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SC/14652
4 October 2021
8871st Meeting (AM)

Amid Fraught Situation in Haiti, Foreign Minister, Briefing Security Council, Urges Adjusting Mission Mandate to Bolster Rule of Law Institutions

Haiti’s Foreign Minister today called upon the Security Council to strengthen the capacity of the United Nations special political mission in that country in supporting Government efforts in the areas of security and protection of civilians.

“These are the legitimate expectations of the people who have suffered enough from gang violence, kidnapping and widespread crime,” said Claude Joseph, Minister for Foreign Affairs, demanding that the Council consider the new realities facing the country and adjust the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) accordingly.

While recognizing the limitations of BINUH given its advisory role, he stressed the need to help strengthen the operational capacities of the rule of law institutions, particularly the Haitian National Police.

His request came as the 15‑member Council heard briefings by Helen La Lime, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Haiti and Head of BINUH as well as Emmanuela Douyon, Executive Director of POLICITÉ, a civil society organization.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Haiti (document S/2021/828), issued ahead of the expiration of BINUH’s current mandate on 15 October, Ms. La Lime described the country as currently undergoing “one of the most fraught periods of its recent history”, referring to the 7 July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and the 14 August earthquake, which affected more than 800,000 people in its southwestern peninsula.  These two events have led long‑awaited national and local elections to be further postponed, she added.

Since assuming office on 20 July, the acting Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, has spared no effort to reach a political agreement with the various factions of the Haitian polity, she reported.  Mr. Henry has sought to create minimal conditions for the holding of legislative, local and presidential elections, while actors from across the political spectrum and civil society organizations, including former opposition and ruling coalition groups, adhered to the 11 September political agreement, she added.

Despite the bleak situation in Haiti, she declared:  “There exist encouraging signs that only reinforce my conviction that, through urgent, determined and concerted action, Haiti’s citizens can address the deep structural challenges, as well as the governance and development deficits, which feed their country’s instability, insecurity and ever‑growing humanitarian needs.”

Ms. Douyon, outlining several recommendations, called for elections to be held only when they can be fair, and stressed the need to avoid arbitrary timelines.  She also urged the “controversial” and divisive constitutional referendum to be abandoned.

Over the past six months, a grassroots movement encompassing 500 civil society groups and more than 50 political parties has sought to ensure a return to constitutional order and the rule of law, she said, emphasizing that peace must be restored without resorting to the dispatch of troops or peace missions.

Noting the need to strengthen the police, she asked the United Nations to support the judiciary, put an end to the illicit transfer of money, and bring the corrupt to justice.  BINUH must not be seen “as picking political winners”, she said, urging the Integrate Office to work with civil society to promote dialogue, reforms, accountability and reduce gang violence.

Turning to development assistance, she said Haiti needs adequate aid, “not crumbs of humanitarian aid that only acts as a Band‑Aid”.  These funds can be directed to capable local civil society groups to ensure efficiency and accountability.

In the ensuing debate, Council members concurred on the need for Haiti to hold free, fair and inclusive elections towards a democratic future.  They also exchanged views on the role of BUNUH in supporting a new Government.

The representative of the United States said that for Haiti to chart a path to democracy, free and fair elections must be held as soon as conditions permit.  All must work together to return the country to democratic governance and build up viable institutions, including a just and fair judiciary, she said.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, also speaking for Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, voiced support for the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) offer of its good offices to facilitate a Haitian-led and Haitian-owned solution to the current situation.

Norway’s delegate urged the Council to renew BINUH’s mandate without delay, saying that given the complexities and challenges that face Haiti and the Integrated Office, now is not the time for Council support to falter.

China’s representative said that the United Nations presence in Haiti must be improved and adjusted to meet its pressing needs in a renewed mandate to help it overcome the current crisis.

Also speaking were representatives of Mexico, United Kingdom, Viet Nam, India, Russian Federation, Ireland, Estonia and France.

The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 11:47 a.m.

Briefings

HELEN LA LIME, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Haiti and Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), presented highlights of the report of the Secretary‑General on the Office and the situation in that country (document S/2021/828).  Describing Haiti as currently undergoing “one of the most fraught periods of its recent history”, she said the country, which had already been reeling from the 7 July ghastly assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, was struck on 14 August by a devastating earthquake which affected over 800,000 people in its southwestern peninsula.  These two events have led long‑awaited national and local elections to be further postponed, she added.

Since assuming office on 20 July, the acting Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, has spared no effort to reach a political agreement with the various factions of the Haitian polity, she reported.  Adopting an inclusive and consensual approach, Mr. Henry has sought to create minimal conditions for the holding of legislative, local and presidential elections.  In a positive step, actors from across the political spectrum and civil society organizations, including former opposition and ruling coalition groups, adhered to the 11 September political agreement that captured key demands expressed by national stakeholders, such as the formation of a new Provisional Electoral Council and the inclusion of the diaspora.  It also foresees the holding of elections no later than the second half of 2022.

