I'll be brief, Mr. Chairman.
I would first like to thank the members of the Committee for inviting me to discuss the situation in Haiti. Haiti is a priority of the Canadian government. Canada continues to play a key role in international efforts to stabilize and rebuild the country and uses every forum to reiterate its commitment to long-term involvement.
To encourage Haiti's interim government in its efforts, the Canadian International Development Agency is contributing more than C$180 million over two years. One key component of Canada's contribution is the 100 civilian police officers deployed to the UN mission in Haiti, including the Police Commissioner for this mission.
The Cayenne Conference on Haiti, organized by France and held on March 18, had a twofold objective: to take stock of the implementation of the Interim Cooperation Framework (ICF) eight months after its adoption and the funding pledges made at the Washington Conference in July 2005; to provide an update on certain sensitive issues and policies such as the elections, disarmament and human rights.
This was a conference involving participation by five foreign affairs ministers including myself. They represented France, Chile, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
The other countries were represented by heads of delegations of various levels. Twelve countries were represented, including five from Latin America. Five international organizations also took part in this Conference.
The Cayenne Conference achieved significant results. It refocused on and strengthened interest in Haiti, while other global crises such as the tsunami in Asia, Darfur and Afghanistan took centre stage in terms of concern and international assistance.
The Conference also provided an opportunity to explore certain sensitive “policies,” generating open discussion of issues such as the feasibility of and budget for the elections, the disarmament program and human rights, including the case of Prime Minister Neptune's prolonged detention.
And above all, the Conference provided a means for renewing the commitment to the Interim Cooperation Framework and recognizing the importance of rapidly implementing projects that have a visible and concrete impact in an effort to meet the expectations of Haitians.
The international community has put considerable effort into assisting Haiti, but cannot carry out these commitments without the will of the people to commit to national reconciliation. However, such reconciliation is difficult if Haitians do not see any concrete progress — no improvement in their daily lives.
In this sense, I think the most significant result of the Cayenne Conference has been the creation of a detailed inventory of 380 projects in Haiti, projects in progress and in the planning stage, to encourage donor countries to accelerate their activities and disbursements.
This indicator has demonstrated that Canada has managed to respond to the ICF crisis — beyond its promises, with close to $100 million paid out in 2004-2005, compared with the $90 million projected.
Today the situation in Haiti remains fragile, particularly in Port-au-Prince. But despite the situation in the capital, tangible progress has been made in the country thanks to the MINUSTAH. Although the preparations for the elections are nearly two months behind the original schedule, we believe elections can still take place as scheduled in the fall.
Let me raise also another issue related to disbursements by donor countries. The slow pace at which the international community is disbursing its pledges made for the future of Haiti in Washington a year ago sometimes threatens the crucial process of democracy. Red tape is unjustified. These people cannot wait. I can assure my colleagues of the House that I will continue to urge all of my colleague ministers to get involved directly in reducing the bottlenecks associated with lengthy bureaucratic procedures in order to get the money to Haiti as soon as possible.
The bureaucracy must not slow down spending on aid that Haitians need now or tangible progress in helping Haitians at this difficult time in their history.
It is in this context that in two days, on June 16 and June 17, Canada will be hosting the Montreal International Conference on Haiti, in order to put forward the achievements obtained and difficulties encountered one year after the creation of the UN mission of stabilization in Haiti, and eleven months after the financial contribution commitments made by donors in Washington to the interim cooperation framework.
This conference, which I will inaugurate, will be held at the senior-official level and will also provide the opportunity to examine the implementation of the upcoming UN Security Council resolution and the necessary measures to take in order to improve security and justice; to discuss the electoral process, including electoral observation; and to consult on the timely application of the international cooperation framework.
This is just one more example of Canada's commitment to maintaining a leadership role in the reconstruction efforts in Haiti.
Today, Haiti is once again at a crossroads. This is an opportunity for a fresh start, for reconstruction based on the rule of law, democracy, security and access to decent living conditions for all Haitians.
Canada intends to stand with the people of Haiti and help them to meet this new challenge under the transitional government, and subsequently, the government chosen through the upcoming elections.
The international community has the obligation to stop the recurring 15-year cycle of crisis in Haiti. Canada understands that the task is formidable and costly, but there can be no failure this time in the efforts of the international community. Canada wants to help in building a stable, democratic, and--over time--prosperous society in Haiti. Canada stands ready to continue to work with the United Nations towards that objective. ,
I will be happy to keep you abreast of developments with regard to Haiti over the next few months.
This concludes my statement, and I am quite ready to engage in your questions and dialogue.