29 January, 2010

Australian Statement on Haiti – UN Human Rights Council

Sixteen days after the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, the full and tragic consequences of this natural disaster remain unclear. What is clear is that the international community, under the direction of the Haitian Government, will be required to respond perhaps at an unprecedented scale, for an extended period of time in addressing a very broad range of needs of the people of Haiti. Australia conveys its deepest condolences and sympathy to the people and Government of Haiti, as well as the UN personnel and all other persons affected by this tragedy.

Australia welcomes the convening of this Special Session of the Human Rights Council. The international community, including through this Council, has an obligation to demonstrate our commitment to the people of Haiti in their time of greatest need. Through this Special Session that Australia proudly co-sponsors, we emphasize the importance of fully recognizing and protecting the human rights of the people of Haiti, with particular attention to the vulnerable, including during relief and reconstruction efforts.

Australia remains concerned about the ongoing protection of the vulnerable, particularly women and children. Even before the disaster, there were significant human rights challenges in Haiti in respect of women and children. We are concerned that even greater efforts will be required in the wake of this tragedy to meet the needs of the increased numbers of the vulnerable and to address other emerging human rights challenges.

The Australian Government has been actively involved in the relief and reconstruction efforts for Haiti, working cooperatively with partners in the international community. Australia has committed A$15 million in humanitarian assistance through the World Food Programme, OCHA, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, and NGOs. This emergency relief contributes to the protection of Haitians' human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, consistent with the approach of the Australian Aid program to the realization of all human rights. A team of Australian air traffic controllers is also en-route to Haiti to support the efforts to deliver effective transport infrastructure to the relief effort.

Australia reaffirms its commitment to assist the people of Haiti and its Government at this critical time.

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