as the new U.S. Ambassador to Haiti is to work to ensure strong coordination between the Haitian government and our U.S. assistance projects in all of these crucial sectors.  I meet with President Moise and his cabinet regularly to discuss development priorities in support of the government’s “Seven Priority Axes.”

Finally, I would like to add that it is important for us to keep in mind the many important factors working in Haiti’s favor, including its young and energetic population – in other words you, yourselves – and also its vibrant civil society.

I am glad to be able to meet you all here this evening – youth, civil society, and community leaders.

We, the United States, welcome your initiatives and innovations — and we want to promote with you this vibrant partnership between the United States and Haiti.

Thank you.