Debating Speakers Focus on Electoral Delays, United Nations Mission’s Future
At a critical crossroads in a democratization process characterized by a troubled electoral process, charges of fraud and security concerns, Haitian stakeholders must exhibit a strong spirit of compromise and commitment to consensus-building in order to restore constitutional order, the highest-ranking United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation, Sandra Honoré, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), outlined a transition plan and road map for the operation’s eventual disengagement. She noted that gains that had been made were being challenged, as the positive momentum following the second of three electoral rounds planned for 2015 had ended with the postponement of the third round. While Haiti’s security situation remained fragile, but largely peaceful, the political class had yet to unite behind a common vision of a process for moving forward.
She went on to state that while former Senate and National Assembly President Jocelerme Privert had been sworn in as Haiti’s Provisional President on 14 February, a three-week impasse had hindered the appointment of a consensus Prime Minister and Cabinet. The appointment of members to the new Provisional Electoral Council was awaiting the confirmation of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, and demands were being made for the establishment of an independent electoral verification commission. Such delays could prevent a swift return to full constitutional order, she warned, emphasizing that “Haiti cannot afford losing focus in this regard, as it can ill bear further declines in economic growth”.
Turning to MINUSTAH, she said, the Mission and the United Nations country team had begun work on a Transition Plan that outlined a road map for its progressive disengagement from functions that could be assumed by the Government or other partners, while identifying areas for further support. Such efforts would feed into the Strategic Assessment that the Secretary-General would conduct after the elections, as requested in Security Council resolution 2243 (2015).
Haiti’s representative said that, given the current situation, MINUSTAH’s support for the Haitian National Police was critical to maintaining security. The future of the Mission’s mandate should reflect the situation on the ground, and the gains made over the last 12 years must be sustained, particularly with regard to the security situation. With the Mission’s new configuration, the Government favoured maintaining and strengthening capacities in the police and the judicial system, as well as continued support for the penitentiary administration.
Yet, those developments were occurring at a time when Haiti faced other challenges, she said, pointing out that food insecurity had touched 3.5 million people and the ongoing drought could lead to catastrophic consequences unless action was taken. At the same time, the country also faced a deteriorating health and sanitation situation, given the cholera and Zika epidemics. A drastic decline in humanitarian assistance — from $155 million in 2014 to $55 million in 2015 — had resulted in reduced capacity to help vulnerable communities, he said, appealing for greater international commitment.
He went on to note that recent demonstrations had demonstrated the Haitian people’s strong desire for democracy and a transparent, accountable electoral process. The coming elections would indeed be a test, not only for Haitian democracy, but also for development and long-term stability. At the current crossroads, the new Provisional Electoral Council must act rapidly to succeed in the mission ahead, he said, urging all partners, as well as the international community, to spare no effort in helping to guarantee the success of the upcoming elections in order to ensure a peaceful transition and lasting stability, which remained at the centre of the Haitian people’s wishes.
When the floor opened for debate, Council members commended Haiti and its people for their resilience in the face of their country’s enormous challenges, including the persistent cholera epidemic, natural disasters and a fragile economy. Today’s situation, however, was a sharp contrast from that of one year ago, which had been characterized by political protests and violence, said Angola’s representative — whose country holds the Council Presidency for March — when speaking in his national capacity.
Many speakers called for swift action on moving the electoral process forward out of the current impasse, with the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), expressing concern that the current political uncertainty meant that the electoral process may not be completed as outlined in the 5 February agreement. Urging the international community to provide support in identifying Haitian-owned consensual solutions to the stalled process, she said efforts must also be made to ensure that the electoral process was completed in a timely fashion, and in a transparent, free and fair manner, free from fear.
The representative of the United States said that the expeditious conclusion of the electoral process would be a critical step towards installing a responsive Government and strengthening Haitian institutions. To ensure adherence to the agreed timeline, all stakeholders must commit to that goal, he stressed, warning that time was running short. A critical next step would be the swift installation of the Provisional Electoral Council. Noting that reports of fraud in 2015 had greatly undermined the Government, he pointed out, however, that his country and the European Union had found no evidence supporting those claims.
