Ability to Resolve Differences without Resorting to Violence Key to Haiti’s Socioeconomic Future, Top Official Tells Security Council

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Continued Lack of Trust among Political Forces, Impeding All But Slightest Progress on Widely Supported Priorities, She Says

Haiti’s political and socioeconomic future hinges on the ability of that country’s political and economic classes to resolve their differences without resorting to violence, the head of the United Nations special political mission there told the Security Council during a 5 October video teleconference meeting.

“Haiti’s contemporary history has demonstrated time and again that acute political polarization and weak State institutions constitute catalysts for violence,” said Helen La Lime, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH). She added that the Office — which succeeded the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) a year ago — has sought to foster an environment conducive to overcoming the current impasse, with a view to setting the Caribbean country on a path towards long-term stability and sustainable development.

She said the Government must build capacity for fledgling institutions so that necessary steps can be taken to ensure the holding of free, fair and inclusive elections, restart the economy, put Haiti back on a positive development trajectory and address the perennial issue of impunity. As for the security situation, she added, unrest — sometimes in the form of violent protests — has become increasingly prevalent in the past months, and gangs continue to challenge State authority, especially in the more populous neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, the capital.

A fringe group of dissatisfied police officers calling themselves “Fantom 509” has brought disorder to the capital on several occasions, and human rights violations continue to be committed, she reported. Although the Haitian National Police have consistently proven their operational proficiency since assuming sole responsibility for providing security throughout the country, she said, they would require at least an additional 10,000 well-trained and -equipped police officers to meet internationally accepted standards and cement their capacity to deliver professional, human‑rights-compliant police services to the population.

She went on to note that, despite progress towards the operationalization of the National Commission for Disarmament, Dismantlement and Reintegration — the State body charged with coordinating efforts to curb gang activity — continued support, as well as steadfast political resolve and decisive action, will be necessary to ensure that the Commission is capable of performing its tasks.

The continued lack of trust among political forces, she said, is impeding all but the slightest progress on priorities that had previously garnered a wide consensus across the political spectrum, such as the necessity to undertake constitutional reform. Even as the window for designing a process acceptable to all is closing fast, many political stakeholders view the forging of a political consensus and the establishment of a Government of national unity as essential to an environment suitable for participatory elections, she added.

With Haiti preparing to enter a new electoral cycle, she continued, it is of paramount importance to address key aspects of the electoral process, such as the electoral framework and calendar, to reduce the risk of contested elections and further violence. While BINUH will continue to engage national stakeholders, Member States must amplify their support for a process that, if managed properly, will help to ensure that the overdue vote renews Haiti’s elected leadership, leads to greater representation of women in political life, and reinvigorates the social contract between citizens and the State.

In the ensuing discussion, most speakers expressed support for the renewal of BINUH’s mandate, which expires on 16 October.

Roberto Álvarez Gil, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, whose country shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, declared: “BINUH needs a complete roster of staff to be effective,” emphasizing the need to adequately resource the mission and redouble efforts to implement police reform plans. Instability in Haiti undermines the security and stability of the region, he said, warning: “The institutional crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change can prove to be a disastrous cocktail for Haiti.”

There is no political consensus towards lasting peace, while ongoing crises have grown so complex that good governance is impossible, he noted. “We are flabbergasted to learn that violence has truncated the life of people central to fostering stability,” he added, calling for an investigation into the death of Monferrier Dorval, an influential lawyer and head of the Haitian bar association.

The representative of the United States called for approval of an electoral budget and calendar, emphasizing that a solution to the crisis is only possible through the work of a responsible legislature. She noted that, besides the increase in gang violence, Haiti’s justice system has failed to prosecute human rights violations and is fostering an environment of impunity. Recalling that the United States pledged $5 million to help the Haitian National Police disrupt armed gangs and violence, she stressed that, without long-term commitment from the Government of Haiti, the police will fail to protect all Haitians.

The representative of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking also for Niger, South Africa and Tunisia, expressed grave concern over the political uncertainty, urging all stakeholders to assume collective responsibility for addressing the impasse. “Dialogue remains the only viable solution to addressing the political vacuum.” She went on to emphasize that efforts to enhance the role of women are crucial in advancing peace and security, and their equitable participation in formal processes must be a priority. Further, “peace and security cannot be divorced from human rights”, she said, calling for improved record in that area. She also urged debt forgiveness for Haiti, noting that the country faces an existential threat from climate change, as well as food insecurity and economic challenges, all compounded by COVID-19.

