Question Concerning Haiti - 8729th Security Council Meeting

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20-Feb-2020 01:41:35
Breaking political deadlock key to ending Haiti’s paralysis as economic, insecurity woes bite, Special Representative tells Security Council.

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Government Working to End Impasse, Permanent Representative Says, as Civil Society Activist Cites Corruption, Gang Violence, Political Vacuum

Political deadlock in Haiti, entering its second year, has paralysed national institutions, hobbled the economy and fuelled chronic insecurity amid spotty progress and ever-worsening living conditions for more than 4 million citizens, the Security Council heard today.

Helen La Lime, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), said the country can only surmount the multifaceted crisis through a combination of strong national will and steadfast international support. Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on BINUH (document S/2020/123) — the special political mission that replaced the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) in October 2019 — she highlighted several achievements, saying that consensus on a political agreement outlining details of a proposed reform agenda and an electoral calendar emerged from recent negotiations.

However, key actors have yet to settle on a way to designate a Prime Minister or form a new Government, she continued. Citing a range of challenges that risk exacerbating living conditions further and weakening State institutions, she said collective success will be measured by progress towards meeting the benchmarks set out in the Secretary-General’s report: political consensus; addressing gang violence; promoting human rights; addressing unemployment and socioeconomic grievances; and encouraging a State presence in communities by providing basic services.

Also briefing members, civil society activist Marie Yolène Gilles, Executive Director of the Fondasyon Je Klere, provided a snapshot of the situation on the ground, describing a worrisome political vacuum that has left civil society oppressed, armed gangs that are better equipped than State authorities, and the commission of heinous crimes every day in a climate of impunity. Corruption is deeply entrenched and a person can become a millionaire within a few years of joining the Government, she said, urging the Council to play its role in helping Haiti overcome the biggest obstacle to justice by strengthening normative and institutional frameworks. The Council can also help the State reduce the firepower of armed groups, she added.

Council members voiced concerns that without an end to the impasse, there is little chance for progress or to meet the Secretary-General’s recommended benchmarks. The Dominican Republic’s representative, whose country shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, recalled his delegation’s repeated warnings to the Council against withdrawing MINUJUSTH in October 2019, emphasizing that any reconfiguration of a mission must consider closely the situation on the ground. Pointing to the chaos prevailing in Haiti, where 40 per cent of the population faces acute food insecurity, rampant violence and a frozen political process that is proving ever more difficult to thaw, he expressed hope that the closure of MINUJUSTH serves as a lesson, emphasizing that BINUH should now focus on conducting a thorough study of the origins of the crisis and then join forces with the United Nations country team and the Government of Haiti to tackle its root causes.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines warned that failure to reach an immediate political settlement could result in renewed violence, with the concomitant breakdown of law and order having detrimental effects in the region. Emphasizing that member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are duty-bound to help their sister Caribbean nation find a peaceful resolution, she declared: “As the first free black nation in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti is a cornerstone of our Caribbean civilization.” Striking a historical note, she stressed the importance of reparations for Haiti, saying the fact that it was made to pay, rather than receive, reparations for its experiences of mass enslavement remains lamentable. The extraction of 80 per cent of Haiti’s national budget to pay reparations until the mid-twentieth century created a significant vacuum in nation-building efforts, she noted, underlining the fact that the country’s persistent underdevelopment is rooted in past experiences that remain crucial when considering the current reality.

France’s representative, citing poverty as one cause of the impasse, described Haiti’s crisis as a political one, saying that despite the involvement of the United Nations and a range of other stakeholders, the parties have not agreed to the return of constitutional order. Haiti currently lacks any form of parliamentary representation, she noted, calling upon all parties to commit themselves to dialogue and to holding the delayed elections.

The representative of the United States said constitutional reform must not become a pretext for delaying elections, emphasizing: “Only Haiti’s leaders can make the decision to break the deadlock and address the drivers of this chronic instability.”

Haiti’s representative said the Government continues to work hard towards finding a way to overcome the political impasse, tackle gang violence and restore State authority across the country. The Haitian National Police, with a force of 15,000 officers, needs more training, resources and equipment to continue its work. Still, gains are being made in addressing human rights violations, he said, adding that arrests have been made in connection with several reported massacres, including those in the La Saline section of Port-au-Prince. He said the Government is encouraged by the emphasis — in the Secretary-General’s report — on the zero-tolerance approach of the United Nations to sexual exploitation and abuse during peacekeeping operations, he said, stressing that Haiti is particularly worried about the abandonment of orphans fathered by United Nations peacekeepers. Greater rigour and transparency are needed to help victims, he said. He concluded by underlining that the Government is fully aware of the complexity and fragility of the situation facing Haiti. What is important is the selflessness of all political actors in forging real dialogue and finding lasting solutions.

Also speaking were representatives of Tunisia, Russian Federation, South Africa, China, Germany, United Kingdom, Estonia, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Niger and Belgium.

The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 4:44 p.m.

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