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Geri Benoit

Ambassadeur d’Haiti en Italie

It feels wonderful to be back in Kraców and thank you for the opportunity to be part of this great panel, where we are all concerned about the role of Latin America in a globalized world.

We acknowledge that globalization's ultimate goal is to create unity by webbing a network of relationships between all of us. However, this great project has had unexpected and unwanted consequences where the focus strayed away from its essence: the human being, to pay more attention to its economic dimension and making money its top priority. This deviation has created a lot of tension in our Latin-American region such as social unrest, political conflicts and even despair in some cases...
The countries of Latin America are so diverse that it is difficult to have an uniformed response to globalization; though we need to come together to a regional agreement on the true meaning of peace, security and solidarity with the poorest. More importantly, we should decide on how these values are concretely reflected in the region's political, economical and social positioning in the world.  Consequently, the true consensus to be achieved is on how to put globalization's promises  at the service of all Latin American populations while taking in consideration the many faiths and cultures as well as economic levels of each country.
This is a reminder that more dialogue needs to take place and better policies to be found, even at the time of crisis and especially when we feel helpless in the face of such an enormous task. We also need to be reminded that we are not alone in this reflection, and this is how the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI addressed this concern in his Encyclical Letter “Caritas in Veritate”.
“Sometimes globalization is viewed in fatalistic terms, as if the dynamics involved were the product of anonymous impersonal forces or structures independent of the human will... In this regard it is useful to remember that while globalization should certainly be understood as a socio-economic process, this is not its only dimension. Underneath the more visible process, humanity itself is becoming increasingly interconnected; it is made up of individuals and peoples to whom this process should offer benefits and development, as they assume their respective responsibilities, singly and collectively"

In Haiti, the only francophone country in Latin America, and also the poorest, the economic gap with  other countries of the region keeps widening. The difficult political and economic issues that we are faced with today are not new.
During his visit in Haiti, in March 9th 1983, Pope John Paul II made the memorable remark that: “Something must change here” and that had inspired Haitians to find the courage and strength to make the necessary political changes in the country.

On March 9th 2008, twenty five years later, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI in his address to Haitian bishops during the  Ad limina Apostolorum visit asked them “Have things changed?...Because your country has been through times of suffering that the Church has followed attentively, like division, injustice, poverty, unemployment...”
Actually, some things have changed. We went from a dictatorship to a democratic process. We wrote a new constitution recognizing all religions. And presently, President Préval qualifies his second Mandate as one of “Transition” meaning that his first priorities this time around are, the creation of an environment of Peace, the rebuilding of the nation and the strengthening of the institutions, the protection of environment putting the human being at the center of his work.

Lately, we have made many gains, for instance the insecurity issue. As of now, we have noticed that it is a at its lowest level in years. As a result, countries like Canada and the USA have lifted the ban on travels of their citizens to the country. Countries like Brazil, Argentina and Chile, in a show of solidarity, have been very helpful in putting together the badly needed United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti(MINUSTAH) for the strengthening of Democracy. Moreover, we are very grateful to the countries members of “the Club of Paris” like Italy that have cancelled the majority of Haiti's debt.

Yet, the environment of Peace is very fragile and Haiti remains the poorest country in the Americas facing enormous challenges. The actual world economic and financial crisis does not help the situation of Haiti which relies so heavily, on the remittances of the Haitian diaspora, on the international financial organizations and other foreign aid institutions. We have survived in 2008, four storms that have taken the lives of hundred of people and further damaged the agricultural infrastructure and production, and riots brought on by the food crisis which provoked another change of government... Still Haitians believe that “God is good” and that God will never abandon them. It is this faith in God and the courage of the Haitian people that help it survive through though times.

Nevertheless, we need to do more than survive. We need to live, We need to live with human dignity and mutual respect.

The challenge before us is to combine Haitian traditional  values with international support. It is also to find innovative ways to alleviate poverty using the authentic cultural wealth and the well recognized creativity of the Haitian people to improve its livelihood. We need to learn to seize opportunities like the “Hope Bill” and the appointment of President Clinton by the United Nations as a Special Envoy to work at attracting investments and getting the international donors to honor their pledges. Surely it is the task of the Haitian people to provide a stable and secure environment for investment, defining a fair minimum wage for workers and negotiating sustainable projects based on the needs of their communities and ethical values that benefit all stakeholders. We need to appreciate and use our uniqueness as a strength that brings opportunities for all, knowing that there is no blueprint in Development and we do not have to loose our national identity to be a part of a regional or the global family.
It is also always helpful to keep in mind that only participation brings true ownership and the profound and lasting changes necessary in the fight against poverty, and the reduction of exclusion and in fostering responsible citizens.
Furthermore, our intrinsic spiritual values need to remain the foundation of all discussions. In putting ourselves in the shoes of the other and keeping in mind that we should not do to others what we would not like to see done to us, and as it is stated in Luke  (Lk 6, 30) “Treat others as you would like people to treat you” (). We are reminded that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, because we are realizing and admitting that we are one in God.

The lesson for us today, in this time of global crisis is to remember that, first, as Haitians it is time to apply in our daily life the motto of our country “ In unity we find strength”. Also, it is time for us, public servants to be the example of the individual model that we want to create in the Hemisphere, in our daily lives.
Second, we are also one of the many members of the Latin American family with each one of us bringing to the table its own vision and its experiences in accomplishing a Latin American project that leads to collective transcendence.

Thank you