Delegates Voice Grave Concern over Gang Violence, ongoing Political Deadlock
Progress along a sustainable democratic path in Haiti hinges on rebuilding crumbling institutions and forging an inclusive dialogue to foster stability and peace alongside a time-bound electoral calendar, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the country told the Security Council today.
“Now is not the time to let Haiti fall off the [Security Council] agenda,” Helen La Lime, who also serves as Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), said via videoconference. Providing political and security updates related to the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2022/117), she said Haiti “remains fraught and highly polarized despite some signs of progress”. To date there has been no progress in establishing accountability for the 2020 assassination of Monferrier Dorval or the 2018 massacre in La Saine, while the national investigation into the assassination of President Jovenal Moïse has stalled. At the same time, gang violence continues to terrorize communities across Haiti, and a new layer of complexity was added by the effects of the August 2021 earthquake, with 4.9 million people — 43 per cent of the population — needing assistance in 2022.
Highlighting positive developments and ways to trigger more of them, she noted the continued efforts of Prime Minister Ariel Henry to meet with all actors to reach a consensus and move the political process forward. Success, however, will be determined by the collective willingness to cooperate, with stakeholders putting national goals over their own. Ending impunity and supporting the Haitian National Police to boost its anti-gang operations are essential. Indeed, for Haiti to emerge from the multiple crises it faces, she said all Haitian leaders must work constructively towards holding elections and ensure urgent structural reforms are implemented to combat gang violence, build institutions and to transform the economy.
Council members echoed grave concerns about the persistent political deadlock, gang violence and dire humanitarian conditions. Some called for expeditious investigations into the 7 July assassination of President Moïse and sweeping justice-sector reform to end impunity and combat corruption.
“It is too early to talk about progress here,” the Russian Federation’s representative said, citing such challenges as the flareup of criminal gangs, civil unrest, a power vacuum at all levels, ineffective law enforcement and a flood of firearms onto the island. As such, the United Nations mission should do more than simply help while making effective national dialogue its top priority, he said.
Kenya’s representative, speaking also for Gabon and Ghana, said Haiti continues to pay a steep price for its victory over slavery two centuries ago — blockades, forced prosperity-destroying reparations and colonization. The Haitian people have seemed to be punished from the day their forefathers announced their freedom until recently, he said, adding that the task today is to engage in the Security Council to restore Haiti’s shared prosperity, through Haitian-owned and led strategies.
Mexico’s representative said: “The time has come for political differences in Haiti […] to be settled at the ballot box.” Calling for comprehensive attention to the deep-rooted causes of violence, he noted Mexico’s efforts in Haiti to fight organized crime, strengthen the community fabric and train Haitian police officers. He expressed hope that the assessment called for in resolution 2600 (2021) will help inform the Council on how to render the United Nations presence in Haiti even more effective.
France’s delegate, noting her country’s €6.5 million contribution to Haiti and a shared history with the Caribbean nation, echoed calls to enhance progress through such actions as inclusive national dialogue and improved crime-fighting capacities for police. As BINUH is undergoing an evaluation, she said maintaining a United Nations presence is essential.
In the same vein, the United States delegate said: “Haiti does not stand alone.” The current situation continues to demonstrate how vital the United Nations support is, she said, adding that the upcoming renewal of BINUH’s mandate will be another milestone on the heels of recent conferences that have garnered international support for Haiti.
Also speaking were representatives of China, Ireland, Norway, India, Albania, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, United Kingdom and Haiti.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 11:27 a.m.
HELEN LA LIME, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti and Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), via videoconference, provided updates related to the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Office and the situation in the country (document S/2022/117). Noting that Prime Minister Ariel Henry has continued to meet with all actors to reach a consensus, she said success will be determined by the collective willingness to cooperation, with stakeholders putting national goals over their own. The new Government unveiled on 24 November appears to have appeased tensions somewhat, as evidenced by the calm observed on 7 February, the date when the term of the late President Jovenel Moises would have ended. Pending the publication of a revised electoral calendar, she said momentum continues towards holding elections.
Gang violence, however, continues to plague urban centres, terrorizing local populations through such acts as sexual violence, she said. While the Haitian National Police has sought to improve its anti-gang operations, limited resources are limiting its efforts. As such, the Government and the National Police are working towards garnering international support through, among other things, a multi-donor basket fund. But gang violence cannot be addressed by policing alone. A law enforcement approach, with greater control of illegal weapons flows, must be complemented by socioeconomic projects and reintegration activities aimed at generating employment and revenue in neighbourhoods most affected by gang violence. Authorities have adopted a strategy based on such a holistic approach, including efforts to re-open schools in Port-au-Prince neighbourhoods. Indeed, coordinated actions can make a difference in sensitive communities, and the international community must support these efforts.
