Security Council Session on the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) 18 February 2022
Statement of Special Representative Helen La Lime
Mr. President, distinguished members of the Council,
1. It is an honor to once more provide you with an update on the situation in Haiti, which remains fraught and highly polarized despite some signs of progress. In the past months, Prime Minister Ariel Henry has continued to engage with actors from across the political spectrum to further enlarge consensus around a single, unified vision that would lead to the restoration of fully functional, democratically elected institutions.
2. Negotiations among proponents of competing transition governance models have now reached the stage where success will be determined by their collective willingness to compromise. The contours of a common vision shared by all will ultimately depend on Haitian stakeholders placing the national interest above their own aspirations and being flexible on the finer points of the process.
3. The new government unveiled on 24 November – the most tangible result of these efforts to date – appears to have somewhat appeased tensions, as evidenced by the calm observed on 7 February – the date on which late President Jovenel Moïse’s term would have officially ended.
4. While the publication of a revised electoral calendar is still forthcoming, momentum does seem to be building around an effort to form an inclusive, credible and effective Provisional Electoral Council that would inspire confidence and trust among a critical mass of national stakeholders.
Distinguished members of the Council,
5. As we speak, gang violence continues to plunge major urban centers into lawlessness and grief. Criminal armed groups have a strong hold on the economic and social lives of millions of children, women and men. Their indiscriminate use of abduction, murder, as well as sexual and gender-based violence as a means to terrorize local populations in the fight to extend their territorial control is particularly abhorrent.
6. To stem this ever-growing wave of violent crime, the Haitian National Police has, within its limited capacity, sought to improve the effectiveness of its anti-gang operations, adopt a more balanced approach between prevention and repression, and rely on an increased police presence in sensitive areas, an approach which yielded modest temporary results in zones such as Croix-des-Bouquets in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.
7. Yet an over-stretched, understaffed, and under-resourced police force cannot on its own curtail the alarming rise in gang-generated insecurity. To provide it with much-needed relief, the Government, Haiti’s international partners, and the United Nations have jointly resolved to strengthen international support and coordination of assistance to the institution, with a view to ensuring its effective and structured long-term development. In order to address the gaps that ail the police, this newfound momentum, epitomized by the imminent creation of a multi-donor basket fund, must now translate into increased government funding for the force as well as additional international financial and technical support.
8. To be sure, the gang phenomenon cannot be addressed through policing alone. A law enforcement approach, which incorporates a greater control of the illegal flow of weapons, needs to be complemented by socio-economic projects and reintegration activities aimed at generating employment and revenue in the neighborhoods most affected by the scourge of gang violence. Haitian authorities have adopted a national community violence reduction strategy premised on such a holistic approach, and we commend their efforts to ensure that it is swiftly and effectively implemented.
9. As a result of an initiative by the Ministry of Education, several schools in the Port-au-Prince neighborhoods of Cité Soleil and La Saline have been able to recently reopen after years of closure, allowing thousands of youth to resume their education. These successes offer hope that resolute and coordinated government actions will lead to the provision of additional basic services in these communities, as well as to their extension to other areas. Our continued support is crucial to the success of this effort.
10. Impunity represents another intractable phenomenon which Haiti urgently needs to address. To date, there has been no progress in establishing accountability for the 2020 assassination of Monferrier Dorval, the 2018 massacre in La Saline or the ones which occurred in Bel Air in 2019 and 2020. Moreover, some seven months after the ghastly assassination of President Moïse, the national investigation into his murder has stalled, a situation that fuels rumors and exacerbates both suspicion and mistrust within the country.
11. The Haitian judicial system suffers from grave structural weaknesses, as evidenced by the severe challenges in renewing the terms of judges on time. This cripples the ability of courts to investigate, process and try cases. Modest signs of progress, such as the recent increase in hearings held, are encouraging and should be supported. Nevertheless, more action is needed to prepare for the entry into force of the new penal and criminal procedure codes, and to ensure that reform in the judiciary can be sustained over the longer-term.
12. The earthquake which destroyed parts of the Southern Peninsula in August 2021 and killed 2,248 people has added a new layer of complexity to an already dire humanitarian situation. It is now estimated that 4.9 million people, or 43 percent of the country’s population, will be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2022.
13. Coming on the heels of a 21 January ministerial-level meeting chaired by Canada, this week’s international donors’ conference for the reconstruction of the Southern Peninsula which was co-chaired by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Secretary-General, who traveled to Haiti for the event, provided an important opportunity to revitalize the engagement of the international community in support of Haiti and its population. I wish, in this regard, to express my deep gratitude to Member States for having collectively pledged some US $600 million, which will serve to meet the initial needs outlined in the Integrated Reconstruction Plan.
14. Earlier this month, Haiti marked three consecutive years without a laboratory-confirmed case of cholera. This watershed moment, which represents a significant step towards eliminating the disease in Haiti, was reached thanks to the strong leadership of the Haitian authorities and the Haitian people, the unwavering dedication of frontline workers throughout the country, and the partnership of the United Nations and so many other bilateral and multilateral organizations.
15. While these collective efforts have succeeded, overall, the lack of impact and effectiveness of development aid over many years in the country requires us to collectively formulate a new approach, one premised on a deeper coordination of international efforts and a real partnership with Haitian authorities and Haitian actors.
16. For Haiti to emerge from the acute political and institutional crisis in which it is plunged, it is imperative that all Haitian leaders resolve to engage constructively with one another to steer the country towards a process that will allow elections to occur.
17. The international community must also continue to engage with the Haitian government and other stakeholders not only to support efforts to create the necessary security and political conditions for the holding of national elections, but also to ensure that urgent structural reforms are undertaken to tackle gang violence, address impunity and corruption, strengthen the justice system and transform the economy in a sustainable manner.
18. Now is not the time to let Haiti fall off the agenda.