Remarks by the Secretary-General at a joint press conference with President Rene Preval of the Republic of Haiti
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 3 August 2006SG: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. President, when we met in New York, I promised you that I will come and visit. This is my first visit as Secretary-General. I have been to Haiti before. But as Secretary-General, this is my first visit. And I am happy to be able to come here to show my support for you Mr. President and the government and for the people of Haiti.
You are right to state that, as [the] United Nations. we are dealing with many problems around the world. The one that occupies our television screens and the front pages of our newspapers [is] the Middle East and the problems of Lebanon. You asked me one day if I would be able to come with that crisis in Lebanon. I was determined to come, because your problems are important too. And of course, as the UN, we are used to dealing with many problems at the same time, and you deserve our attention too.
I am sorry that I couldn't come yesterday as planned, but it was for technical reasons beyond my control. In fact, I was in the airport, on the plane, and I had to disembark, because the plane had technical problems and couldn't leave. And when we arrived this morning, waiting to come out of the plane - waiting for the protocol to get everything ready - someone sitting next to me said, “God, but we are waiting for a bit,” and an America woman said, “You better get used to it. This is Haiti. You have to do lot of waiting and things are always late”. But the pilot, who was a very honest young man, said, “Yes, but this time we cannot blame Haiti. The problem was New York”.
Mr. President, let me say that we have achieved a lot together in our partnership with the government and the people of Haiti, working with [United Nations Stabilization mission in Haiti] MINUSTAH, the UN agencies, programmes and funds. As you said earlier, we organized a fair and open election, perhaps one of the best elections. Today, we have an elected president, an elected parliament. And you have been able to put together a broad-base government, a government that is determined to tackle the problems of the country in partnership with the international community. But you have taken the ownership and the lead. It is your programme that we are here to support - we do not have our own programme. We are here in support of what you want to achieve- you and the people of Haiti.
We have achieved a lot, but much more remains to be done. We have the programme of recovery, we have? [Inaudible]. We need to strengthen state institutions from judiciary to the penal system, to professionalizing the police, to be able to do something about the security issues that we all complain about, and working in partnership with MINUSTAH and the UN I think we can do a lot. And Mr. President, I applaud your leadership, your leadership in taking the country forward. I know the population is impatient, and that is normal, having been through what they have gone through. Now that the elections are behind us, a government is in place and the security situation is better. Yes, we do have the kidnappings and the criminal elements, but when we look back three years ago, a year ago and six months ago, we know we have made progress.
In discussions in New York with the member states and donor countries, I try to get everyone to understand that nation-building is a long-term proposition. It does take time, it is hard, it is difficult and it requires everyone to play his or her part. We need to work in partnership: the government, the private sector, the civil society and all of us. Haitians, men and women, can now make individual contribution[s] towards the rebuilding of this nation. To succeed, it is going to take hard work - hard and sustained work and patience. And I think we all have to get this and I will suggest we all do the little bit we can and help rebuild this country. It is easy to complain. And I know it from my job. You always have those who sit in their armchairs and complain that those who are trying to do something, are not doing enough. I don't think we can afford this in the current situation of Haiti. We all have to chip in and do our work.
To reaffirm my own belief that peace-building is a long-term proposition, in my current report before the Security Council, I have asked them to extend the UN operations in Haiti for twelve months. Normally, it would have been six months. But I know the work ahead of us. I know what we have to do together. As I am challenging the member states to accept that this is a long-term proposition and that we should have a twelve month prolongation of the Mission. We should strengthen the police side of our activities by appointing additional police trainers and working with the [National Police of Haiti] PNH and the government to professionalize the police, and to try and work together to do something about the crime that is [inaudible] fear for so many Haitians these days. I hope the member states will accept my recommendations.
Mr President, let me once again thank you for your cooperation, the cooperation you have extended to the UN and the team, the cooperation you extended to [former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti] Juan Gabriel Valdés and the way you are working with my new [Special] Representative, Mr. [Edmond] Mulet, whom, if most of you don't know is here and why don't [you] take a look at him?why don't you take stand up and let the press see who you are [laughs and applause].