Equally important, she continued, is accountability. Justice must address the presidential assassination and massacres around Haiti. To do so, judicial system reform must go beyond modest signs of progress — such as prosecuting cases — and it must be sustained. A new layer of complexity was added by the effects of the 2021 earthquake, she said, noting that 4.9 million people — 43 per cent of the population — will need assistance in 2022. Recalling a meeting held by Canada in January on support for Haiti and a recent conference on tackling grave health concerns about the cholera epidemic, she also drew attention to this week’s international donor conference co-chaired by Prime Minister Henry and the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General. She thanked Member States for the $600 million pledged to fund the initial requirements outlined in the Integrated Reconstruction Plan for the southern peninsula. More broadly, a real partnership with Haitian authorities is needed going forward, she said. Indeed, for Haiti to emerge from the multiple crises it faces, all Haitian leaders must work constructively towards holding elections and ensure urgent structural reforms are implemented to combat gang violence, build institutions and to transform the economy, she said, emphasizing that: “now is not the time to let Haiti fall off the agenda.”
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said the situation in Haiti continues to demonstrate how vital United Nations support is. Recalling that the United States convened a high-level meeting with Haitian stakeholders in December 2021, at which participants agreed on the need for stronger policing, she added that Canada has also recently hosted a support conference and, this week, the Haitian Government held a reconstruction conference where many international donors stepped up their support. All those conferences and gatherings demonstrate the global community’s strong support for Haiti, she said, stressing that “Haiti does not stand alone”. The upcoming renewal of BINUH’s mandate will be another such milestone, she said, while calling on Haiti’s partners to provide more support for community violence reduction initiatives aimed at helping Haiti build a functioning criminal justice system.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico), echoing the Special Representative’s concern about the manifold challenges facing Haiti, also spotlighted the Haitian people’s strength and resilience. Gangs continue to control much of the country, thousands are displaced due to urban violence and the judicial system’s collapse is equally alarming. Calling for comprehensive attention to the deep-rooted causes of violence, he said Mexico works in Haiti to fight organized crime, strengthen the community fabric and train Haitian police officers. “The time has come for political differences in Haiti […] to be settled at the ballot box,” he said, while also drawing attention to the impacts of climate change on the country’s food security. Turning to the renewal of BINUH’s mandate, he expressed hope that the assessment called for in resolution 2600 (2021) will help inform the Council on how to render the United Nations presence in Haiti even more effective.
DAI BING (China) called on Haitian political leaders to take on the responsibility of stabilizing the country, stressing that a stable environment is a prerequisite for progress. All parties in Haiti should start an inclusive dialogue, reach agreement on political arrangements and create a feasible election plan. Emphasizing the need to support the National Police and sever financial flows to gangs, he noted that kidnappings for ransom have surged by 180 per cent and other crimes have spiked over the past four months. Turning to other concerns, he said more than 40 per cent of Haitians need aid, with many displaced by violence or the 2021 earthquake, and yet Haiti has not established an economic governance system, greatly limiting its ability to provide basic services. In October, the Council extended the BINUH mandate, requesting the Secretary-General to submit a report, which can improve assistance to the Haitian people. While the United Nations system has provided huge amounts of funding to Haiti over the years, the desired impact has not been achieved. Efforts must improve communication with the Economic and Social Council, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Bank and other actors to improve synergy. The Security Council could invite the Peacebuilding Commission to provide advice, he said, adding that regional organizations are also in a great position to do so. The international community must continue its support of Haiti so the country can embark on a positive path.
