Statement of SRSG Mariano Fernández Amunátegui before the Security Council

16 mar 2012

Statement of SRSG Mariano Fernández Amunátegui before the Security Council

8 March 2012


Mr. Fernández (spoke in Spanish): I would like to thank you, Sir, and the other members of the Security Council for having organized today’s meeting,  the purpose of which is to present to the Council the  most recent report of the Secretary-General on the  United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti  (S/2012/128).


I welcome today’s opportunity to share with the Council an assessment of the most recent developments in the political and security situation in Haiti, and of  the activities carried out by the United Nations  Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) over the  past six months in support of peacebuilding, political  stability, the strengthening of the rule of law and  recovery work after the earthquake of 12 January 2010.

 I take this opportunity to welcome the presence of the Haitian ambassador. I would like to start by quoting the speech President Michel Joseph Martelly delivered on 9 January on the occasion of the inauguration of the Haitian Parliament. In a moving speech, the President stated the following:


“Eight million Haitians, out of an estimated population of 10 million, live without electricity.  Five million cannot read or write and are in the dark both day and night. Eight Haitians out of every 10 are living on less than $2 a day. Two per cent of Haitians control 69 per cent of the country’s wealth. With a working population that is put at 4.2 million, fewer than 200,000 have regular formal work. At least 84 per cent of university graduates live abroad.”


I wish today to highlight the relevance of those words, which dramatically reflect and unambiguously confirm a situation that Council members were able to observe during their recent visit to Haiti a couple of weeks ago.


After the nearly eight years that MINUSTAH has been in Haiti, the results of peacebuilding and stabilization efforts are visible. However, the earthquake of 12 January 2010 was a serious setback caused by large-scale human and material losses, the traces of which Council members saw during their recent visit. In order to move forward in strengthening  the rule of law, public security and the socio-economic  sphere, a major effort of the entire international  community has been necessary for Haiti’s  reconstruction and the recovery of its institutions, the  re-engineering of its police security structure, and  broad cooperation and aid to stimulate socio-economic development.


Our main goal is to ensure that present and future progress allows us to consolidate efforts to ensure stability and peace so that Haiti can overcome the situation described by President Martelly once and for all and so that the country can take off politically and socio-economically.


With regard to the current political situation, the report of the Secretary-General mentions the recent resignation of Prime Minister Garry Conille after only four months in office. His resignation was a worrying and telling sign of the state of the governability of Haiti. The credibility and strength of democratic institutions depend on their ability to respond to political crises and to avoid negative cyclical situations, the majority of which are artificial, that threaten Haiti’s progress towards democracy.


As noted by the Council during its visit, throughout our mission we have emphasized the importance of avoiding such Government crises and of reducing disputes between the executive and legislative branches. Avoiding such unproductive conflicts must be part of an ongoing effort to improve the quality of Haitian politics. The main problem is the severe difficulty encountered by the political class in achieving collective agreements that would allow consensus to strengthen institutions and public action.  We have therefore stressed the need for a pact for democratic governance that would facilitate consensus and provide solutions for Haiti’s main political problems. We have worked for all of society: members of Parliament, political parties, unions, employers, the church and representatives of civil society.


Today the President put forward a candidate for Prime Minister — the current Foreign Minister, Laurent Lamothe, who must be approved by Parliament. MINUSTAH is working in earnest to ensure that Haiti can soon again have a Government.  The times when there has been no Prime Minister and no Cabinet in Haiti have seen a rise in insecurity and a clear decline in governability, with obvious negative repercussions for development. We are therefore working with Parliament and the Government to achieve the appointment of a Prime Minister as soon as possible.


As to the rule of law and security, without solid rule of law institutions and an agreement on governability, it will be difficult if not impossible to lay a firm foundation for peace and security for all Haitians. Despite the slow pace, after five years Haiti finally has a fully staffed Supreme Court. The Court had no President or members for five years. No democratic judicial system can work without an independent and self-regulating judiciary. This progress is very significant when we consider all that has occurred in Haiti.