Noting a large national consensus on the need to reform the 1987 Haitian Constitution, which is widely viewed as contributing to the recurrent political and institutional instability, she said the draft constitution submitted by the Independent Consultative Committee to the acting Prime Minister on 8 September should provide a basis for further constructive and inclusive debate on ways to reshape the Haitian political system.  Similarly, the re‑establishment of security, especially in the Port‑au‑Prince metropolitan area, must be prioritized by Haitian authorities.  The Haitian National Police has sought to improve the effectiveness of its anti‑gang operations by adopting a more balanced approach to prevention and repression, relying on increased police presence in problematic areas, and improving its intelligence‑gathering mechanisms.  Yet, an overstretched and under‑resourced force alone cannot stem this worrisome rise in crime.  Haiti’s main security institution will not be able to achieve sustainable results unless its capacities are strengthened, and Government services are brought back to the impoverished neighbourhoods that serve as fertile ground for armed gangs.  Therefore, in addition to sustaining its efforts to reform the police with the support of the United Nations and bilateral partners, the Government must implement a more holistic approach to addressing gang violence, within the framework of the national strategy for community violence reduction which was developed with United Nations support and endorsed on 5 July.

Despite the bleak situation in Haiti, she said that “nevertheless, there exist encouraging signs that only reinforce my conviction that, through urgent, determined and concerted action, Haiti’s citizens can address the deep structural challenges, as well as the governance and development deficits, which feed their country’s instability, insecurity, and ever‑growing humanitarian needs.”  Along with the United Nations, the entire international community must continue to steadfastly stand alongside Haiti’s people and their Government as they endeavour to forge a path towards stability, security and sustainable development, she said.

EMMANUELA DOUYON, civil society representative, described the multifaceted crisis experienced by Haiti, which combined a deteriorating security situation and an uptick in human rights violations, including violations of women’s rights.  As many as 162 armed groups operate in the country, with kidnappings occurring daily and gangs massacring civilians in marginalized areas of Port‑au‑Prince like La Saline “with impunity”.  Further, the ongoing political crisis is also deepening.  Since the assassination of the former President in July, an acting Prime Minister “with little to no popular legitimacy” rules alone, while the Parliament and judiciary have been “non‑functional”.  Moreover, there are only 10 elected officials in the country, due to the failure to organize elections since 2016.  In addition, three years of negative economic growth have brought the economy to its knees, she stressed, adding that no legal provision is applicable to the present political situation.

Against this backdrop, she outlined several recommendations that were reflective of the aspirations of the people of Haiti, including elections to be held only when they can be fair and not “imposed on arbitrary timelines that are not related to the situation on the ground” and the abandonment of the “controversial” and divisive constitutional referendum.  Over the past six months, the Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis, an inclusive civil society effort encompassing 500 civil society groups and more than 50 political parties, has banded together to ensure a return to constitutional order and the rule of law and should be supported.  Peace must be restored without resorting to the dispatch of troops or peace missions.  The police and its units must be strengthened to fill the gap.  Moreover, the United Nations should work to support the judiciary, put an end to the illicit transfer of money, and bring the corrupt to justice.

Turning to development assistance, she said Haiti needs adequate aid, “not crumbs of humanitarian aid that only acts as a Band‑Aid”.   These funds can be directed to capable local civil society groups to ensure efficiency and accountability.  Finally, BINUH must not be seen “as picking political winners”; it must work with civil society to promote dialogue, reforms, accountability and reduce gang violence.

Statements

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) noted that the past few months have been extremely trying for Haiti, with violence escalating and hundreds of thousands forced to flee from their homes, living in makeshift structures.  The country, which has suffered for decades, needs support from the United Nations and multilateral system now more than ever before.  The plight of Haiti’s people must be kept firmly in mind as the Organization prepares to renew its mandate.  In charting Haiti’s path to democracy, she stressed that free and fair elections must be held as soon as conditions permit.  All must work together to return the country to democratic governance and build up viable institutions, including a just and fair judiciary.  Adding that human rights are deteriorating in Haiti, she said accountability is desperately needed for recent assassinations, including that of President Moïse.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMIREZ (Mexico) said stability in Haiti is a key issue for Latin America and the Caribbean.  With the assassination of President Moïse, the recent earthquake and tropical storm Grace, Haiti has entered into a political, environmental, economic and social crisis.  Mexico has sent Haiti more than 2,000 tons of provisions and a medical brigade in line with its tradition of solidarity in the region.  With major humanitarian challenges remaining, Mexico endorses the appeal to meet the needs of more than 650,000 people in the country.  Another vital issue is the impact of trafficking in small arms and light weapons on Haiti, as criminal activity in the country has displaced 20,000 people, of whom many are seeking to arrive in the United States.