BRIAN PATRICK FLYNN (Ireland) pointed out the continued deterioration in the security situation in Haiti, including the brutal gang violence terrorizing the population and leading to fuel shortages, disruption of services, stifling of humanitarian relief, hunger, confinements, kidnappings and killings, which disproportionately affected women and girls. “The climate of fear and intimidation created by violence makes it extremely challenging to address the myriad of crises facing Haiti. It is critical that the security situation is improved,” he said. He went to point to the devastating effects of the August earthquake, as more than 4.3 million Haitians are facing high levels of acute food insecurity, while the economy is in freefall. “Without urgent assistance, the Haitian people will continue to face desperate choices,” he said, welcoming this week’s international conference in Port-au-Prince where $600 million was raised. He also highlighted the crucial need to ensure safe, legal and dignified channels for Haitians who choose to make a perilous journey abroad to escape violence. National consensus is the only means by which the political deadlock in Haiti can be broken, which must be built on wide, inclusive, participatory engagement, including civil society representatives, and women in particular, he noted.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) said that in 2021 Haiti faced multiple crises “that would shake the core of any country”, whose handling cannot be achieved without restoring confidence in the political and judiciary systems. All actors must commit to an inclusive dialogue to resolve the current political impasse and as soon as feasible, while organizing legitimate elections. Noting that the situation could benefit from a stronger international engagement — including a stronger BINUH — she pointed to ongoing human rights abuses, the use of sexual violence and rape as a terror tactic by criminal gangs and high levels of displacement. Against that backdrop, she called on the authorities to do more to protect their citizens, to ensure that humanitarian workers have unhindered access and to swiftly implement the national community violence reduction strategy. She also drew attention to the impacts of climate change, which are increasing humanitarian needs, asking donors to do more to assist Haiti and other affected countries.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) said the President’s assassination, and subsequent earthquake and hurricane, exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, while the political and security situation remains volatile. Welcoming efforts by Haiti’s leaders to achieve consensus on the country’s future, he said the Government faces the huge tasks of restoring functional democratic institutions, security and rule of law. It is critical to support the Prime Minister’s commitment to dialogue with all stakeholders, including the Montana Accord Group, and his statement that the next Head of State will be chosen through democratic elections. He also encouraged the building of consensus on the transition, the Constitution-making process and holding of elections, noting that the restoration of law and order is among the biggest impediments. Given the persistent gang-related violence, mainly in Port-au-Prince, capacity-building of the police along with other initiatives to strengthen law and order will be important. He added that India looks forward to an independent evaluation of BINUH.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) highlighted four pressing issues for actions, saying inclusive dialogue must forge a path forward. To ensure success, a new electoral committee must be established. Gang violence must end, with a priority being to provide better support to the National Police. For its part, France has intensified its efforts to this end. Institutions must return to functioning normally, she said, emphasizing the importance of investigating the assassination of Haiti’s president. The humanitarian situation is alarming, making it essential to support efforts to address people’s needs, she said, noting that France will contribute €6.5 million. As BINUH is undergoing an evaluation, she said maintaining a United Nations presence is essential. Given the history between France and Haiti, he said his delegation strongly supports the country and will continue to do so.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) made several suggestions for priority action, including restoring State authorities to combat gang violence and strongly supporting the strengthening of National Police capacities. Tailor-made assistance is needed to end the culture of impunity that leads to corruption. Welcoming the Government’s efforts to pave the way towards reform and progress, he said the solutions rest in an inclusive national dialogue. The international community can and should help, but the response must be led by Haiti. Elections must be held with the full participation of all members of society. The international community has been involved in Haiti without ideal results, but this should not lead to “donor fatigue”, and everything must be done to meet humanitarian needs, especially in the wake of the 2021 earthquake. BINUH is essential and must stay relevant, effective and efficient, he said, adding that: “we need to hear more from those who are affected.”
MARTIN KIMANI, (Kenya), also speaking on behalf of Gabon and Ghana, recalled Haiti’s history of throwing off the shackles of slavery and winning its independence. Liberation has a cost and all should recognize the descendants of those who gifted liberty to many. Yet, Haiti has rarely been allowed to overcome the legacy of its glorious revolution which defeated some of the greatest military Powers of the eighteenth century — it was blockaded, forced to pay onerous, prosperity-destroying reparations and colonized. The Haitian people have seemed to be punished from the day their forefathers announced their freedom until recently. Looking westward, Africans see in Haiti a shining beacon of the claim to equality and unrelenting demand for respect and dignity, and stand with the people of Haiti. The task today is to engage in the Security Council to restore Haiti’s shared prosperity, through Haitian-owned and led strategies.
