19 March 2009 Haiti is making strides in security sector and judicial reform but continues to grapple with widespread poverty and vulnerability to disasters, the leader of a United Nations Security Council mission to the impoverished Caribbean nation said today.
“It does appear that there is a window of opportunity to enable the consolidation of stability and the undertaking of a process of sustainable development,” said Ambassador Jorge Urbina of Costa Rica,” who had led the four-day fact-finding visit that concluded on 14 March.
“It was evident to the mission,” Mr. Urbina noted, on the other hand, “that the current levels of extreme poverty, in which 80 per cent of the people live on under two dollars a day and 50 per cent on under one dollar are incompatible with the goal to establish stability in the short term.”
He said that in the last five years, Haiti had reached its goal of putting 14,000 police officers on the streets, and a successful anti-violence programme, carried out in partnership with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), had brought stability to formerly lawless urban areas.
Border security had also been strengthened with the assistance of MINUSTAH, he said, and the country was also moving forward with an ambitious programme of judicial and constitutional reform eight elections scheduled over the next three years, which officials assured would be free and fair.
However, in addition to the high levels of extreme poverty, local governments were limited in their capacity to provide basic services, even though the Government and MINUSTAH, he were working together to expand the country’s administrative capacity, Mr. Urbina said.
In addition, he said, Haiti’s limited economic, social and cultural rights proved worrisome, a situation that was exacerbated by natural disasters, particularly the hurricanes last year that slammed into the city of Gonaïves, as well as the current food and financial crises.
During the mission, he said, Japan’s representative had expressed concern that agricultural production, which employed more than half the population, barely covered 48 per cent of Haiti’s food needs. He and other Council members urged Haitian authorities to adopt agricultural policies that would spur production.
On the regional front, Council also met with members of the core group of countries interested in Haiti and had observed a high level of commitment to the country among Latin American nations.
In addition, he said, Haitian authorities had repeatedly noted their growing interest in South-South cooperation, and the importance of the continued involvement of regional and subregional organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for Haiti’s hemispheric integration.
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