The Security Council’s visit provided members with a snapshot, as it were, that was in many instances quite upsetting. For us, however, it is more like watching a film that allows us to discern some progress. I stress the establishment of the Supreme


Court because it is extremely important in moving towards the rule of law. We have worked to strengthen the rule of law and institutions, not just conceptually but physically. MINUSTAH has built 50 courthouses to ensure the effective provision of justice, and will build another 30 to complement its support for the judicial system in Haiti.


Another fundamental pillar of the rule of law — apart from the judiciary, on which we continue to work — is the main instrument of the rule of law, namely, the police force. In this regard, we have been working for quite some time now, and I can assure the

Council that, over the past six months, the MINUSTAH police, together with the Haitian National Police (HNP), has carried out 21,000 patrols and more than 31,000 actions in camps for refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Port-au-Prince and the  provinces. Alongside the military component of MINUSTAH, the HNP has conducted operations to disband criminal gangs that posed one of the most serious challenges to stability in Haiti.


Although the response of the police to security challenges has improved, much remains to be done.  Our current task is to remove the obstacles to better police action and to strengthen the Haitian National Police. Today, the HNP numbers 10,000, which is nearly three times as many as in 2004. However, for a country of 10 million people, it is still insufficient.

Together with the international community, MINUSTAH has developed a support programme to ensure that, by 2016 — the last year of President  Martelly’s term in office — we will have provided  professional training to 5,000 or 6,000 officials to  endow Haiti with a significant Police force, thereby  enabling a MINUSTAH drawdown by the end of that  period. In the context of this five-year programme, we convened a special seminar between the Police and the international community in order to consider, assess  and improve the efforts under way to ensure that the  outcome will be highly positive.


As is noted in the most recent and important  Security Council resolution 2012 (2011) on Haiti, the  reduction of the military and police components of  MINUSTAH is to be completed by June, pursuant to  the Secretary-General’s reports and the resolutions of the Council. This has not affected security, and we have had an effective redeployment of forces. We have maintained the staffing levels of the United Nations police. There are fewer soldiers and formed police units, but the same number of United Nations police, which remains unchanged. We trust that this will continue to be the case, given its important cooperation with the Haitian National Police.


Political violence has virtually disappeared.  Ordinary crime — principally murders — is relatively low compared to other countries in the Caribbean and  Central America. However, very serious challenges remain in ensuring security for the most vulnerable sectors, in particular with regard to domestic violence and the abuse of women. In order to be more effective against such crimes, we have increased patrols, trained police officers, set up solar-powered street lighting, and patrolled 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the main IDP camps. Today, 8 March, International Women’s Day, I wish once again to affirm MINUSTAH’s commitment to countering gender-based abuse and to contributing to the promotion of Haitian women in their daily lives and in their professional and civic roles.


Another problem affecting the rule of law and security is the emergence of illegal military forces in the wake of programmatic campaign statements made by President Martelly concerning the restoration of the Haitian army dissolved in 1995. MINUSTAH and the international community have clearly told the Government that, without prejudice to the sovereignty of Haitian institutions, they will not lend support to such forces. We believe and have reiterated that illegal armed forces are unacceptable. The Government responded to our demands in a communiqué issued on 3 March, containing a five-point plan to regularize the situation. The measures proposed include prohibiting the use of military uniforms and weapons, reviewing the pensions received by retired military personnel, ensuring the smooth conduct of this process, and liberating those areas occupied by the military.


On 7 March, the Haitian Government convened an important meeting with MINUSTAH, seeking cooperation in putting an end to this issue once and for all. We asked the Government to formally declare the  illegality of these groups and to proceed to identify  retired military personnel who are owed pensions in  order to distinguish them from the young people who  are participating in such activities due to lack of  employment. We are ready to assist and to mitigate the unnecessary tensions that these activities are raising.


