Michaëlle Jean begins UN job

Canada's former governor general Michaëlle Jean has begun her new job with the United Nations.

Canada's former governor general Michaëlle Jean has begun her new job with the United Nations.

Jean was officially named UNESCO's special envoy to Haiti at a ceremony in Paris on Monday.

She is recognized by the international organization for her dedication to the reconstruction of the country following the earthquake last January.

Jean was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1957 and served as governor general from September 2005 to September 2010.

At Monday's ceremony, the former journalist expressed optimism that Haiti won't be abandoned by the rest of the world.

Jean noted that as governor general, anytime she met with a foreign leader the topic of her homeland came up.

"The idea is to keep Haiti in all these leaders' minds — and I'm very confident it will happen," Jean said.

"As soon as my appointment was announced, many countries came to me and said, 'We are really willing to support this endeavour,'" she said. "So I'm really confident. There's no doubt that people will respond."

Jean said the key problem with aid to Haiti has been its cacophonous quality — dollars for reconstruction "sprinkled" over myriad projects and international efforts poorly co-ordinated.

What's needed now, she said, is better co-ordination of efforts.

She has often described her homeland as "a vast laboratory for trial and error" in the development sector, a description she used again on Monday.

The director-general of UNESCO saluted her new colleague at the ceremony.

"We will be able to count on your intimate knowledge of the place, of its people, its culture, to put in motion the most efficient programs most likely to be accepted and become durable," Irina Bokova said.

Jean agreed that her Haitian roots will prove useful. So will the fact that she's Canadian, she said.

"The fact of being from Haiti is a plus. I speak the language, I know the country from the inside," she said. "At the same time, I have the necessary detachment."

Jean said she plans to use her four-year term to work on rebuilding the country's shattered education system.