On the political situation, he said divergence has crippled progress. Concerned about the security situation, he said more must be done to support the National Police. Welcoming BINUH and partners’ efforts in this regard, he urged actors to redouble these efforts. Specialized training must incorporate efforts to address abuse against women and girls, while justice reforms must expedite court cases, among other things, to fight impunity. He called for an end to illicit financial flows, urging international actors to do their part in this regard. The worsening humanitarian situation requires urgently addressing the root causes of poverty. Welcoming contributions to address the impact of the 2021 earthquake, he called for added funding to such areas as food security, infrastructure development, justice and security sector reform, education and disaster risk management.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates), rejecting all acts of armed gang violence, said serious measures across all levels are required to restore peace and stability, including by strengthening and respecting the rule of law. Highlighting three potential focus areas to support Haiti’s path towards stability and prosperity, she said inclusion is fundamental to success. Calling on all stakeholders to remain committed to constructive dialogue and efforts to achieve national unity, she said for these efforts to be sustainable, they must also include the full, equal and meaningful participation of Haitian women. It is also necessary to build the capacity of national and local institutions to strengthen their role in addressing the ongoing challenges, she said, underlining the importance of continuing to strengthen the security sector during the transitional process. In addition, a reduction of community violence requires such durable solutions as development and humanitarian efforts. In this regard, recovery and reconstruction programmes must continue to support sustainable efforts in Haiti. A coherent Haiti-led, Haiti-owned response to the situation is the key solution for the nation’s security and prosperity, she said.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil), stressing his country’s unwavering commitment to and long-term involvement with Haiti, recalled that tens of thousands of Brazilian troops were deployed to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) over its lifespan. “Today we have once again received a bleak and disconcerting report,” he said, urging the international community to reflect on what should be done differently to truly begin making a difference in the situation on the ground. “The United Nations presence in Haiti has to be reassessed and reengineered,” he said, calling for an integrated approach that considers the economic, political and social dimensions of Haiti’s crisis. To break the cycle of poverty, criminality and political violence, a system-wide strategy enabling better cooperation between the Council and other United Nations bodies — especially those responsible for economic and social development — is needed. In that regard, he spotlighted the role of the Peacebuilding Commission, which was created specifically to fill such gaps.
ALICE JACOBS (United Kingdom) said Haiti’s complex security, health and economic challenges can only be resolved through unified support for Haitian-led solutions. Stressing that support to BINUH remains critical, she described the country’s persistent political gridlock as deeply troubling with serious impacts on the Haitian people. In that context, she encouraged the continuation of efforts to secure political consensus for free, fair and credible elections and for all sides to work constructively in support of a peaceful, democratic solution. She went on to call for accountability for the perpetrators of the abhorrent assassination of President Moïse in 2021, while also voicing concern about Haiti’s deteriorating security and human rights conditions and the humanitarian crisis, which was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. More efforts are needed to address the root causes of those crises and to support the development and advancement of the Haitian people.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity, describing the current crisis in Haiti as a result of lack of progress on domestic dialogue between political forces and society. Citing such challenges as the flareup of criminal gangs, civil unrest, a power vacuum at all levels and ineffective law enforcement, he declared: “It is too early to talk about progress here.” In addition, Haiti is being flooded by firearms that make their way to the island through seaports. Calling for prompt attention to that issue, he also expressed regret about the lack of progress in investigating and ensuring accountability for the assassination of President Moïse, which reportedly had links to foreign actors. The United Nations mission should do more than simply help, but should make effective national dialogue its top priority, he stressed, warning of a possible spillover which could morph into a regional humanitarian crisis.
ANTONIO RODRIGUE (Haiti) said progress towards durable peace and stability at this fragile time hinges on rapidly restoring institutions so they can adequately function. The Government of Haiti is working towards consensus to put the country on a democratic path, he said, citing such examples as Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s initiatives for inclusive dialogue with all actors with a view to adopting a new Constitution and organizing general elections. At the same time, the insecure landscape — worsened by gang violence — threatens to overturn any such efforts. Despite this, the Police Force of Haiti, with its limited means, has made progress, he said, providing several examples, including re-opening schools and restoring access to fuel, which gangs had previously blocked.
“The list of successes could be longer,” he said, outlining actions needed to foster further progress. Among them, increased support is sorely needed for the specialized National Police corps, including weapons, munitions and equipment alongside training, he said, noting that Haiti was closely following the BINUH mandate and its efforts in this regard. Violence hampers tourism, opportunities for youth and living conditions for the Haitian people. Without improving this situation, all efforts will be in vain, he declared, emphasizing that Haiti aims at creating a stable climate to allow these improvements and expressing hope that support shown at recent meetings will continue.