Regarding MINUSTAH’s future, Uruguay’s representative emphasized that MINUSTAH must not be hostage to a supposition by some in Haiti that the Mission was, in fact, a permanent institution. The strategic assessment intended to shape recommendations on its future could begin as early as May, he said. After all the support provided to Haiti, it would be unacceptable for some politicians to find “creative” ways to remain in their jobs.
Brazil’s representative acknowledged that despite the enhanced capabilities of the Haitian National Police, there had been an increase in the number of homicides and a peak in violence. In that regard, the deterrence provided by United Nations troops remained essential to reducing violent demonstrations and crime in certain areas.
Wishing Haiti a better future, New Zealand’s representative expressed hope that 2016 would be the year in which the country would transition from dependence on external partners towards greater self-reliance.
Also speaking today were representatives of Spain, Egypt, Venezuela, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Senegal, China, France, Japan, Malaysia, Ukraine, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Argentina, Chile and Colombia. Also participating was the Head of the European Union Delegation.
The meeting began at 4:44 p.m. and ended at 7:32 p.m.
SANDRA HONORÉ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), said the country was at a critical juncture of its democratization following an interrupted electoral process. The coming weeks would be decisive for democratic consolidation, demanding from all actors a good-faith effort guided by the interest of the people. The second of three electoral rounds planned for 2015 had been held on 25 October, advancing the renewal of democratic institutions and the re-establishment of institutional balance. A total of 14 out of 20 senators and 92 of 119 Lower House members had been sworn in, establishing the fiftieth legislature and enabling Parliament to resume on 11 January, she recalled, noting that the round had marked the end of a year of dysfunctionality and rule by decree.
Yet, that positive momentum had ceased with the postponement of the third electoral round, amid charges of fraud and security concerns, she said. The risk of another governance vacuum had been averted by an agreement on 5 February between former President Michel Martelly and the presidents of the two parliamentary chambers. It outlined a road map for institutional continuity following the end of the presidential term on 7 February. The agreement also called for an indirect election, by the National Assembly, of a provisional President for up to 120 days, as well as the appointment of a consensus Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the re-establishment of the Provisional Electoral Council, with elections scheduled for 24 April.
However, the political class had yet to unite behind a common vision for the political process, she said. Although former Senate and National Assembly President Jocelerme Privert had been sworn in on 14 February as the Provisional President, a three-week impasse had hindered the appointment of a consensus Prime Minister and Cabinet. While steps had been taken to identify members of the new Provisional Electoral Council, their installation awaited confirmation by the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and demands were being made for the establishment of an independent electoral verification commission. Such delays could prevent a swift return to full constitutional order, while a protracted political crisis could hamper stabilization gains, she warned. “Haiti cannot afford losing focus in this regard as it can ill bear further declines in economic growth.”
The security situation had been largely peaceful, albeit fragile, she continued. The 25 October polls had seen a drop in security incidents, and while that reflected the lead role of key institutions, such as the Haitian National Police, continued United Nations engagement in support of operations, logistics and security, and international financial assistance remained critical. Also over the last year, the Haitian National Police had shown their ability to provide security. However, the need for better specialized capacities required strong commitment on the part of the police, within the framework of broader rule-of-law reforms by the Government. On the economic front, public and private investment were on a drastic decline, with growth waning and inflation rising, all of which had resulted in reduced social spending and income-generating activities, she said.
To tackle such challenges, Haiti needed stable institutions and a capable governance system, she said, emphasizing that there was no alternative to a return to institutional and political stability through the completion of elections. A strong spirit of compromise among national stakeholders, and an equally strong commitment to consensus-building would be essential for a return to constitutional order. As for MINUSTAH, its operating environment would be shaped by the manner and timing in which the electoral process was completed, she said, stressing the importance of international support for a solution that would see Haiti take resolute action to pursue democratic consolidation. MINUSTAH and the United Nations country team had begun work on a transition plan that would outline a road map for the Mission’s progressive disengagement from functions that could be assumed by the Government or other partners, while identifying areas for further support. Such efforts would feed into the Strategic Assessment, which resolution 2243 (2015) had asked the Secretary-General to conduct after the elections. He planned to submit recommendations to the Council MINUSTAH’s future prior to expiration of its mandate in October, separate and apart from electoral developments, she said.