ALICE JACOBS (United Kingdom) described the assassination of President Moïse as “an abhorrent act” and called for the perpetrators of this crime to be brought to justice.  Political gridlock in Haiti remains persistent and concerning, she said, calling upon all political actors to find common ground in order to find a way for Haiti to hold safe and successful elections, and to strive for political advancement.  Drawing attention to the disproportionate impact Haiti’s multiple crises have had on women and girls, she said all actors should work constructively and cooperatively with the international community and BINUH to find solutions to the root causes of these crises, and to support Haitian development.

MONA JUUL (Norway) welcomed that the Secretary‑General’s report highlighted Haiti’s need to prioritize disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in the long term, saying that she looks forward to more such analysis.  In the face of increasing fragmentation in Haitian society, BINUH must work closely with all civil society groups to bridge the political gaps.  Norway fully supports BINUH and its ongoing work.  The current crisis must be used as a turning point for Haiti and its people.  The Council needs to engage constructively together and renew BINUH’s mandate without delay.  Given the complexities and challenges that face Haiti and BINUH, now is not the time for Council support to falter.  The best chance for success is through a strong and coherent international response, and support to the people of Haiti.

NGUYEN PHUONG TRA (Vietnam) expressed her concern about the multifaceted difficulties and instability in Haiti.  Welcoming the political agreement on holding legislative elections before the end of 2022, she urged all related parties to focus on the modalities and timing of the elections, and called on the Government to guarantee the 30 per cent quota for representation of women in the electoral process.  Strongly condemning the recent increase in violence, including gang‑related violence, sexual violence, kidnappings and attacks on local communities, she urged the Government to uphold responsibilities in dismantling gangs and criminal organizations and called upon international and regional partners to maintain support for the Haitian Armed Forces, while also reiterating the importance of national unity for the country so that it may move forward.

T. S. TIRUMURTI (India) said the tragic events that have adversely impacted Haiti over the past few months, including a hurricane and earthquake, have slowed down efforts by the interim administration towards a new constitution and holding long overdue elections.  He called on all parties to engage constructively and purposefully to find inclusive solutions to sociopolitical challenges, including the drafting of the new constitution, and to take decisions by consensus of Haitian stakeholders.  Turning to the security situation, which is “fundamental” to create enabling conditions to hold elections, he called for transparent investigations to bring to justice those involved in the assassination of President Moïse, and for support to be lent to Haitian authorities to help enhance capacity and reform in the security and police sector to fight gang violence.  He welcomed the recent rollout of a community violence reduction programme focused on the gang‑affected area of La Saline in Port‑au‑Prince.  He went on to note with concern the funding gap of $150 million in the humanitarian response plan, which he hoped donors would fill.  Haiti needs support in administering COVID‑19 vaccines to its population as delays will lead to the expiry of the doses that have already arrived.

INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), speaking also on behalf of Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, emphasized that political inertia cannot continue if Haiti is to achieve its aspirations of peace and prosperity.  The dastardly attack on democracy through the abhorrent assassination of President Moïse has complicated an already worrying situation, she said, urging that country’s law enforcement authorities to spare no effort to bring the perpetrators to justice.  Also calling on all Haitian stakeholders and contending political forces to set aside their differences, she voiced support for the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) offer of its good offices to facilitate a Haitian‑led and Haitian‑owned solution to the current situation.  “We need to cast our net wider,” she said, calling on the international community to support measures addressing corruption and illicit financial flows into and out of the country.  Expressing deep concern about the recent distressing situation surrounding the inhumane large‑scale deportation of Haitians, she said elemental humanity and international human rights law should be observed, even when countries are securing their borders.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) expressed alarm at the fresh major upheavals that have deferred a solution to Haiti’s protracted crises.  Internal political tensions could have been reduced if there had not been a failure to establish mutual respectful dialogue, he said, expressing concern at the concentration of power with a single lever of governance, the executive branch.  This absence of political will has led to armed groups “rearing their head”, and fighting for influence.  Moreover, amid this tenuous governance and rampant violence, natural hazards compound the suffering of Haiti’s people.  Measures must be taken to combat unemployment, improve living standards and address the “staggering absence of physical safety”, he stressed.  Turning to the decision to send back 14,000 individuals to Haiti in addition to 8,000 people who had already been returned, which he characterized as “troubling”, he noted that such dire circumstances call for support from neighbouring countries.  Taking note of the decision taken on 11 September to hold elections in 2022, he said the imposition of any convenient decision on Haiti will further exacerbate the situation and called for “accountable international assistance”.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said humanitarian and developmental challenges predating the pandemic and recent earthquake remained in Haiti, including acute food insecurity, displacement caused by gang violence, the highest rate of maternal mortality in the Western Hemisphere, and high rates of sexual as well as gender‑based violence.  Without structural change and institutional investment, these profound crises in the country will persist.  Solving Haiti’s challenges requires significant progress towards a negotiated political solution, but with the most recent postponement of the electoral calendar, this basic platform for building future stability and security has been further delayed.  Any future electoral framework must preserve at a minimum, she stressed, the commitment for 30 per cent representation of women in Parliament.  Adding that gang violence and kidnappings are a daily occurrence in Haiti, with entire communities pushed to the point of despair, she said impunity for human rights violations and sexual and gender‑based violence are issues of ongoing concern.  The most significant change will come from adequate resourcing, financial and technical, of the Haitian National Police.  Urgent prioritization of police resourcing will build capacity, confidence and security for the Haitian people.

