Port Salut, Haiti -- Since 2008, UNEP has been supporting the Government of Haiti in the sustainability and effectiveness of reforestation efforts, with a view towards accelerating the country's transition to an inclusive green economy and boosting sustainable growth.
These efforts 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.
The Government of Haïti, with the support of Norway and UNEP, has marked specific new achievements for sustainable development in the country's Département du Sud. 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 the Coalition, UNEP has supported the Government to achieve key 'big firsts' for the environment in Haïti, including the establishment of the country's first nine Coastal and Marine Protected Areas and its first Electric Cooperative. The initiative has also opened a dialogue between Government authorities and donors on environmental challenges and solutions for southern Haiti.
President Michel Martelly - who personally invited UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner to Haiti to celebrate 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,' he said. '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.'
During Mr. Steiner's visit, President Martelly and Minister of Environment Jean François Thomas presented him with the 'Haiti White Book on Environment'. Mr. Steiner joined President Martelly and Minister Thomas in touring the mountainous and the southern coastal parts of the country.
Mr. Steiner listed a number of priority areas for UNEP's transformative programme, including the Macaya National Park, one of Haiti's last remaining primary forests. The Park - a biodiversity hotspot in Haiti's Grand Sud region - is one of the few remaining bastions of primary forest 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, he 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,' said Minister Thomas. '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.'
UNEP's work in Haiti has been 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 that 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,' he said.
'Despite the many challenges Haiti faces, there is a palpable sense of progress and optimism about the future development of the country. 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 as he concluded his visit.