The question concerning Haiti - Security Council, 8799th meeting

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17-Jun-2021 01:41:01
Crucial elections needed by end of 2021 to break political impasse, tackle worsening conditions in Haiti, experts tell Security Council.

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Some Speakers Question Efficacy of Longstanding United Nations Presence in Country

Amid deteriorating socioeconomic conditions and a lingering political impasse, political and civil society leaders in Haiti must ensure that parliamentary and presidential elections take place within the current calendar year to enable an orderly democratic transfer of power in February 2022, experts told the Security Council today.

“As Haiti prepares to enter a new electoral cycle, an inclusive and participatory process will be essential to consolidate the path toward good governance and political stability,” said Helen La Lime, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), as she briefed the 15-member Council.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest 120-day report on the situation on the ground (document S/2021/559), she said a resurgence in COVID-19 cases recently prompted the authorities to declare a new state of health emergency, resulting in the Provisional Electoral Council’s decision to postpone the proposed constitutional referendum scheduled to take place at the end of June. While the authorities have sought to widen consultations on the new draft Constitution, the process continues to elicit criticism from various stakeholders due to its perceived lack of inclusivity and transparency. She warned that the debate over the constitutional referendum should not detract from the timely organization and holding of the overdue parliamentary, local and presidential elections, which must remain the primary focus.

Chantal Hudicort Ewald, a member of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association and a former member of the 1986-1987 Haitian Constitutional Assembly, pointed out that the steps required to convene local, legislative and executive elections have not been undertaken within the legally mandated timeframe, a failure which has polarized society and inhibited dialogue. On the security situation, she said criminal gangs who are “armed to the teeth” make the law in a country supposedly subject to an arms embargo, making public participation in any form of electoral process all but impossible. Meanwhile, high poverty rates force most people to focus on merely satisfying their basic needs.

Addressing those concerns, Claude Joseph, Acting Prime Minister of Haiti, reassured Council members that the Government remains committed to holding elections by the end of 2021 to renew the political landscape, restore the operation of democratic institutions and ensure a peaceful transition of power in February 2022. Indeed, the Government is “working overtime” to move the electoral process forward and there is “nothing to worry about”, save for certain logistical and safety issues which are being addressed. Recalling that Haiti had 15 different transitional Governments between 1986 and 2016 — which resulted in total institutional paralysis — he warned that any Government of that kind must now be avoided.

As Council members took the floor, delegations stood unified in calling for the holding of free, fair, transparent and credible legislative and presidential elections within the timeframe set by the current electoral calendar.

The representative of the United States said that, since the Council’s last briefing on Haiti four months ago, the Government has not sufficiently focused on addressing the country’s most urgent priorities, including organizing upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. The Haitian people deserve an opportunity to elect their leaders and restore democratic institutions, he said, adding that a newly elected President should succeed President Jovenel Moïse when his term ends on 7 February 2022.

The delegate of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, also speaking on behalf of Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, stressed that political inertia cannot continue if Haiti is to achieve its aspirations of peace, stability and prosperity, urging all stakeholders to soften their deeply entrenched positions. “History has shown us that no matter how difficult your challenges are, you rise,” she said, recalling that Haiti was the first Black nation to gain independence by overcoming colonialism and slavery.

Mexico’s representative underscored the importance of Haiti’s stability and prosperity to Latin America and the Caribbean, agreeing with other speakers that parliamentary, presidential and municipal elections must be held before the end of 2021. Only through dialogue and democratic renewal will Haiti be able to resume its path to sustainable development, he stressed.

Some Council members, expressing concern over Haiti’s challenging security, humanitarian and human rights situations, questioned the efficacy of international support for the country over the decades.

In that vein, the representative of China emphasized that the huge amount of resources invested in Haiti by the United Nations have not produced the expected results. It is time to explore new ideas and ways to help, he stressed, urging the Council should learn lessons from the past and carefully consider the United Nations presence when BINUH’s mandate expires in October.

Along the same line, the United Kingdom’s representative said that such a failure rightly begs questions about the tools and approaches deployed over the years. However, she expressed support for BINUH, noting that the new United Nations integrated presence in Haiti better positions the Organization to assist the country than past iterations of its presence.

Also speaking were the representatives of Norway, India, Viet Nam, France, Russian Federation, Ireland and Estonia.

The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 4:44 p.m.

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