China’s representative, citing Haiti’s political, security and socioeconomic challenges, emphasized that the country can rely only on its own efforts, encouraging the authorities to shoulder full responsibility. Regarding the riots, he urged Haiti to improve its governance and live up to its people’s expectations. Calling for the holding of legitimate and credible elections, he encouraged the parties to seek compromise. Recalling that Haiti was the first Caribbean country to gain independence, he pointed out that its resources have been plundered and only poverty has remained. The international community must scale up assistance, with major donors focusing on Haiti’s needs, such as efforts to reduce poverty and socioeconomic development.

Belgium’s representative said women must be involved in all stages of the electoral process to ensure the political system is legitimate. Firmly condemning Mr. Dorval’s death, she stressed that civil society must not be silenced, and called for a full investigation into the matter. She said collusion between Government actors and armed gangs is ongoing and called for increased efforts to ensure the efficacy of the national police force. Noting that the new penal code puts Haitian legislation more into line with international best practices, she said such efforts can help reduce prison overpopulation and improve the livelihoods of vulnerable sectors of the population.

The United Kingdom’s representative, noting that the Haitian people deserve an end to the disfunction that plagues State institutions, called for credible and transparent legislative elections to place the country on the path to prosperity. She expressed concern that a national action plan on human rights has not been adopted and called for a prompt investigation into Mr. Dorval’s death. She went on to describe that the establishment of BINUH as a clear display of the international community’s willingness to adapt its approach to assisting Haiti.

Viet Nam’s representative urged all stakeholders to set differences aside and seek compromise on constitutional reform, also calling upon all parties to agree on the electoral process and framework, including the calendar and the composition of the Electoral Council. In that regard, he called for increased international technical assistance. Turning to gang violence, he stressed the importance of protecting vulnerable groups, such as women and children.

Indonesia’s representative expressed concern over the lack of progress on the political front, urging the parties to overcome polarization and find common ground ahead of elections. In that regard, he called for a fully functional Electoral Council, emphasizing that, although international support is needed, the national authorities must take the lead. Expressing concern over persisting major challenges in the police and justice sectors, he called for greater efforts to uphold justice and fight impunity. On the dire economic conditions, compounded by COVID-19, he stressed the need for a robust recovery plan to reverse the negative trends.

Estonia’s representative said judicial institutions must be strengthened to ensure all perpetrators of rights violations are held accountable, encouraging Haiti to establish a local presence of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). He called upon all parties to work constructively to ensure a brighter future for Haiti.

Germany’s representative expressed disappointment at the lack of agreement on the political front, encouraging all stakeholders to implement the reform agenda. Condemning Mr. Dorval’s assassination, he expressed concern that certain political and business leaders have ties to gangs. He went on to stress the importance of building public trust in the Haitian National Police, while expressing concern over polarization within police forces. Citing overcrowded prison conditions, he called for reform of the justice and correction sectors.

France’s representative expressed regret that all efforts to reach agreement on the political front failed over the last two years, urging an end to the deadlock. She went on to emphasize that the fight against corruption must be a priority, noting that corrupt practices undermine trust in Government institutions. Citing the killing of Mr. Dorval and the 1994 Raboteau massacre, she stressed the need for Haiti to strengthen its capacity to address human rights violations. The authorities must provide security and justice to the people, she added.

The Russian Federation’s representative said that lack of political progress and legislative paralysis are deepening tensions in Haiti. The Government is unable to ensure the safety of its people, he added, warning that the COVID-19 pandemic, and a potential second wave of infections, will only exacerbate the crisis. He expressed concern over the lack of consensus regarding constitutional reforms, emphasizing that if the people of Haiti decide it is time to pursue such reforms, the United Nations must abide by their wish. Referring to recent comments by the United States about elections, he said Washington, D.C., seems to think it is fine to advocate for elections in one country while demanding the resignation of legitimately elected Heads of State in others. He went on to call for further dialogue on moving towards elections, stressing that the international community must ensure the crisis in Haiti does not expand to the rest of the region.