So, thank you Mr. President. We applaud your leadership and you can count on my support and the support of the United Nations, MINUSTAH, the UN agencies, funds and programmess who are here. And when I talk of support of the UN, I am not talking of only the programmess and agencies that are here, but also from New York and in our network of donor countries. So, once again, thank you very much for this warm reception from you and the people of Haiti. And you are off to a good start and you can count on us. Mèsi an pil (Many thanks).
Q: My first question is for the President regarding the request for a revision of MINUSTAH's mandate. Have you obtained a clear answer from the United Nations? My second question is for Mr. Annan. I would ask what the UN will do to meet the challenges on the ground, because there is a lot of criticism, as you know, about the way MINUSTAH have been working, even though people also commend MINUSTAH for what they do?
SG: Let me start with your first question. I think MINUSTAH and the UN operations here are working in partnership with the government and doing as best as they can to support the government. We have the police contingents supporting PNH and helping train them, and we have the military contingents. We also have the UN programmes, funds and agencies: they are working in areas of economic and social development, humanitarian activities, institution-building, alongside our uniform personnel. And they are here with a certain specific mandate. They are not here to take over Haiti. They are not here to replace the government or the leadership of Haiti. In the final analysis, the management and the running of the country is the responsibility of the leaders and the people of Haiti. We are here to support and to assist.
But given what Haiti had gone through, and the vacuum that had existed, you have a new government, a good government that is trying to get things moving. So, when things go wrong, it is natural that people look around and say: “Oh, these UN people with their cars and vehicles and they are so many of them, what are they doing?” You have to start with their mandate and the support role they are playing here, and don't blame them for everything that goes wrong. I know my Haitian friends, but you know yourselves better than I do. If we were to do some of the things you are complaining we are not doing, if we were to be overly involved and overly intrusive, you will be the first to say “we are not a colony, we don't want you to get involved in our business”. So, we are caught in between.
We have a limited mandate and, yet, you want us to do much more and become overly involved, and if we did, you will be the first to criticize us. So, let's stop pointing fingers. Let's stop complaining about each other. Let's work in partnership to improve the situation, work in partnership to deal with the criminal elements, work in partnership with the police, with the MINUSTAH to contain the criminal elements. Society has to become engaged. You have to help the police and the law enforcement forces to contain the situation. You all have a role to play. Let's work together. My dear friends, excuse me to speak so frankly, but I think that is the only way we can understand and help each other and work together. So, I hope tomorrow we will talk together about how our partnership is working and how we can strengthen it.
Q: Mr. Annan, many sectors of the Haitian society believe MINUSTAH is not efficient on the ground. They are even extremists groups who want MINUSTAH to leave the country. They say some kidnappings have happened few metres from MINUSTAH's patrols. They are more moderate groups who think MINUSTAH's mandate should be revised. What is your reaction as chief of the world organization?
SG: First of all, let me say that I am very pleased that you qualify those who are demanding that MINUSTAH leave, as extremists. There may be difficulties, but I think, by and large, the Haitian population knows what MINUSTAH and the UN agencies and funds and programmes have done, and are doing, here in Haiti. I have heard about the kidnappings and the criminal events. I don't think any of us can condone these criminals and their activities, which terrorize the ordinary population and ordinary people, men and women and children. They should be ashamed to call themselves Haitians, when the nation is at this critical stage trying to rebuild itself.
What I can tell you is, as Secretary-General of the UN, I don't get involved at these technical levels, but we did discuss at length with the President [Rene Préval] and the Prime Minister [Jacques Edouard Alexis] and his Ministers the issue of security, and the need for us to take concrete actions to bring it under control. And in my own report to the Security Council, I did make suggestions about increasing the police capacity to be able to contain and eliminate these violent elements, and send out the message that impunity will not be allowed to stand. We are determined to work with the government to deal with this problem. But as I said, we need you too. The law enforcement officers alone cannot do [it]. The most effective police that I have come across around the world have had the support of the population and the civil society. Support your police. Support MINUSTAH. Don't give them (the violent elements) refuge. And let's work together.
Off-the-Cuff on 3 August 2006