UNITED NATIONS. FALLEN COLLEAGUES REMEMBERED. BAN KI-MOON: "LET US PLEDGE TO REALIZE THEIR DREAM OF A BETTER HAITI"

 

15 JANUARY 2011

FALLEN COLLEAGUES REMEMBERED. BAN KI-MOON: "LET US PLEDGE TO REALIZE THEIR DREAM OF A BETTER HAITI"

On the one-year anniversary of the earthquake which devastated Haiti, the United Nations remembered the disaster's victims in memorial events in Port-au-Prince, New York and elsewhere around the world.

A snowstorm in New York did not discourage U.N. staff from assembling together to commemorate the fall of their colleagues in Haiti on 12 January a year ago. Led by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who laid a symbolic wreath, they stood together in a moment of silence at 4:53pm, the same time as last year's lethal earthquake, joined by a feeling of solidarity and dedication. The Secretary General spoke on behalf of all of us:

"Forty-seven seconds. It is not a long time. But the earthquake in Haiti was an eternity of sorrow.

One year is not long, either. Every day, I see the faces of our fallen colleagues. I hear their voices. Like you, I remember.

Today, we gather in solidarity - with the people of Haiti, with one another, with all who lost their loved ones on that tragic day.

To the families of our 102 fallen colleagues. To all who suffered injuries, physical and emotional. We offer our deepest sympathies.

As we honour the dead, we honour the living. The Haitians struggling in difficult conditions, the workers from around the world helping Haiti to rebuild, the many donors giving aid.

Let us be realistic: the road ahead will be long and hard. Haiti's streets are still full of rubble. Schools, hospitals, civic infrastructure - all has yet to be rebuilt. To be frank, reconstruction has been slow. International aid and investment has not come as quickly as needed, or as promised. The cholera epidemic shows no sign of abating.

Yet, we are making progress. The number of people living in camps is half what it was at the peak of the emergency. We provide clean water to 1 million people every day, food to 2 million people every month. We are providing security and will help a new government get on its feet and fulfil its responsibilities to its people. And, despite the slow start, recovery and reconstruction is finally beginning in earnest.

On this sad and solemn occasion, I want to say: the United Nations, the entire international community, stood by Haiti and its people in their darkest hour. Together, we will walk with them towards a brighter future.

In life, we are measured by the company we keep. We are ennobled by the work we do, together. In the memory of our fallen comrades, let us pledge to realize their dream of a better Haiti.

May they rest in peace. May we carry on their journey."

In the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, staff at the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) gathered for memorial events which included a formal ceremony and the unveiling of a monument in honour of UN staff members who were killed in the earthquake. The head of the UN's peacekeeping operations, Under-Secretary-General Alain Le Roy, attended the events.

At UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took part in a wreath-laying ceremony on Wednesday afternoon, timed to coincide with the hour at which the earthquake struck - at 4:53 p.m. on Tuesday, 12 January, 2010. Participants were asked to solemnly observe silence for a period of 47 seconds, which was the duration of the earthquake.

With a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale, the earthquake killed over 200,000 people, injured more than 300,000 and displaced 2.3 million people - nearly one quarter of the country's population. It levelled Haiti's capital, delivered a severe blow to the economy and infrastructure, and impeded nation-building efforts in the country. In addition, 102 UN staff members perished, constituting the highest loss of life from a single event in United Nations history.

At the memorial ceremony in Port-au-Prince, Mr. Le Roy delivered a message on behalf of the Secretary-General. In that message, he called on the world to live up to the solidarity expressed in the wake of the earthquake, including at the Haiti Donors' Conference last March. He also paid particular tribute to the dedication of UN staff in Haiti who survived the earthquake and worked to save lives in the following hours and days, as well as the hundreds of other UN staff from duty stations around the world who responded immediately to the call for volunteers.

At the memorial event in New York, the Secretary-General paid tribute to those who perished in the disaster and expressed solidarity with those who survived. "Today, we gather in solidarity - with the people of Haiti, with one another, with all who lost their loved ones on that tragic day, to the families of our 102 fallen colleagues, to all who suffered injuries, physical and emotional, we offer our deepest sympathies," Mr. Ban said. He also noted that after a slow start, recovery and reconstruction is finally beginning in earnest in Haiti, with water being provided to one million people every day, food to two million people every month, and plans to help a new Haitian government get on its feet and fulfil its responsibilities to its people.

The Secretary-General also reaffirmed the UN system's commitment to assisting the people of Haiti to rebuild their country. "On this sad and solemn occasion, I want to say: The United Nations, the entire international community, stood by Haiti and its people in their darkest hour - together, we will walk with them toward a brighter future," he said.

In the Middle East, peacekeepers at the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) remembered the earthquake's victims at a wreath-laying ceremony at UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqoura in southern Lebanon.

In the Balkans, staff at the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo took part in a ceremony observing 47 seconds of silence. Speaking at the event, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Kosovo, Lamberto Zannier, expressed solidarity with the people of Haiti and all those who suffered losses.