9 September 2009Haiti has “a remarkable opportunity” to overcome decades of misrule and neglect, but major hurdles remain and the international community must step up its support to ensure the Caribbean country can consolidate its gains, the United Nations Special Envoy and former United States president Bill Clinton said today. Addressing an open debate of the Security Council, Mr. Clinton said the outlook for Haiti was positive, with a Government committed to building a modern State, large pledges of aid from donors, a diaspora willing to help and goodwill from the international community.“I am convinced that Haiti has a remarkable opportunity to escape its past,” he said, noting that throughout the region, “there is a deep, wide sense that we can and should support” the country, considered the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.“Haiti can succeed, but not without your help,” he stressed, urging those donors that have made aid pledges to now fund them. Only $21 million has so far been disbursed of the $700 million pledged.He added that any measures that could help expedite the distribution of aid would have a positive impact on the daily lives of Haitians.Mr. Clinton said he would soon undertake a trade mission to Haiti to try to attract investment and project a more positive image of the country, and noted that the country had especially “enormous untapped potential for wind and solar energy” programmes.Later, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Hédi Annabi told the Council debate that some advances have been made in extending State authority with aid of the UN mission in the country, known as MINUSTAH, and the international community in fields ranging from increased customs revenue, enhanced local management of resources and other capacity-building initiatives.“However, all of these initiatives combined represent a fraction of what is required to enable the State to deliver basic services to the population, as is critical for lasting stability,” he warned. “Real progress in this area will depend upon on the political will of the Haitian leadership, and on strong and coordinated support from bilateral partners.”Mr. Annabi cited the continuing efforts by President René Préval and Prime Minister Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis to foster constructive and inclusive discussions on the country’s future as well as improved collaboration between the executive and legislative branches. “At a time when Haiti faces difficult choices, but also enjoys a valuable opportunity to advance, these positive trends must be strengthened,” he said. “It is critical that all branches of Government enhance collaboration, avoid inflammatory language, and jointly assume responsibility for hard decisions.”Turning to security, he noted continued progress in addressing threats in rural and urban areas, and further development of Haiti’s own security capabilities with MINUSTAH’s help, including the enhancement and enlargement of Haiti’s own police force, now numbering nearly 10,000 officers. “However, at the same time, we must not lower our guard prematurely, before these advances have been consolidated,” he cautioned. “Haiti continues to face serious threats, including a potential for resumed activity by gangs, criminals and other armed groups; corruption and violence associated with illegal trafficking; and the risk of civil unrest.“All of these threats may be manipulated to achieve personal or political objectives, including in the context of forthcoming electoral processes. Potential spoilers are likely to exploit any indication of weakness or disengagement.”He also called for speeding up the recruitment of properly trained magistrates to strengthen the rule of law and protect human rights, areas in which he noted that continued Haitian leadership and sustained international support are indispensable.At the same time, it is vital that further efforts be made to lay the foundations for long-term socio-economic development based around the revival of private-sector activity. “Today, we see a window of opportunity. Haiti’s inherent advantages as an area for investment have been highlighted repeatedly over the past year,” Mr. Annabi concluded.“Over the past two years, events on the ground have highlighted that stability is built slowly and that setbacks are to be expected. But they have also shown that if we persevere and ‘stay the course,’ we can advance.”Ms. Pierre-Louis told the Council debate, which also heard from dozens of other speakers, that her country was undergoing a sea change with the help of MINUSTAH.She stressed that it was up to Haitians, backed by the international community, to work towards a path of equitable and sustainable development.