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J. Privert: Address to Latin America Summit 2018

 Address to Latin America Summit 2018, São Paulo, Brazil, August 2–5, 2018

I am very honored to attend the 2018 Latin America Summit of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF). Allow me first to thank the organizers for their invitation and, at the same time, to congratulate them for the quality of this event. I would also like to very warmly thank the host city of this event, Sao Paulo, as well as the general population for their hospitality. Since arriving in Brazil, I have felt at home. Ladies and gentlemen, in the name of the Haitian people and in my own name, I thank you with all my heart.

I welcomed and with great enthusiasm accepted the request that was made to me to speak at this summit, whose theme is "Peace and Development in Latin America: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity and Universal Values."

Enthusiastic I say, because, having been called to serve my country, Haiti, at the highest level of the state as president of the republic, I feel concerned firstmost by the issues of peace and of development. Peace is a universal value. Every citizen; every religious, social and community leader; every Christian; every activist; and everyone in his or her domain and sphere of action must work for peace. That's what gives peace its universal dimension.

The notion of development is hard to pin down, yet we all know that it is a goal to achieve because socio-economic and political underdevelopment can easily defeat our peace projects.

Given the inherent duality of the subject, it is first necessary to provide a methodological and epistemological precision on it. For some researchers and practitioners in the development field, peace is considered an indispensable factor of development, even the lever of sustainable development. For others, on the other hand, it is development that is a determinant for building peace, the most stable foundation for ensuring lasting peace. Which approach is most plausible? What are the experiences and conditions of our peoples and countries in the region?

Ladies and gentlemen,

Both approaches are actually correct. These two variables are directly interconnected. Any leader concerned with the development of his or her country must take actions that guarantee peace in the long term. Every woman and every statesman who wants peace for her country and for future generations must work for the implementation of public policies, at the economic, social, infrastructural and environmental levels, that are conducive to development, in its broadest sense, and that are more inclusive. In other words, there is a constant interdependence between peace and development.

The interaction between development and economic growth is an important aspect to emphasize. While the growth of a country's gross domestic product (GDP) and economic performance, in general, are conditions conducive to the creation of wealth, they do not guarantee automatic and irremediable development. Good economic performance itself is not a sufficient condition for peace, because it is not enough to create collective social welfare. If wealth creation is necessary for development, the redistribution of wealth is an essential factor in guaranteeing peace.

In recent years, Latin American countries that have been able to contain social explosions and to experience prolonged periods of peace have been able to put in place robust and equitable social compensation systems. Based on a 2014 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report titled, "Peace: A Major Challenge for Sustainable Development," it appears that the countries that frequently experience conflict are also those that have the highest poverty rates. Out of the 10 countries that have the lowest development index, nine have experienced periods of conflict over the last 20 years. The report goes on to say that "to reduce the risk of conflict and preserve the gains of development, we must also find solutions to fight poverty and strengthen social inclusion."

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is clear that peace is essential to launch a country onto the road of development. That being said, it is still true that the safeguarding and protection of the environment, the sharing of wealth and of resources, particularly natural resources, are major issues in the maintenance of peace.

Based on lessons learned from field observations, since 2005, all peacekeeping agreements have included provisions about natural resource, compared to only 54 percent of agreements that were signed between 1989 and 2004. A 2012 report titled, "Environment, Natural Resources and Peacekeeping Operations” by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that since the second half of the twentieth century, 25 percent of peacekeeping operations have taken place in areas where natural resources have played an important role.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The recent history of the Latin American continent, particularly the period from the 1960s to the 1990s, was marked by many periods of instability. Dictatorships on one side and guerrilla movements on the other have negatively marked the history of the continent and have affected both economic progress as well as peace between citizens. While a few countries have benefited from external support, allowing them to experience some economic growth, the conditions for peace and stability have never really been guaranteed. It took the paradigm shift initiated in the early 1990s, which was strengthened in the 2000s; the end of totalitarian regimes; and the signing of several peace agreements to allow a harmonious coexistence of both peace and development at the regional level.

I cannot ignore the painful situation in the country that is mine, Haiti. It is a special case in the American subcontinent that remains an enigma for many observers. Despite the recurring tensions it has with its neighboring republic, with which it shares the island, no major conflict has come to hinder an environment of peace necessary for economic development, as has been the case in other Latin American countries. Poverty, corruption, social inequalities, weaknesses in the construction of the rule of law and the total lack of social cohesion can therefore be considered as "acts of war," as harmful as bombs or guns.

It is therefore very clear from this still recent chapter of the hemisphere that political inclusion is also part of the conditions necessary to guarantee peace and to replenish the soil of development. Certainly, the countries of the region continue to face many challenges. However, it is encouraging to note that for the past 30 years or so, the region has experienced fewer and fewer political upheavals or major social explosions. Interdependence is evident between peace and development. Prosperity is attainable and can be maintained sustainably if and only if peace prevails at the level of the community, the country, the region. The progress made by our continent is considerable, to the point that even certain actors and groups that were said to be irreducible or irreconcilable have made the leap. As Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, put it: "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."

As an illustration, it is worth noting the gigantic leap that was made recently in Colombia. Peace agreements were signed between the government and the oldest guerrilla group in the continent, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC. Thanks to strenuous efforts made by and the serious negotiations between the government and the now ex-rebels—with the support of, among others, the republic of Cuba—both sides realized that peace was more beneficial to their country and the Colombian people. This historic agreement was born thanks to the vision, the courage and the determination of then president, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, to whom I had the privilege of sending a congratulatory note on the occasion of the signing of the peace agreements. His vision and commitment to peace has been praised around the world. His efforts and his courage have been rewarded with the most prestigious awards in this field: the Nobel Peace Prize, in 2016. It was a well-deserved reward. The Colombian peace process is an example to follow and replicate if we want our peoples and our continent to live in peace and benefit inclusively from the benefits of progress and development.

The greatest enemies of peace are the border conflicts often linked to the seizure of soil and subsoil resources; trafficking of all kinds; political instability due to the refusal of some oligarchies to comply with the strict verdict from ballot boxes; and, finally, the inability to fight in solidarity against social inequalities. Each country can try to give individual answers but eventually peace and progress in the subcontinent will be global. It is time that this objective is at the center of the concerns of regional organizations and agreements, and that the actions to achieve it are global and inscribed in the long term.

Thank you for your attention.



To go to the Latin America Summit 2018 Schedule page, click here.