Lady Mayoress, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
I cannot tell you how delighted my wife and I are to join you here today, to pay tribute to the absolutely incredible humanitarian and reconstruction work which has been going on in Haiti in the aftermath of the horrific earthquake which struck last year. What is particularly heartening, if I may say so, is the way diverse organizations – including several of my and my wife’s own Patronages and my own Foundation for the Built Environment – have built very effective partnerships to bring practical solutions to some challenges of truly Herculean proportions.
As President of the British Red Cross for the past eight years, I know only too well that the Red Cross has been instrumental in providing health care, vaccinations, clean water, basic sanitation, shelter materials and essential relief supplies to Haitians as they face the enormous challenge of rebuilding their lives; we can hardly even begin to imagine how difficult it must be. But, while humanitarian efforts continue, the Red Cross is helping Haitians re-establish their livelihoods so that they can take charge of their own recovery.
ShelterBox, of which my darling wife is President, is also represented here today and has provided a truly staggering 28,000 survival boxes (of immense weight, and with remarkable contents) and almost 60 individual ShelterBox Response Team members to assist on the ground.
And, International Health Partners, of which I am Patron, has undertaken the enormously complex task of coordinating donations of over 2.8 million pounds of essential medicines from more than 60 pharmaceutical companies across Europe – enough to help treat over 150,000 Haitians!
One year after the crisis, Haiti has moved from the emergency phase and is now getting stuck into the frankly daunting challenge of rebuilding not only shattered structures, but also shattered lives and communities. I cannot tell you how proud and delighted I am that the Haitian authorities have asked my Foundation for the Built Environment to participate in the reconstruction of the historic centre of Port-au-Prince. Using a process which we have pioneered, called “Enquiry by Design,” we have sat down with the local community, members of government, developers and other stakeholders in order to develop a detailed reconstruction plan which responds to what local people actually want rather than thinking that we, as outsiders, have all the answers and know what is best for them. That includes, as some of you may have seen from the plans here, a natural wetlands filtration system along the waterfront, which could make a large difference. So, it is an innovative approach and one that has been shown to be highly effective and successful. By working with the grain in this way I hope the country’s economy can bounce back quickly and more strongly than ever, creating a resilient and vibrant city centre which properly reflects Haiti’s proud and unique cultural traditions.
I can only offer my heartfelt thanks and warmest congratulations to all of you and if I may, to encourage you, despite all of the huge challenges that there are, and the many other disasters that have come to us from all sides, to continue to work in the closest possible partnership to bring hope and dignity back to those in such desperate need.