|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5990th Meeting* (AM)
DEVASTATING HURRICANES, CONFIRMATION OF NEW GOVERNMENT PUT HAITI ‘SIMULTANEOUSLY
AT A TIME OF CHALLENGE AND A TIME OF HOPE’, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
Special Representative Hedi Annabi Briefs;
Secretary-General Recommends Extension of UN Mission until 15 October 2009
The devastating hurricanes that had struck Haiti and the nomination and confirmation of a new Government had put the country “simultaneously at a time of challenge and a time of hope”, Hedi Annabi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) told the Security Council this morning.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2008/586), which recommends a 12-month extension to MINUSTAH until 15 October 2009, Mr. Annabi said that, because of the hurricanes of mid-August and early September (Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike), some 800,000 Haitians had lost their homes or had been directly affected. There had also been massive destruction of roads and bridges and large-scale destruction of crops. The Mission had given priority to supporting the response by undertaking evacuations, providing emergency medical care, supporting efforts to shore up collapsing infrastructure and helping to bring critically needed relief supplies to those in need. Today, United Nations agencies were providing large-scale assistance, with MINUSTAH troops providing vital logistical and security assistance.
He said that the need to respond to the catastrophic problems had helped to unblock a political stand-off that had lasted for nearly five months, as the lengthy and difficult confirmation process for a new Government had been concluded on 5 September. Since then, Parliament had worked with the Executive Branch in passing emergency legislation and adopting a supplementary budget. Civil society and the private sector had been working alongside elected representatives to assist victims of the hurricanes and the Government was pursuing a policy of informing and engaging the public.
That new approach of solidarity and outreach, however, remained extremely fragile, he warned. Political confrontation and conflict could easily re-emerge in the context of the forthcoming elections for one third of the Senate. Moreover, the suffering created by global economic trends and exacerbated by the hurricane had created a potential reservoir of discontent that could be manipulated for political reasons. It was, therefore, incumbent on the Haitian leadership to maintain and build on the new tendency towards constructive collaboration. The international community could contribute by helping the new Government to “deliver” what the country needed, and thereby to enhance its credibility.
He said stability would require progress in such areas as the political and institutional situation; extension of State authority, including border management; strengthening of the security sector; enhancement of justice and corrections; and economic and social development. MINUSTAH was working with the national authorities to prepare for the Senatorial elections, which originally should have taken place last November. Preparations had been greatly complicated by the hurricanes and would take four to five months. While the elections might lead to a potentially more volatile environment in the short term, it could, in the medium term, help to create a more stable and normal institutional environment.
Further progress must also be made in strengthening the State, he continued. MINUSTAH had sought to assist authorities in developing comprehensive border management, critical for the State’s financial and physical security. In addition, MINUSTAH had continued to focus on local governance. Much remained to be done in terms of capacity-building. A concerted effort was also required to improve the capabilities of national administration and of key ministries, including the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior. A more general, systematic and coordinated effort was needed, however, that would require further definition of a national programme in that regard, as well as extensive bilateral assistance.
MINUSTAH’s troops and police continued to have an essential role in security, he said, responding both to man-made threats and natural disasters. The country would continue to face a variety of threats in the coming months -– attempts by gangs to reconstitute themselves, kidnapping and a risk of civil unrest. Therefore, the presence of the Mission’s international troops and formed police would be critical in the next 12 months.
At the same time, efforts to strengthen Haiti’s own security capability would proceed, he said. Haitian police officers were now present throughout the country. But, they were still a young and modestly equipped force, for which skills and standards must be further improved. MINUSTAH would address such residual problems, including the ongoing vetting process, and work with donors to ensure provision of the necessary equipment and infrastructure.
The enhancement of police must be complemented, he said, by the strengthening of other rule-of-law institutions, for which clear programmes for reform processes had been adopted by the Government. Significant advances had taken place in the past five months. A small class of magistrates was being trained, and progress was being made to expand prisons and increase corrections staffing. MINUSTAH would continue to work closely to promote progress in those areas.
Finally, he said improvement in the daily lives of the Haitian public was essential to stability in Haiti. It was vital for donors and agencies to build upon the remarkable responses to the emergencies of April and September and help lay the foundations for substantial, sustainable recovery. Progress in the long-deferred Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and other long-term planning was essential and must lead to an exceptional, large-scale effort to recreate a basic infrastructure. That effort would not entail a huge expenditure in global terms and could pre-empt future costs due to renewed instability.
In conclusion, he stressed that evaluations of progress in Haiti must be made not just according to timelines, but according to the achievement of objectives. He also stressed that progress in all the dimensions of stability was interlinked. He said that three sets of actors must be involved in a closely coordinated partnership: the Haitian leadership, who must make decisions, set priorities and put them into effect; MINUSTAH and the United Nations system, which must support the implementation of the plans on the ground; and the wider international community, whose assistance and resources were indispensable to turn the plans into reality.
“Notwithstanding the setbacks that have taken place, and the scope of the challenges that lie ahead, this remains a time of hope for Haiti,” he said. “If we stay the course, if we pursue a broad approach and if we all remain engaged in an effective partnership, I remain convinced that we can succeed, and that Haiti can emerge from its troubled past, towards a better future.”
The meeting started at 10:55 a.m. and adjourned at 11:25 a.m.
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For information media • not an official record