Security Council open briefing on the current security crisis in Haiti 17 October, 3pm
Mister/Madam President, distinguished Members of the Council,
1. When I briefed you three weeks ago, I spoke of three intersecting crises – economic, security, and political – that were accelerating Haiti’s downward spiral. A humanitarian emergency is now at our doorstep. Within four days of those remarks, the Government confirmed the first case of cholera in Haiti in over three years.
2. Within weeks, dozens more cases have been confirmed, more than half resulting in death, with hundreds more suspected in the West and Centre Departments. Twenty-five of those deaths were in the prison of Port-au-Prince alone. Cases are also suspected in the prison of Croix-de-Bouquet.
3. As undocumented cholera cases tear through parts of Port-au-Prince, particularly Cité Soleil, gangs continue to blockade the Varreux terminal where most of the country’s fuel is stored. The consequences for Haiti’s basic infrastructure have been severe, disrupting operations at the country’s hospitals and water suppliers, impacting cholera response. Without fuel, waste is not removed from neighborhoods, while torrential rains promote flooding, which mixes with refuse to create insalubrious conditions ripe for the spread of disease.
4. Neither the heroic work of the police – which remains critically under-staffed and under-resourced – nor political efforts have succeeded in easing the situation. As ever, it is Haiti’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens who are most affected.
5. The reality is that without free movement of fuel, Haiti will be unable to get ahead of this current crisis. For all of the National Police’s accomplishments in re-opening roads and neighbourhoods, the port where fuel is stored remains a challenge. Furthermore, the paucity of fuel is now impacting police mobility and response. Appeals by the diplomatic corps and others, including the UN, for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor have gone unheeded.
6. The broader situation is no better. Nearly a thousand kidnappings have been reported in 2022 alone, and general insecurity continues to prevent millions of children from attending classes, isolates entire neighborhoods, and leaves families extorted and burnt in their own homes. It is to be hoped that this weekend’s arrivals in Port-au-Prince of important Haitian-purchased tactical equipment, delivered by Canada and the US, will assist the police in regaining control of the situation.
Distinguished Council Members,
7. Regarding the political situation, Resolution 2645 generated a sense of urgency because, for the first time, it asked the Government to report on its effort towards a sustainable, time-bound and commonly accepted framework for a political process, led by Haitians. Acting on this Council’s decision, I intensified my efforts to bring key actors around the table and, through constant dialogue, maintained momentum among relevant stakeholders to establish a framework for a renewed political process.
8. Since August, civil society has been driving an initiative that came close to finally bringing all stakeholders around a common proposal. With BINUH support, economic, social and political actors began to identify practical ways to move forward, launching a new round of discussions among the various political blocks. However, the talks faltered. The spirit of compromise receded, and in a sad case of déjà vu, vested interests began to redirect the narrative.
9. These talks are nevertheless continuing, and as late as yesterday a meeting was held among civil society representatives with a view to reviving broad consensus. The Good Offices of the United Nations remain evermore critical to provide opportunities for Haitians to come together and agree on a path to stability for the country. Those in the private sector who have shown a willingness to support reform should continue to assist in that regard, recognizing that they have an important role to play.
10. It is against this backdrop of insecurity and humanitarian crisis that on 7 October the Council of Ministers authorized the Prime Minister to request the support of a specialized international armed force, to help secure the free movement of water, fuel, and medical supplies to avert the situation deteriorating further.
11. I can only reiterate the Secretary-General’s call on Haiti’s partners to consider this request as a matter of urgency for the immediate relief of those already most vulnerable.
Distinguished Members of the Council,
12. As protests demanding the ouster of the Prime Minister and his Government continue, some see in them yet another reminder of the role of entrenched economic and political interests to resist Government efforts to reform State revenues, and customs, for the benefit of the Treasury and the population at large.
13. And so, the debate on sanctions has taken off. Haitians are actively using both social media and radio debates to express support for serious targeted sanctions against those who are driving violence to prevent changes that threaten long-standing patterns of corruption.
14. As I noted in my briefing last month, under such a state of persistent civil unrest, violence, and looting (including of WFP and UNICEF warehouses), basic rights are being flagrantly undermined across the country. Gangs continue to injure, kidnap, rape and kill. And the Human Rights report on sexual violence by gangs released on Friday underscores how women and youth are especially affected. Rape is systematically used as a weapon of control and terror.
15. Any enhanced security support to the National Police should also be accompanied by support to the justice system: both to ensure proper accountability, but also to re-enforce nationally led initiatives, such as the proposed judicial units specialized in adjudicating crimes committed by gangs, as well as financial crimes.
Distinguished Members of the Council,
16. Economic deprivation is leaving the population more vulnerable than it has been in years. Gang violence is critically inhibiting a humanitarian response to a resurgent disease as well as to hunger, with a record 4.7 million people facing acute hunger, including tens of thousands on the brink of starvation. The urgency of the situation is tearing at the political and social fabric of the country.
17. Any comprehensive resolution requires a Haitian led political solution. But a political solution continues to be elusive, and on its own is no longer sufficient to address the current crisis. To support Haitian institutions in their drive for civic order and accountability – and to save thousands of lives that will otherwise be lost – members of this Council must act, and decisively so, to help address the persistent scourges of insecurity and corruption in Haiti.
Link for the session: https://media.un.org/en/asset/