GENG SHUANG (China) said the past few months have seen increased volatility in Haiti and no improvement in the political and humanitarian crisis.  Immediate action is needed to put the country back on track for development.  Noting that political transition must be moved forward with a sense of urgency, he lamented that the political parties remain divided and that there has been repeated postponement of constitution building as well as parliamentary elections.  The country must reach a viable agreement on relevant arrangements to ensure that elections can take place without delay.  The country and international community must spare no effort in satisfying humanitarian needs as well as economic reconstruction required due to the recent earthquake.  Moreover, criminal gangs are running amok and creating chaos in society, displacing about 19,000 people since June alone.  Politicians must disassociate themselves from criminal gangs and any with connections to them must be banned from office.  The United Nations presence in Haiti must be improved and adjusted to meet its pressing needs in a renewed mandate to help it overcome the current crisis.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) said that 2021 has been a challenging year for Haiti, with the assassination of President Moïse, horrific earthquake, continuing impact of COVID‑19 and lack of progress on the political landscape.  A worsening security situation in the country deepens instability and can also affect the stability of the region.  It is high time for its political leaders to put the country back on track, he stressed, noting Haiti’s plan to hold a referendum to modify its Constitution by February and organize presidential and legislative elections in early 2022.  Calling on the Haitian authorities to organize free, fair and transparent elections, he urged political actors and stakeholders to set aside their differences to achieve a positive outcome and find a solution to the crisis.  Another important element is enhancing accountability and ensuring all cases of violence are properly investigated, including the assassination of President Moïse.  He further urged   authorities to address violence and put more effort into stopping gang‑related criminal activities, introducing measures to protect human rights defenders, journalists and activists.  The Haitian National Police need to be strengthened so that they can respond more effectively and offer greater protection to the country’s people.

NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) said that only dialogue can help Haiti navigate a “perilous” period of transition, with its institutions in “shambles”.  The decision reached on 11 September is one step towards organizing peaceful elections.  She expressed concern about the resurgence of gang violence, which threatens all Haitians, noting that gang members operate in a “climate of total impunity”.  She called for greater resources to strengthen the Haitian National Police, adding that the force must be “impeccable” in their conduct.  Corruption chips away at institutions, while 4 million Haitians live in extreme poverty.  Turning to the COVID‑19 pandemic, she noted that 400,000 doses of the vaccine had been distributed and need to be administered, for which the restoration of security is “paramount”.  She reiterated her full support to the renewal of the BINUH mandate to ensure the country’s crisis can be ended.

CLAUDE JOSEPH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Haiti, said that the assassination of President Moïse, combined with the recent disasters, such as an earthquake and a storm, have only exacerbated the sociopolitical crisis that has beleaguered the country for more than three years.  Haitians must seek national unity.  The decades of infighting, divisions and hatred that followed the end of the Duvalier dictatorship had torn the social fabric, led to chronic political instability and the fragmentation of economic structures and impoverished the population.  Since taking office, acting Prime Minister Henry has been searching for the broadest possible consensus to contribute to the normalization of political life and the regular functioning of democratic institutions.  Such efforts began to yield results with the signing on 11 September of the political accord involving more than 200 political and civil society organizations.  This agreement must be the basis of the broadest possible consensus needed to create the sociopolitical conditions for the holding of credible, transparent and inclusive elections.

Regarding Haitians who have fled to the areas along the United States‑Mexico border, he asked that they be treated with dignity and humanity.  He went on to ask the Council to consider the new realities facing the country and that BINUH’s mandate adapts accordingly.  While recognizing the limitations of BINUH given its essentially consultative nature, he drew attention to the need to strengthen the operational capacities of the institutions responsible for security and maintenance of order, in particular the Haitian National Police.  BINUH’s new mandate should focus essentially on strengthening security and combating violence by supporting Government efforts in the spheres of security, stabilization and protection of civilians.  “These are the legitimate expectations of the people who have suffered enough from gang violence, kidnapping and widespread crime,” he said.

For information media. Not an official record.