DAVID PRESSMAN (United States) said that the expeditious conclusion of the electoral process was a critical step towards installing a responsive Government and strengthening Haitian institutions. To ensure adherence to the timeline agreed in the accord, all stakeholders must commit to that goal. While some positive steps had been taken, time was running short and a critical next step was the swift installation of the Provisional Electoral Council. Reports of fraud in 2015 had greatly undermined the Government, he said, pointing out, however, that his country and the European Union had found no evidence supporting those claims. Only an elected Government could work with international partners to address challenges, including the ongoing drought and the situation of individuals who remained in prison without charge, he said. Ongoing analysis of the security situation must inform decisions made on MINUSTAH’s future.
CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand), expressing concern about the recent political turmoil in Haiti and the continued delays in the electoral process, voiced hope that 2016 would be the year in which the country would transition from dependence on external partners towards greater self-reliance. It was the right time for all parties, especially the interim Government, to commit themselves to providing the leadership Haitians deserved. Since the timeline for consideration of next steps for MINUSTAH and for United Nations operations had been impacted by the political situation, it would be crucial to undertake the strategic assessment of the Organization’s presence in Haiti following the elections and with a new Government in place, she emphasized. As per the Joint Transition Plan, the assessment must have genuine national ownership and ensure that core institutions, particularly the police, had the capacity to operate effectively without international support.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said Haiti faced many challenges in the areas of security, health and internal displacement. While political leadership was a fundamental aspect of addressing those and other concerns, electoral delays had hampered progress. A supposition by some in Haiti that MINUSTAH was, in fact, a permanent institution must not hold the Mission hostage, he said, emphasizing that the strategic assessment intended to shape recommendations on its future could begin as early as May. After all the support provided to Haiti, it would be unacceptable for some politicians to find “creative” ways to stay in their jobs, he said.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said all Haitian stakeholders must work together and put the 5 February agreement into practice. The international community must pass on that message in a firm manner to ensure that its efforts that had led to the elections had not been in vain, he said, noting, however, that the electoral process had fallen into an impasse. Expressing gratitude for MINUSTAH’s efforts, he said recommendations on its future should be based on the strategic assessment, and reflect the political and security situation in Haiti. The United Nations presence after MINUSTAH’s mandate expired must take into account the possible effects of the Mission’s disengagement.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK (Egypt) said that in view of reports about the recent violent incidents involving the Haitian National Police, the international community should continue to provide bilateral support in support of capacity-building. Noting that the current grim humanitarian landscape was marked by falling funding levels that had affected Haiti’s response to the needs of its people, he commended MINUSTAH’s efforts, saying he looked forward to receiving the assessment mission’s report. National players should help to set priorities, he said, voicing full support for Haiti’s quest for stability and lasting peace.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said his country would continue to support the people and Government of Haiti in strengthening Government institutions and the rule of law. While appreciating the international community’s efforts to help Haitians realize their aspirations, he emphasized that the current political problem had led to destabilization of the country. Among other things, the increase in cholera cases during 2015 was a cause for concern, he said, adding that he supported efforts by the Haitian authorities to combat the epidemic, as well as all other water-borne and infectious diseases through the combination of a rapid response to outbreaks and continuous investment in water, health and sanitation infrastructure. Concerned about food insecurity due to drought and climate imbalances in the Caribbean region, he called upon the international community to step up efforts to meet the needs of the Haitian people.
