United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in the afternoon of Wednesday, 1 August, for a 24-hour official visit and was welcomed at the airport by President René Préval and members of the Government.
He first visited members of the 9,000 strong peacekeeping mission at MINUSTAH’s logistics base near the airport. There he held a town hall meeting with international and local staff. The Secretary-General was accompanied by his Special Representative, Edmond Mulet, who would soon take up his new post as Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and by his future Special Representative in Haiti, Hédi Annabi.
He met in the late afternoon with President René Préval and Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis. During a joint press conference with President Préval at the National Palace in Port au Prince, the Secretary-General stressed the importance of consolidating achievements on the security front in Haiti and of making progress in establishing the rule of law. He also expressed his support for President Préval’s fight against corruption. “This is a very serious matter which has to be dealt with if any progress is to be made,” the Secretary-General said. “Corruption undermines institutions and weakens individuals.” He also insisted on the need for judicial reforms and for rebuilding national institutions, destroyed by years of neglect, corruption and violence, to strengthen them so that the State is able to deliver the services that the people need. This time, he added, the United Nations, which has been in Haiti five times in the past, “will not leave until the future is secure”.
On Thursday morning, the Secretary-General met with about 70 representatives of Haitian civil society and the private sector. “Much remains to be done,” he said. Among the outstanding challenges, he cited drug trafficking, corruption and organized crime. He urged action to reduce extreme poverty and guarantee durable peace in Haiti. “Peace consolidation must go hand in hand with efforts to expand prospects for decent jobs and to address the country’s socio-economic inequalities.” He also pledged “to work with the Haitian leadership to strengthen State institutions for the rule of law”. He also urged the representatives of civil society to “reinforce the need for accountability and transparency in the recovery process”. (See Press Release SG/SM/11113.)
The Secretary-General that morning visited the slum area of Cité Soleil, recently racked by violence and where United Nations peacekeepers helped to restore order. There he was briefed by Force Commander Major General Santos Cruz and met Mayor Louis Wilson of Cité Soleil and his Municipal Council. He also talked to some schoolchildren at the site of a school secured by MINUSTAH during the recent gang violence in the slum and being restored by funding from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In remarks he made at Cité Soleil, the Secretary-General commended Mayor Louis Wilson and his deputies for their courage to stand up against the gangs and corruption and said that he hoped they would continue to carry out efforts to fight against terrorism “and make this city more prosperous”.
He met later at the Palais Legislatif with the President of the Senate, Joseph Lambert, and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Pierre Eric Jean Jacques. He also went to the Ministry of Justice where he met Justice Minister René Magloire and the Commission for Judicial reform.
He addressed that issue at the airport before leaving Port au Prince, praising the Haitian Government for the initiatives taken towards judiciary reform. The Secretary-General underscored that Haiti's development depends on its ability to confront corruption and impunity and to firmly establish the rule of law. The independence of the judiciary is critical to this process and he called upon members of Parliament to continue to adopt draft bills to move the process ahead. He told reporters that he was encouraged at the progress that is being made on a number of fronts. He said that the United Nations Mission, MINUSTAH, and the broader United Nations family are playing a useful role in stabilizing the country. Democratically-elected officials have taken office around the country and security has much improved. He asserted that he would do everything he could to ensure that the United Nations does not disengage too early, as has happened in the past.
Despite the success in dismantling the gangs and improving public order, the Secretary-General warned that improvements remain fragile and stressed the need to enhance the capabilities and capacity of the Haitian National Police to ensure law and order. “The international community must not step aside and let spoilers succeed in jeopardizing Haiti’s progress,” he stated.
Mr. Ban travelled that afternoon to Barbados for an official visit.