SRSG La Lime Statement to the Security Council
Security Council Session on the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH)
Statement of Special Representative Helen La Lime
Mr. President, distinguished members of the Council,
1. It is an honour to have the opportunity to provide you with an update on the situation in Haiti, on the eve of the first anniversary of the departure of peacekeeping troops from the country and the creation of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti. During its first twelve months of operation, BINUH has strived to carry out its mandate by, among others actions, seeking to foster a conducive environment for key sectors of Haitian society to overcome the impasse in which the country is currently ensconced and set it on a path towards long-term stability and sustainable development.
2. Nevertheless, as we meet today, Haiti is once again struggling to avert the precipice of instability. Apprehension about the future has been increasingly palpable, but especially since the shocking assassination, on 28 August, of the president of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association, Monferrier Dorval – a respected scholar whose murder epitomizes for many the weak state of rule of law in the country. The slaying of Maître Dorval constitutes a tragic loss for Haitian society as he represented an example of civic engagement and commitment to the promotion of the rule of law. In the past months, unrest – sometimes in the form of violent protests – has become increasingly prevalent, and perceptions of insecurity have grown ever more acute. Gangs continue to challenge the authority of the State, especially in the more populous neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, and a fringe group of disaffected police officers calling themselves “Fantom 509” has, along with its followers, brought disorder to the capital on several occasions.
3. As the police and judicial authorities struggle to address their persistent challenges in meeting the Haitian population’s legitimate demands for security and accountability, violence persists, and human rights violations continue to be committed. The widespread perception of impunity which these dynamics elicit can only be countervailed by ensuring that the rights of victims of human rights violations and abuses are upheld and that perpetrators are held to account.
4. Although the Haitian National Police has consistently proven its operational proficiency since assuming sole responsibility for providing security throughout Haiti’s territory, it would require at least an additional 10,000 well trained and equipped police officers to meet internationally accepted policing standards and cement its capacity to deliver professional, human rights compliant, police services to the population. While, over time, it has proven successful in reversing such negative trends as the sharp increases in homicides and kidnappings observed in the past months, the HNP needs to be adequately funded and equipped by its government to overcome its recurrent shortcomings and continue developing to meet those international standards.
5. Similarly, whereas progress has been made towards the operationalization of the National Commission for Disarmament, Dismantlement and Reintegration – the State body charged with coordinating efforts to curb gang activity, continued support as well as steadfast political resolve and decisive action will be necessary to ensure that the Commission is capable of performing its tasks as the Government moves towards adopting a National DDR/CVR Strategy and steps up its efforts to counter the proliferation of illicit weapons and ammunition.
6. Haiti’s contemporary history has demonstrated time and time again that acute political polarization and weak State institutions constitute catalysts for violence. Since I addressed this Council in June, several Government initiatives, including on economic and governance reform, have gained momentum despite running up against some internal criticism. Anew penal code was enacted; certain elements of which the next two years will provide an opportunity to fine-tune in order to build consensus around a text which all Haitians can embrace. Finally, the recent appointment by President Moïse of a new Provisional Electoral Council has elicited strong reactions from segments of Haitian society, including the Court of Cassation; purportedly because of the body’s lack of representativeness and the scope of the mission it was given.
7. The continued lack of trust between political forces is impeding all but the slightest progress on priorities that had previously garnered a wide consensus across the political spectrum, such as the necessity to undertake constitutional reform to better reflect current Haitian realities and address key shortcomings of the 1987 Constitution prior to holding new elections. Even as the window to design a process acceptable to all is fast closing, many political stakeholders view the forging of a political consensus and the establishment of a government of national unity as essential to a conducive environment for participatory elections.
8. As the country prepares to enter a new electoral cycle, it is paramount that key aspects of the electoral process, such as the electoral framework and calendar, be addressed in order to reduce the risk of contested elections and further violence. While BINUH will continue to engage national stakeholders, I urge Member States to amplify their support to a process that, if properly managed, will contribute to ensuring that the overdue polls renew Haiti’s elected leadership, lead to a greater representation of women in political life, and reinvigorate the social contract between Haitian citizens and the State.
Distinguished members of the Council,
9. Though less virulent in Haiti than initially forecast, the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have compounded the already debilitating effects of almost two years of political unrest on the country’s economy. The onset of the health emergency in the spring stopped any potential economic recovery in its tracks, and since then, the situation has only further deteriorated. Despite an increase in remittances and the recent success of measures to strengthen the national currency, households across the country have seen their incomes drop while prices of basic goods have risen sharply, thus leading to a further increase in food insecurity. Investments in the critical manufacturing and agriculture sectors stalled, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs. Overall, the domestic impact of the pandemic, as well as the effect it has had on the economies of essential trading partners, will likely contribute to Haiti experiencing another year of recession.
10. To countervail the effects of the protracted multidimensional crisis and to revitalize the economy, the Government intends to launch a three-year Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan premised on the stimulation of domestic production and exports through economic diversification, support to small and medium enterprises, and investment in the energy as well as agricultural sectors. Likewise, through the implementation of the recently adopted National Social Protection and Promotion Policy, it will seek to reinforce social safety nets and enhance the provision of relief to the most vulnerable, an undertaking that would unquestionably be bolstered by increased levels of donor funding for humanitarian assistance.
11. Above all else, it is the ability of Haiti’s political and economic classes to compromise and resolve their differences without resorting to violence, as well as the capacity of the country’s fledgling institutions to take the necessary steps that will determine whether free, fair and inclusive elections will be held in a conducive climate; whether attempts to restart the economy and put the country back on a positive development trajectory will succeed; and, whether the perennial issue of impunity will finally be addressed.
12. Leveraging the complementarity of the diverse expertise shared between BINUH and the United Nations country team, we stand ready to continue supporting authorities in the accomplishment of these endeavors, and to accompany Haiti as it strives to rekindle the Sustainable Development agenda. To effectively fulfill these roles, we will continue to transform the way in which we work, by making more efficient use of the UN’s political and programmatic resources to better address the intractable structural obstacles that prevent meaningful and tangible progress in Haiti.