World Environment Day - Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level

From the Mountains to the Sea: investing in Haiti’s environmental resources - a cause for optimism

Executive Director visited Haiti at the invitation of President Martelly to celebrate World Environment Day and to profile the country’s ecological potential as key elements for future growth and resilience.

Port Salut, Haiti, 8 June 2014 – Since 2008, UNEP has been supporting the Government of Haiti in the sustainability and effectiveness of reforestation efforts with a focus on high value trees (fruit trees), the development of renewable energy (including solar and wind), regional cooperation for the management of shared resources in the framework of the Caribbean Biological Corridor, and the integrated development of marine and coastal resources management.

Mr. Steiner and the Haitian Minister of Environment attending an expo on the Port Salut beach on the MPAs recently declared with UNEP Haiti support

The Government of Haïti, with the support of Norway and UNEP, has marked specific new achievements for sustainable development in the Département du Sud in this regard. In 2011, UNEP initiated a UN Coalition called the Côte Sud Initiative to promote sustainable development and reduce vulnerabilities in this coastal Département. The Côte Sud Initiative has supported the implementation of several thematic environmental programmes. Within this Coalition, UNEP has supported the Government to achieve key “big firsts” for the environment in Haïti such as the first nine Coastal and Marine Protected Areas in the country and the first Electric Cooperative in the country. Overall, with the support of Norway, UNEP also created for the first time space for dialogue between Government Authorities and donors on the environmental challenges and solutions for the Southern part of Haiti. 

President Martelly who invited Mr. Steiner to Haiti to celebrate the World Environment Day, reiterated his strong commitment to including the environment as a pillar of his political agenda, with a focus on sustainable socio-economic development. “The environment is high on the national agenda and I am grateful for the support that UNEP is providing Haiti. Receiving the Executive Director is a positive signal to all our environmental actors, and I am honoured to be hosting him in our beautiful country”, the president said. At that occasion, the President and Minister of Environment, Jean François Thomas, presented the Haiti White Book on Environment to the UNEP Executive Director. UNEP Executive Director, Mr. Steiner toured the mountainous and the southern coastal parts of the country with the President Martelly and the Minister of Environment, Jean François Thomas.

Mr Steiner announced that on the frame of this transformative UNEP programme, the Haiti’s last remaining primary forests, the Macaya National Park is a growing priority for UNEP in Haiti. Macaya National Park, the biodiversity hotspot in Haiti’s Grand Sud region, is one of the few remaining bastions of primary forest and biodiversity in the largely deforested Caribbean nation. “A new phase of collaboration is beginning between UNEP and the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture, with the aim of reducing threats to the ecosystems of the Grand Sud of Haiti – including from unsustainable agriculture, forest fires, the production of wood charcoal and firewood and the wood plank industry”, said Mr. Steiner.

In particular, Mr Steiner outlined that the programme will work to strengthen the management capacities for Macaya Park; establish a network of marine and coastal protected areas connected to the Park by biological corridors; and develop sustainable economic opportunities in agroforestry that will enable a green economy in the Département du Sud.

“With the visit of Mr. Steiner, it is a ridge to reef approach that we put in practice. We also jointly launched the aerial reforestation campaign on the top of the mountain and then celebrated a symbolic planting of mangroves along the coast” the Minister of Environment explained.

The work of UNEP in Haiti has been mainly supported financially and technically by the Government of Norway for which Mr. Steiner reiterated his sincere thanks.

During a meeting with Representatives of the UN Country team, Mr Steiner expressed his appreciation for the close partnerships UNEP has developed with other UN agencies, funds and programmes active in Haiti. "Our collaboration in the Côte Sud Initiative on coastal protection, reforestation, access to renewable energy with UNDP, FAO, UNOPS and various Ministries has shown promising results both the Southern Region and in due course at national level".

"Despite the many challenges Haiti faces there is a palpable sense of progress and optimism about the future development of Haiti. Protecting and restoring the environmental resources of Haiti can clearly play a vital role in ensuring that economic development opportunities across a range of sectors such as fisheries, tourism, energy and forests represent investments of great promise", said Mr Steiner at the conclusion of his visit.

For more information, please contact: Maximilien Pardo UNEP South Haiti Programme Manager.