REMARKS OF SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE HELEN LA LIME, SECURITY COUNCIL OPEN BRIEFING ON HAITI - 24 JANUARY
Mister/Madam President, Distinguished members of the Council,
1. January is a bitter-sweet month for Haiti as celebrations of independence are accompanied by painful remembrance of the devastating earthquake, which, on 12 January 2010, ravaged the capital, killed hundreds of thousands and displaced thousands more. Commemorations of the tragedy this year were muted; overshadowed by the protracted crisis the country is facing, as years of hard-fought recovery gains are being undone, and Haitians grapple with setting the country back on a path to democracy.
2. Gang-related violence has reached levels not seen in decades. Murders and kidnappings increased for a fourth consecutive year:1,359 kidnappings were recorded in 2022,more than doubling that recorded in 2021, averaging roughly four per day. Murders are also up by a third since the previous year. A total of 2,183 were reported in 2022, touching near all segments of society, including a former Presidential candidate and the Director of the National Police Academy.
3. Forthcoming reporting by BINUH, with OHCHR, has established that turf wars involving two gang coalitions, namely the G9 coalition and G-Pep, reached unprecedented levels in several neighborhoods of Cité Soleil. This violence is part of well-defined strategies designed to subjugate populations and expand territorial control. Gangs have increasingly resorted to the deliberate killing of men, women, and children with snipers positioned on rooftops. Dozens of women and children as young as ten years old have been brutally raped, as a tactic to spread fear and destroy the social fabric of communities under the control of rival gangs. Besieging and displacing whole populations already living in extreme poverty, gangs have intentionally blocked access to food, water and – amidst a cholera outbreak – health services.
4. Close to five million people are facing conditions of acute hunger across the country, and while 90 per cent of schools are now operating, thousands of children, especially those living in gang affected areas,are yet to start the school year.And there are increasing reports of minors being recruited to serve in gangs. The Humanitarian Response Plan will likelybe close to double that of 2022. I urge donors to continue to give generously, to help address immediate needs, as well as long-term development gaps in the country.
Distinguished members of the Council,
5. The expiration of the mandate of the last 10 Senators holding office on 9 January means there is not one elected official left in the country. Whilst a profound challenge, this institutional vacuum presents an opportunity for Haiti to take stock, look at the root-causes of the dysfunction and set the country on a course to address them.
6. Two key developments– if properly supported – can help chart a path back to accountability, the rule of law, and the restoration of democratic institutions.
7. The first development was driven by the distinguished members of this Council, namely the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2653 establishing sanctions measures on those supporting criminal activities and violence involving armed groups. As I noted in my last briefing to you in December, bilateral sanctions were also welcomed during this period. These measures are creating space for additional political dialogue and necessary reforms. This has been re-enforced by encouraging developments in the judiciary, with new steps being taken on both the vetting of judges and the reduction of pre-trial detention levels.
8. The second development was taking shape as I was briefing the Council on 21 December. It culminated later that day with the signing, by a broad spectrum of political figures, CSOs, religious authorities, trade unions, and the private sector, of the ‘National Consensus Agreement for an Inclusive Transition and Transparent Elections’.
9. This Consensus identifies a calendar for installing an elected Government by February 2024 and lists immediate steps to be taken for the promotion of fiscal reforms to increase state revenue collection and restore public services. A‘High Transitional Council’ has now been established and named, which will work with Government to make nominations to the Court of Cassation (the country’s highest court), the Provisional Electoral Council, and appoint a committee to review the constitution. The agreement is by no means a done deal, and it remains fundamentally open. A series of roundtables, which will include discussions on establishing an inclusive electoral roadmap and a national security plan, provides opportunities for those who are interested, but have not yet committed, to engage in the effort.
10. The agreement, whose adherents are growing every day, is indeed the most promising sign to emerge from dialogue efforts until now. We are heartened by positive reactions from major political leaders and international partners alike. But implementation will be essential to building confidence around the agreement. The country urgently needs to see those in positions of influence and leadership – whether at the national, or local levels, and including the diaspora – put aside their differences and do their part for the restoration of legitimate state institutions.
11. The HNP remains a priority for the Government, with an almost 50% increase in budget allocation for the current year to $162m.Last month saw the 32nd class of cadets enter the force: 714 additional officers, including 174 women. I thank those partners that continue to work with the basket fund in support of the HNP. The police are using the armoured vehicles that they purchased, and that continue to arrive in Haiti, to launch operations against gangs, some of which are more successful than others. But the challenge remains maintaining and consolidating the gains made after operations.
Distinguished members of the Council,
12. As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, and I as referred to earlier, the National Consensus and sanctions are two important developments that can meaningfully contribute to overcoming the crisis and help alleviate untold suffering. They offer a clear path to the restoration of democracy and legitimacy. The third element that will re-enforce both the HNP and these developments is the deployment of an international specialized force, as requested by the Government in October. This has yet to materialize.
13. The reality is that without this international deployment, operating in an integrated way with the HNP, the very positive effects of the political process and the sanctions so far, will remain fragile and vulnerable to being reversed. Haitians overwhelmingly want this assistance so they can go about their daily lives in peace. The population is living in fear and are all too conscious of the limitations of the police force. In this month of remembrance, the people of Haiti are counting on you.