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Remarks by the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Irwin LaRocque On the Occasion of the Presentation of Credentials by His Excellency Peterson Benjamin Noel Plenipotentiary Representative (DESIGNATE) of the Republic of Haiti To The Caribbean Community   Georgetown, GUYANA 10 January 2014

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you, Ambassador Noel, as Haiti’s first Plenipotentiary Representative to the Caribbean Community.  Ambassador, you, however, are far from being a newcomer to our Community and this institution in particular.

You were a pioneer in the Secretariat’s programme for attaching Haitian professionals to the organisation back in 2008, being the first Haitian government official attached initially to the CARICOM Representation Office in Haiti (CROH) and then to the Foreign and Community Relations Directorate of the Secretariat.  Much like your country, Excellency, you have been a trailblazer, and it seems therefore only fitting that you be vested with the honour of being Haiti’s first Plenipotentiary Representative to CARICOM.  Your accreditation could truly be viewed as a home-coming.

As your country’s first envoy to CARICOM, you carry your country over a new threshold in its relations with the Community.  I regard the presentation of your credentials today as a re-affirmation of the strong role that Haiti plays and will continue to play in our Community.

Since embracing membership in 2002, Haiti and the Community have worked together to ensure the smoothest possible integration of your country into CARICOM.  To this end, the CARICOM Representation Office in Haiti had worked with your own Bureau de Suivi.  Numerous technical missions, workshops and engagements have been held, for example, to assist Haiti in preparing for its eventual accession to the Single Market regime.  These efforts have been greatly facilitated by a number of international donors, in particular the Government of Canada as well as the Governments of Australia and Spain.  I wish to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Community, to once more express appreciation to these countries for their support in helping CARICOM to build Haiti’s capacity to fully benefit from their membership in the Community. The Secretariat continues to work with Haiti to ensure that the country fully integrates into the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

We, as a Community, welcome what Haiti brings to CARICOM, which President Martelly outlined as a “market of nearly ten million people, unsuspected natural assets and a rich cultural heritage”.  Haiti undoubtedly enriches the cultural diversity of the Community. President Martelly rightly described Haiti as an opportunity, one yet to be fully discovered by our people.

Ambassador, it would be remiss of me not to identify some highlights of Haiti’s membership of CARICOM to date. At the beginning of last year, for the first time Haiti assumed the Chairmanship of the Community during which time the Community benefitted from the able leadership of President Michel Martelly.

Most recently President Martelly’s leadership brought the Community’s focus on the needs of the differently abled which resulted in the Declaration of Petionville adopted by the High-Level Regional Meeting on Persons with Disabilities.  That Declaration now forms the platform on which the Community is advancing its efforts to address issues of concern to persons with disabilities.

Ambassador, the Government and People of Haiti have shown themselves to be resilient, creative, focussed and determined.  These qualities have allowed Haiti to overcome many of the challenges that have threatened its aspirations.  This is not surprising, when one takes into account the proud history of Haiti and its epic and victorious struggle for independence against the odds and to overthrow slavery.  These qualities come into play once again in your country's quest to achieve its highest aspirations.

Excellency, I must mention the considerable progress made by Haiti, though the task is not yet completed, as it continues its reconstruction process following the catastrophic earthquake of 2010.  The thoughts and prayers of the Community continue to be with the People of Haiti as they commemorate the fourth anniversary of the tragedy on 12 January.

Even as Haiti solemnly marks the anniversary of that catastrophic event, three CARICOM States – St Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia and Dominica – will be dealing with the aftermath of the devastating effects of a climatic event that hit hard during the Christmas season.  These natural events – earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions and torrential rains and floods – destroy lives, property and infrastructure but they also bring out the best in our Community, our solidarity.  I take this opportunity therefore to say to our brothers and sisters of the affected countries, as we had said to Haiti in 2010, that the Community is here for every Member State and every CARICOM citizen, and it is here most especially in times of distress.

Excellency, an issue which has brought our Community’s solidarity into sharp focus is the unjust and discriminatory ruling on nationality made by the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic which retroactively strips tens of thousands of its nationals, mostly of Haitian descent, of citizenship, rendering them stateless. The Bureau of the Conference of the Heads of Government on behalf of the entire Community has condemned this ruling which violates regional and international human rights obligations.  The Community continues to accord this matter the highest priority and calls on the Dominican Republic to right this terrible wrong. The Community will also continue to provide support to Haiti as it fights for the respect for the rights and citizenship of members of its diaspora.

Ambassador, allow me to reassure you that though your responsibilities and tasks are onerous, we are convinced that you are well equipped to handle them and will bring new insight and energy to our own efforts to further integration. The Secretariat and your fellow CARICOM Ambassadors stand ready to work with you in those efforts.

I bid you once more a warm welcome, as I accept your credentials accrediting you as Haiti’s Plenipotentiary Representative to the Caribbean Community.

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