Security Council Session on the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) 4 October 2021
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 is currently undergoing one of the most fraught periods of its recent history. Already reeling from the ghastly assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on 7 July, the country was struck on 14 August by a devastating earthquake which affected over 800,000 people in its southwestern peninsula. These two events have led long awaited national and local elections to be further postponed. Meanwhile, insecurity has become rampant in Port-au-Prince, as kidnappings are once again on the rise and gangs have extended their control over large swaths of the city. In addition, thousands of migrants who had sought better living conditions in neighboring countries are being repatriated. For most observers, it is difficult to envision an end to the country’s seemingly never-ending crises which have pushed the resilience of the Haitian people to the brink.
2. Since assuming office on 20 July, Prime Minister Ariel Henry has spared no effort to reach a political agreement with the various factions of the Haitian polity. Adopting an inclusive and consensual approach, he has sought to create minimal conditions for the holding of legislative, local and presidential elections, and thus steer a country in the midst of a profound governance crisis towards the regular functioning of its democratic institutions. In a positive step, actors from across the political spectrum and civil society organizations, including former opposition and ruling coalition groups, adhered to such an agreement on 11 September. The pact captures key demands expressed by national stakeholders, such as the formation of a new Provisional Electoral Council and the inclusion of the diaspora. It also foresees the holding of elections no later than the second half of 2022.
3. One can only hope that Haitian political and civil society leaders will continue to work together to find common ground around a common project that will contribute to fostering a more appeased climate in which decisive action can be taken and essential reforms enacted
4. To be sure, many points of convergence exist. For instance, there is a large national consensus on the need to reform the 1987 Haitian constitution, a charter widely viewed as contributing to the recurrent political and institutional instability. The draft Constitution submitted by the Independent Consultative Committee to the Prime Minister on 8 September should provide a basis for further constructive and inclusive debate on ways to reshape the Haitian political system.
5. Likewise, the reestablishment of security, especially in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, must be prioritized by Haitian authorities. Since June, a significant and sudden increase in gang violence has caused the displacement of some 19,000 people from the communes of Cité-Soleil, Croix-des-Bouquets, Delmas and the Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of Martissant. The control that gangs exercise around strategic entry and exit points of the capital has had a detrimental impact on Haiti’s economy and the movement of people and goods. Applying the recommendations of a team of UN police experts deployed from May to July following a request from the late President, the Haitian National Police has sought to improve the effectiveness of its anti-gang operations by adopting a more balanced approach to prevention and repression, relying on increased police presence in problematic areas, and improving its intelligence-gathering mechanisms.
6. Yet, an over-stretched and under resourced force alone cannot stem this worrisome rise in crime. Haiti’s main security institution will not be able to achieve sustainable results unless its capacities are strengthened, and government services are brought back to the impoverished neighborhoods that serve as fertile ground for armed gangs. Therefore, in addition to sustaining its efforts to reform the police with the support of the United Nations and bilateral partners, the Government must implement a more holistic approach to addressing gang violence, within the framework of the national strategy for community violence reduction which was developed with UN support and endorsed on 5 July.
7. Haitian citizens have unanimously condemned President Moïse’s gruesome death and called for a thorough investigation into his assassination – one which follows due process and the rule of law. For the shroud of impunity which has long enveloped Haiti to begin lifting, and for justice to prevail in this as well as several emblematic cases, judicial actors must be allowed to work independently, in an appeased environment, with reassurance that they will be protected while undertaking the delicate task of identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators.
8. The Haitian judicial system also continues to contend with the protracted challenge of pre-trial detention which affects 82 percent of the country’s prison inmates, among the highest such rates in the world. National authorities must redouble their efforts to urgently address this issue, in close consultation with all judicial stakeholders. Furthermore, it is imperative that the process to review the new penal and criminal procedural codes continue as, once promulgated, they will be critical to combatting pre-trial detention as well as harmonizing Haitian law with regional and international human right standards.
Distinguished members of the Council,
9. The 14 August earthquake has added a new layer of complexity to an already dire humanitarian situation. In the face of the most recent catastrophe to befall the country, the United Nations reiterates its support to the Government and people of Haiti, and salutes the active national leadership and coordination of the post-disaster response and recovery.
10. Even as relief operations are still ongoing, early recovery and the restoration of livelihoods must be strongly supported in the areas affected by the earthquake. It is a race against time to ensure that children can return to school, that farmers do not miss the next planting season, and that people currently living in spontaneous displacement camps return to their homes as quickly as possible. We must ensure that Haiti does not become a forgotten crisis. I urge all Member States to contribute to the $187.3 million Flash Appeal launched on 25 August to respond to the needs of those affected by the earthquake as well as the $235.6 million 2021-2022 Humanitarian Response Plan, both of which are currently only about one third funded. Moreover, in the long term, the reconstruction process will need the full engagement of the Government of Haiti as well as the international community, to ensure a greener, resilient, and more inclusive recovery.
11. Similarly, while the United Nations and partners have worked closely with the Government of Haiti to ensure it responds effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic, greater cooperation will be required to sustain and scale up testing capabilities as well as to promote public health and social measures. With only some 60,000 vaccines administered to date and less than one per cent of the country’s eligible population inoculated, increasing vaccine uptake in the coming weeks and months will prove vital to protecting Haiti and its most vulnerable populations from COVID-19 and the threat of more transmissible variants.
12. The situation in which Haiti currently finds itself can only be characterized as bleak. Nevertheless, there exist encouraging signs that only reinforce my conviction that, through urgent, determined and concerted action, Haiti’s citizens can address the deep structural challenges, as well as the governance and development deficits, which feed their country’s instability, insecurity, and ever-growing humanitarian needs. Along with the United Nations, the entire international community must continue to steadfastly stand alongside the Haitian people and their government as they endeavor to forge a path towards stability, security and sustainable development.