Rebeca Grynspan is UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator. She was the delegated UN representative in the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, comprising Haitian government officials, former United States President Bill Clinton, and other high-level international partners
11 Jan 2012
Two years ago this week, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the Caribbean island nation of Haiti, killing 200,000 and displacing 1.5 million people. The deaths and destruction highlighted the risks associated with a hyper-centralized government and population in Port-au-Prince, where hundreds of thousands of homes were demolished and 30 percent of civil servants lost their lives.
In a matter of minutes, chronic challenges became urgent and acute, with life-or-death consequences in many instances.
With the aim of “building back better,” UNDP has worked with other agencies not only to help Haiti recover but to make the country and its people more resilient, better prepared to weather any natural or man-made shocks the future will bring. That is our mission and our mandate, with Haitian people at the centre of every initiative. Since 2010, we have stepped up cooperation with the Haitian Government, expanding debris management and reconstruction while creating thousands of jobs.
With 80 percent of Haitians living in poverty and some 60 percent jobless, we systematically privilege local employment and purchasing.
We have helped create 300,000 temporary jobs since the quake, such as debris removal, river gabion or retaining wall construction, and garbage collection. This has given 60,000 families a chance to rebuild their livelihoods, with access to specialized training and cash.
This is the largest job creation programme we have in the world.
The results are significant: UNDP, with UN agencies and other partners, have helped the Haitian government remove more than 50 percent of earthquake debris—some five million cubic meters, roughly the size of five football stadiums.
UNDP has also helped build critical capacities in Haiti, such as training judges, placing experts in public administration to support delivery of essential services, supporting the construction sector, and expanding disaster risk reduction.
Haiti has now undergone not only a political and administrative transition but a shift from the humanitarian to the recovery phase as well—although many key humanitarian needs must still be addressed.
A full recovery will take many more years, despite significant progress.
UNDP is working with the Haitian government—at the local and central levels, with national and international NGOs, with the Haitian private sector and international community—to put Haiti and its people at the centre of building a more resilient country, in which Haitians can build better lives for themselves and their families.
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