THOMAS MEEK (United Kingdom), thanking MINUSTAH and the United Nations country team for their ongoing commitment and service, underscored the importance of solving the current electoral problem quickly. On the issue of security, he acknowledged the progress made over the years, but described the country’s rule-of-law and justice systems as weak. As for the humanitarian situation, so many Haitians remained in shelters and camps, he noted, stressing that addressing the housing problem must be a priority for the new Government.
PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) expressed hope that recent developments, which had seen an interim President elected, would lead to the country overcoming its differences. Going forward, an election should be held within a reasonable time frame. Turning to security concerns, he said an adequately equipped and trained police force was essential, pointing out that the Secretary-General’s report noted a decrease in the numbers of national officers. With regard to cholera, he said donors and international agencies could play a role in addressing the epidemic, with national authorities informing the public about health and safety. With the last 7,000 victims of the 2010 earthquake about to move into permanent homes, resources could be directed to areas of need in the future, he said.
GORGUI CISS (Senegal) urged all Haitian political stakeholders to strive for the holding of elections and to make all necessary efforts to maintain calm and security. To do that, the Provisional Electoral Council must be fully operational, he said, adding that the conclusion of a credible and transparent electoral process was the only way towards lasting stability. Noting that there was currently a worryingly high number of homicide and rape cases, he commended the Haitian National Police for combating the security situation, he emphasizing that MINUSTAH’s training of the force had been key.
LIU JIEYI (China), encouraging the timely holding of elections, said differences should be resolved through dialogue. Yet, Haiti required help in a range of areas, among them economic development and the humanitarian situation, including health concerns and the needs of displaced persons. The international community must support efforts to address those problems. Turning to MINUSTAH, he said proper arrangements were needed for the Mission’s future, and expressed hope that, based on the full assessment of Haiti’s security situation, the Secretariat and the Council could come up with a plan for the Mission’s future.
ALEXIS LAMEK (France) expressed concern over the interruption of the electoral process, emphasizing that in order to be able to respond to its current political, economic and social challenges, Haiti must successfully complete the elections. France urged the authorities to ensure constitutional order as soon as possible. More than 11 years after MINUSTAH’s establishment, conditions on the ground had changed, he said, noting that its mandate had shifted from peacekeeping to development assistance. France, for its part, had provided aid to and helped the Haitian authorities to conduct projects addressing food and sanitation problems, he said, adding that international support was more important than ever in addressing Haiti’s challenges.
MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan) said that the Secretary-General’s report illustrated progress on the elections, the security situation and the strengthened capacity of municipal authorities. Commending the Government, MINUSTAH and the international community for the success of the elections, he expressed concern over the final round of voting, noting that it had been postponed several times. Having contributed $5.5 million to the electoral process in 2015, Japan hoped that the final round would be carried out in a fair, inclusive and smooth manner on 24 April, as scheduled. Since MINUSTAH’s establishment, there had been significant progress in Haiti, yet more remained to be done in strengthening the rule of law, human rights, institution-building and development. In that regard, Japan appreciated the efforts of the Mission and the United Nations country team on the Joint Transition Plan to transfer MINUSTAH’s functions to the Government or its partners, he said.
RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) warned the authorities against fraud and low voter turnout, emphasizing that organizing peaceful elections was the key to achieving democracy. While commending MINUSTAH’s efforts and valuable efforts in providing help in a tense political environment, he voiced support for the strategic assessment of the Mission’s future role. Noting that children continued to suffer physical, emotional and sexual abuse, he called upon the Haitian authorities to implement the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) expressed support for credible, transparent and secure elections, emphasizing that electoral intimidation, destruction of property and violence were unacceptable and contravened democratic principles. Underlining the important of continued efforts by the United Nations, multilateral agencies and Member States in support of Haiti’s critical needs, he expressed concern about the cholera epidemic, the situation of internally displaced persons and the country’s persistent fragility.
ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola), Council President for March, spoke in his national capacity, noting that Haiti’s situation today contrasted sharply from that of one year ago, when the country had been mired in political protests and violence. Noting the efforts of the Government and its partners in organizing the election process, he also commended the ongoing partnership between MINUSTAH and the Haitian National Police, both of which had contributed to improvements in peace and security. Angola looked forward to the recommendations on the Mission’s future, he said, adding that MINUSTAH had worked hard to provide training and support. Expressing hope for an improved political climate, a democratically elected president and the establishment of an enabling environment for development, he emphasized that MINUSTAH’s withdrawal must be carefully planned.
DENIS REGIS (Haiti) said the coming elections would be a test for Haitian democracy, long-term stability and development. President Privert had recognized his historic responsibility, and given events earlier this week, was in the process of ratifying his general political declaration to Parliament, so that the new Government could take charge of managing the country. Cooperation among all Haitian partners was crucial to ensuring respect for citizens’ rights and to concluding the electoral process. Likewise, MINUSTAH’s support for the police force was critical to maintaining security, he said, noting that recent demonstrations had demonstrated the Haitian people’s strong desire for democracy and a transparent, accountable electoral process.
Meanwhile, other challenges remained, including development, economic and humanitarian concerns, he said. Food insecurity touched some 3.5 million people and the ongoing drought could lead to catastrophic consequences unless action was taken, he warned. At the same time, Haiti also faced a deteriorating sanitation situation in the cholera and Zika epidemics. The drastic drop in humanitarian assistance — from $155 million in 2014 to $55 million in 2015 — had resulted in reduced capacity to help vulnerable communities, he said, appealing for the international community’s commitment in that regard.
Turning to MINUSTAH, he emphasized that the future of its mandate should reflect the situation on the ground. It was essential to sustain the gains made over the last 12 years, particularly with regard to the security situation, and to ensure that Haitian institutions efficiently took over the Mission’s functions. With the new MINUSTAH configuration, the Government favoured maintaining and strengthening capacities in the national police and the judicial system, as well as continued support for the penitentiary administration, he said. At the current crossroads, the new Provisional Electoral Council must act rapidly to succeed in the mission ahead, he said, urging all partners and the international community to spare no effort in helping to guarantee the success of the coming elections. They must be credible and transparent in order to ensure a peaceful transition and the lasting stability that remained at the centre of the Haitian people’s wishes.
JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) noted that while the first two rounds of presidential elections had been conducted on 25 October 2015, it was unfortunate that the third round, scheduled for 27 December 2015, had been postponed repeatedly and was still pending. Calling upon all political stakeholders to ensure the speedy revitalization of the constitutional order, he cautioned that Haiti’s progress was fragile and could suffer setbacks. Mexico supported international and regional efforts to ensure improvements in the areas of agriculture, socioeconomic development, environment and education, among others. As for MINUSTAH, he acknowledged its continued dedication and commitment to stability and development in Haiti, and voiced support for the gradual transfer of the Mission’s functions to the Government.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil), while acknowledging the efforts by the Haitian institutions to take corrective measures to address irregularities and improve electoral process, expressed regret over the postponement of the presidential run-off election. Brazil expected that the political dialogue promoted by Provisional President Jocelerme Privert would facilitate the normalization of democratic life with the completion of presidential elections. On security conditions, he acknowledged that despite the enhanced capabilities of the Haitian National Police, there had been an increase in the number of homicides and a peak in violence, he said. In that regard, the deterrence provided by United Nations troops remained essential to reducing violent demonstrations and crime in certain areas. Turning to the question of negative economic trends, he noted that three years of drought had resulted in crop losses and rising food prices, which called for the international community’s attention.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA VELÁSQUEZ (Peru), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Haiti, said that strengthening democratic and the rule of law, while establishing a political culture conducive to democratic stability and improving socioeconomic conditions were the key elements needed for greater security, stability and prosperity in Haiti. While welcoming the continuing efforts of all relevant actors, he expressed concern about the suspension of the third electoral round and the consequent political uncertainty. In that regard, the Group of Friends called upon all Haitian stakeholders to engage constructively and work together peacefully in order to strengthen confidence in the electoral process, he said.