The Government has said that it wants Haiti to be open to business, and we have said that in this regard words must be followed by deeds. The Government has yet to address the issues of constitutional reform, elections, the creation of a land registry and a civil identification registry, a constitutional tribunal and a law on political parties. As I have mentioned, the Government has already completed some of those tasks, such as with regard to the Supreme Court, and has announced the upcoming establishment this month of the Superior Council of the judiciary, which will be responsible for discipline in the judicial system. All of that represents a significant step forward.


We have said that Haiti must hold elections soon.  The elections that were scheduled for November did not take place. We have told the President that he has a historic opportunity to organize transparent and irreproachable elections, with the assistance of the international community. We have also said that successful elections could serve to strengthen the socio-political consensus; conversely, delayed, contested or postponed elections will without a doubt undermine the efforts to promote the image of a stable and dynamic country looking towards the future.


Last week, the President invited the entire diplomatic corps accredited to Haiti to a meeting intended to launch the electoral process. We view that as a positive sign. MINUSTAH, which is serving as the international community’s focal point, will this week meet with Haitian technical experts in order to prepare pre-election steps.


A few moments ago, I said that MINUSTAH believes that it is essential for there to be a Government in Haiti. In the past, when there has been a President but no Cabinet or Prime Minister, violence has increased and economic developed has fallen off.  The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) projected that there would be 10 per cent economic growth in Haiti during 2011. But five months without a Government meant that, in the end, growth would only be 4.5 per cent. ECLAC projects 8 per cent growth in 2012, which, in the midst of the economic crisis, is quite high. We have no doubt that, if the President continues to be without a Government, growth in Haiti will decrease, resulting in serious harm to the Haitian people. That is yet another reason that we are working hard to ensure that the Haitian President can soon count on a Prime Minister and that the State can function normally. That will help to reduce violence and will improve economic results, as has been shown in various situations that we have studied.


Major efforts have been made with regard to human rights, correctional matters and humanitarian issues. The Council, which had an opportunity to visit prisons and camps, knows first-hand what is taking place. We are making strenuous efforts in order to make significant progress in this area. In recent months, our team of lawyers has succeeded in securing the release of 230 people who had been imprisoned without trial for many years. There is similar success with regard to prisons. We are working to improve conditions for prisoners and are contributing materially to building prisons in Haiti.


Last September, we announced that displaced persons still included 634,000 victims of the earthquake. However, that figure represented only a third of the original 1,800,000. We can today say that the number of displaced persons at the end of January stood at 515,000, a reduction of 120,000 since September. In our view, those are positive statistics, as those reductions have made it possible to identify new populations and resources and to abandon certain sites where habitation is increasingly difficult owing to a reduction in international assistance with regard to food, sanitation and supplies necessary for camp living.


I would like to say that those efforts by MINUSTAH, which include many positive aspects, are marred by the moral attributions that Haitian society attach to the effects of the cholera epidemic, which has resulted in more than 7,000 deaths, as well as the sexual abuse committed by military and police personnel members of our force. I personally believe that there can be no immunity with regard to crimes committed against minors, such as rape. I support a fair trial that includes protections for the rights of the accused. But they must be carried out in a transparent manner and include penalties adequate to the severity of the crimes. And there must be a lifetime ban against those convicted working with the United Nations, as the moral values intrinsic in peacekeeping operations are what gains them respect throughout the world. It is both an honor and a privilege to be part of them, both for individuals and for the countries that contribute  personnel for the noble task of contributing to defending peace in any part of the world where there is a need.


In conclusion, I believe that we have an arduous task before us in Haiti. However, there is no denying, from the impression that I have developed during the eight months that I have been in my post that this is a slow process that includes certain reversals but that, in the end, produces a degree of stabilization vis-à-vis living conditions, political activity, economic development and attention to social issues. Some things in Haiti are a matter of history, including the risk of authoritarianism and a winner-takes-all situation. But today there is also a process wherein the President is learning to work with the Parliament and vice versa. Between them, with the assistance of the international community, institutions are being built for the rule of law in a way that, slowly, a legal order is being put in place that is much more acceptable today than it was three to five years ago.


Thank you, Mister President.