Press Conference by Secretary-General's Special Representative for Haiti

With the successful conclusion in Haiti of legislative and presidential elections signalling renewal and the rise of a new political generation, there were solid reasons for optimism about the country’s future, nearly 15 months after the devastating earthquake, Edmond Mulet, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Haiti, said today at a Headquarters press conference.

“For the first time since I’ve been in Haiti, I bring good news,” said Mr. Mulet — who is also the Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) — stressing that the announcement of preliminary results of last month’s successful second round of elections proved the Haitian people’s resilience and determination to build a better future.

Following the largely peaceful second round of elections, the preliminary results showed that President-elect Michel Martelly had garnered 67.57 per cent of the vote and his opponent had announced her intention not to contest the final tally. Mr. Mulet cautioned, however, that results from several legislative races had been less conclusive, with many showing differences of under 5 per cent between top vote-getters. As a result, tensions were running high in a number of districts and he expected pockets of violence might persist in the coming weeks.

Pointing out that the final election results would be announced on 18 April, he said the legislature would then be seated a few days later. While it remained to be seen whether the new legislature would adopt a set of constitutional reforms approved by its predecessor, he expressed hope that the next President and Government would build on the work of outgoing President René Préval.

He highlighted several of Mr. Préval’s accomplishments, underscoring the absence of State-sponsored violence during his term, as well as the depolarization of Haitian society and expanded freedom of the press. Moreover, Mr. Préval had presided over democratic elections, following which a democratically elected president from the opposition would, for the first time in Haiti’s history, take power.

Reporting that the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) had been in touch with the President-elect, both during his campaign and since his victory in the second round of voting, he stressed that the Mission was “more than ready” to assist in implementing his vision for the rule of law in Haiti. The President-elect was being encouraged to work with the legislative branch to consolidate democracy, rebuild the country and strengthen economic development.

While it was true that the many challenges facing Haiti had not disappeared, he underlined the potential for the country’s development, saying it was “a matter of working together”.

Responding to a question on the continuing vulnerability of women in camps for internally displaced persons and the need for more police rather than military troops among the United Nations forces, he said the Mission was adapting to the current circumstances and intended to reduce its military presence. In the end, such a move would represent a two-year delay in implementing the mandate to decrease the Mission’s forces, which had been adopted by the Security Council in October 2009 but was quickly superseded by the authorization of more forces following the January 2010 earthquake. He noted, however, that the growth had largely come from the addition of engineering rather than combat-oriented units.

He went on to say that the United Nations would be conducting a security assessment in Haiti in June, adding that all of the presidential candidates had advocated for the creation of another security force in Haiti. He agreed with that plan on the grounds that Haiti’s current civilian police force was tasked with an “unhealthy mix” of responsibilities ranging from traffic control to border control, but declined to specify what kind of body should be established.

Asked about the results of an audit by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) related to the rental of two ships to house United Nations personnel after the January 2010 earthquake, he said he had no further information, but would look into it.

In response to a query on what percentage of rubble had already been removed, he suggested that most estimates were “pure speculation”. Indeed, one expert recently calculated that 16.7 per cent of the rubble had been removed, while the Mission put the figure at 20 per cent. Regardless of those figures, however, it was clear that rubble was still “all over” and removal efforts — which were being conducted by MINUSTAH, the Haitian Government and non-governmental organizations — would continue for quite a long time.

Responding to further questions on Haiti’s future, he stressed that the President-elect had won nearly 68 per cent of the vote, giving him a clear mandate. Moreover, voter turnout had been noticeably higher than in the past and those parties that had requested the annulment of the first round of elections had since retracted their requests. However, while the election provided a solid building block for Haiti’s future, the incoming Government would still face significant challenges, he said.

Asked to detail plans to replace him when he assumed an appointment as Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Mulet said the selection process had not yet begun and for the time being he would continue to hold his current post.