Noting with alarm the politically motivated violence of January and February, he called upon all political actors to promote a peaceful environment. In that respect, the Group of Friends welcomed the ongoing strengthening, professionalization and reform of the Haitian National Police, he said. While acknowledging progress in the judicial sector, he stressed that it was urgently necessary to reduce prolonged pre-trial detentions and eliminate inhumane conditions of detention, ensure accountability and end impunity. Turning to efforts to eliminate the cholera epidemic, he underscored the importance of sustaining cooperation between the international community and the Government of Haiti in order to meet the needs of the people.
JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, Head of the European Union Delegation, said the current situation must be addressed and the Government must do its utmost to meet the needs of the people while supporting a credible electoral process. The European Union, for its own part, had made financial contributions and dispatched an election observer mission which had concluded that, despite some irregularities, the first round had been successful.
However, it was regrettable that progress had halted, he said, stressing the importance of a successful electoral process for Haiti’s future. The transition must not be postponed again, and all actions must uphold the 5 February agreement. As a long-term supporter of Haiti, the European Union would continue to support that process, he said. Institutional stability was crucial for European aid to be effective, and there was an urgent need to establish credible and durable institutions to serve the people.
JOSÉ ALBERTO SANDOVAL COJULÚN (Guatemala) said MINUSTAH had made great efforts to discharge its mandate, including its support for the political and constitutional process and its promotion of the country’s security and stability. Elections must be held to overcome the constitutional crisis and give the people what they wanted and needed, he said, emphasizing the importance of all parties implementing the 5 February agreement so that the final round of the elections, as well as the new presidential mandate could begin in May. Highlighting the importance of a successful electoral process, he said it was important that all parties maintain constructive dialogue. The political class must also fulfill their task of ensuring security, which would, in turn, result in increased stability.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said that, like other countries in the region, his own was concerned about Haiti’s future, and hoped the current political situation would normalize. Recalling the Secretary-General’s report, he noted that the security environment was still influenced by the electoral process, and called upon the Haitian authorities to reduce tensions. Acknowledging that MINUSTAH continued to carry out its mandate successfully, he underscored the need for the international community to show greater commitment to strengthening the capabilities of the Haitian National Police.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), expressing concern over the current political environment in Haiti, noted the fundamental importance of strengthening dialogue among all relevant actors so as to overcome the current challenges. While the security situation had been significantly affected by the electoral process, Chile commended the valuable work carried out by MINUSTAH and the United Nations country team. He acknowledged the progress made since the 2010 earthquake, and stressed that maintaining the momentum was the key to strengthening the rule of law and democratic national institutions.
MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia) said he was pleased to note the falling number of cholera cases and the improvement in addressing violence against women. Colombia was, however, concerned about the doubling of food insecurity and the high number of detained individuals. Turning to the elections, he noted the dearth of women candidates in the last round. On MINUSTAH, he expressed support for a transition plan that would lead to the progressive drawdown of the Mission’s functions. However, he said he was concerned about the delays in the final election round and welcomed the recent agreement to move the process forward.
INGHA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), expressed concern that the current political uncertainty in Haiti meant that the completion of the electoral process may not take place as outlined in the 5 February agreement. Urging the international community to provide support in identifying Haitian-owned consensual solutions to the stalled process, she said efforts must also be made to ensure that the electoral process was completed in a timely fashion, and in a transparent, free and fair manner, free from fear.
Haiti was vulnerable to humanitarian crises compounded by the insufficiency of water, health and sanitation infrastructure, as well as drought and the presence of cholera, she said. In that regard, CARICOM was pleased that during the recent Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Conference in Latin America and the Caribbean, ministers had committed themselves to working together in addressing issues of chronic hunger, poverty, food and nutrition insecurity facing Haiti’s people. MINUSTAH must be commended for its continuing stewardship in Haiti, where it helped not only with matters relating to the conduct of elections, but also to strengthening the rule of law, promoting justice and training the Haitian National Police. Security Council members must act prudently to ensure the completion of the electoral process, she said.