Member States Urged to Prevent Haiti’s Electoral Process Distracting from Earthquake-Recovery Efforts
20 January 2011
Better Coordination of Aid Stressed As Peacekeeping, Humanitarian Chiefs Brief Security
Security Council 6471st Meeting
Member States must work with all parties in Haiti to help steer the electoral process towards a credible outcome, amid widespread accusations of fraud, so that it did not distract from earthquake-recovery efforts, Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations told the Security Council today.
“It is of paramount importance that the current political crisis is brought to a swift conclusion so that the Government and people of Haiti can focus on the challenges of reconstruction and recovery,” Mr. Le Roy said, recalling that accusations of “massive fraud” had been levelled following the 7 December announcement of results from the first round of Haiti’s presidential election, engendering demonstrations.
Briefing the Council on developments in the impoverished island nation devastated by a massive earthquake on 12 January 2010 and a subsequent cholera epidemic, he welcomed President René Préval’s invitation to the Organization of American States (OAS) to send an expert mission to assess the first-round results. Now the Provisional Electoral Council must honour its commitment to take fully into account the recommendations contained in that mission’s report, with a view to ensuring that the election results truly reflected the will of the Haitian people. “Should the [Provisional Electoral Council] decide otherwise, Haiti may well be faced with a constitutions crisis,” he warned.
Mr. le Roy said the overall security situation remained calm, despite sporadic violence related to political tensions and the ever-present risk of further unrest. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) continued to work closely with the Haitian National Police to maintain public order and protect the civilian population as well as key installations, he said, noting also the arrival in Port-au-Prince of Jean-Claude Duvalier, a former President of Haiti.
Also briefing the Council, Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, reviewed the past year, noting that a great deal had been accomplished considering the earthquake’s devastating impact and the country’s pre-existing difficulties. Since last January, 1.5 million people had been provided with shelter, 800,000 of whom remained in camps, and at least 5 litres of drinking water per person had been delivered to 1.2 million people daily. She also described efforts in the sanitation, nutrition and education fields.
She said national and international efforts had pushed down the cholera fatality rate from a peak of 9 per cent to 2 per cent. However, a massive infection rate persisted, she said, cautioning that continuing combating it required stability. “If aid supplies and aid workers cannot move around freely, or if sick people cannot reach help in time, the fatality rate will quickly rise again. There is still an urgent need for massive mobilization activities to promote prevention and early treatment.”
Intensive efforts must continue at least through 2011 to stave off cholera, malnutrition and other severe problems, Ms. Amos said, adding that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had launched a $906 million humanitarian appeal. “Accelerating recovery efforts must be the absolute priority for 2011,” she added. However, it was important to be realistic, she cautioned, pledging that humanitarian agencies were prepared to stand by the poorest Haitians for as long as necessary.
Following the briefings, Haiti’s representative thanked all those involved in providing aid following the saddest moment in his country’s history. The worldwide response would never be forgotten, even if not all donors had fully delivered on their pledges. Noting the magnitude of the remaining challenges, he said: “There is so much to be done that sometimes one gets the impression that nothing has been done.” He called on the international community to help realize the vision of a better Haiti through its continued support and patience.
Members of the Security Council then took the floor, seconding Mr. Le Roy’s call for the implementation of the OAS mission’s recommendations and stressing the importance of a credible outcome of the second-round presidential election, and of the need for all parties to exercise calm and restraint. Most speakers noted the range of challenges facing Haiti, before and after the earthquake and cholera outbreak, as they also welcomed the magnitude of the international response, with many describing their respective countries’ contributions.
With most speakers urging that donors fulfil their pledges to Haiti in a timely manner, some emphasized the need to sustain assistance for the long term, while others underlined the importance of national ownership in the recovery. Better coordination of the aid effort and greater efforts against sexual violence were also stressed.
Speakers praised the work of MINUSTAH, with some commenting on its future role. India’s representative, for one, cautioned that the Mission should not become involved in the political crisis, which was better addressed by the relevant regional organizations. The representative of the United States expressed concern over the return of former President Duvalier, but noted the Government seemed to be taking steps to deal with the situation.
Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Brazil, France, United Kingdom, Colombia, Lebanon, Portugal, Russian Federation, Gabon, Germany, South Africa, Nigeria, China and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The meeting began at 11:12 a.m. and ended at 12:50 p.m.
Meeting this morning to consider the question concerning Haiti, the Security Council was expected to hear briefings on developments in that country, to be followed by a discussion among Council members.
ALAIN LE ROY, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, recounting developments in Haiti since his 10 December 2010 briefing, said demonstrations against what had been called “massive fraud” continued throughout the country following the announcement of results from the first round of presidential elections, held on 7 December. On 14 December, President René Préval had invited a mission of electoral experts from the Organization of American States (OAS), which had delivered its report to the Government of Haiti on 13 January 2011.
He said that in view of the report, the announcement of the final results was expected on 31 January, with the second-round election taking place in mid-February, conditional upon events. Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Duvalier, a former President, had arrived in Port-au-Prince on 16 January. He had been taken in two days later for questioning by Government prosecutors who had filed complaints against him. He had subsequently been released on condition that he remained at the court’s disposition.
Mr. Le Roy said that since the announcement of the first-round results, Haiti had become paralysed by political uncertainty following a year marked by the devastating earthquake of 12 January and the ongoing cholera epidemic. “It is of paramount importance that the current political crisis is brought to a swift conclusion so that the Government and people of Haiti can focus on the challenges of reconstruction and recovery,” he stressed.
Following President Préval’s commendable step of inviting an OAS assessment of the election, he continued, the Provisional Electoral Council must now honour its commitment to take fully into account the report’s recommendations, with a view to ensuring that the election results truly reflected the will of the Haitian people. “Should the [Provisional Electoral Council] decide otherwise, Haiti may well be faced with a constitutions crisis,” he warned, urging Member States to continue working with all parties to ensure that the Provisional Electoral Council was able to steer the process towards a credible outcome.
The Under-Secretary-General said the overall security situation remained calm, despite sporadic violence related to political tensions and the ever-present risk of further unrest. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) continued to work closely with the Haitian National Police to maintain public order and protect the civilian population, as well as key installations, he said, commending police conduct in the present difficult period.
Noting that Under-Secretary-General Valerie Amos would brief on current efforts to combat and investigate the cholera epidemic plaguing Haiti, he said the country was now at a crossroads. The choices made in the coming days would be critical to allowing the country to move forward to stability and development, he said, adding that he intended to continue working with the Government, the Provisional Electoral Council and all parties to that end, in addition to ensuring that dialogue and respect for national laws and institutions ultimately prevailed.
VALERIE AMOS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said those involved in the humanitarian response were taking stock of aid efforts of the past year and charting a course for the next 12 months and beyond. Looking back, and considering the devastation caused by the earthquake as well as Haiti’s pre-existing difficulties, a great deal had been accomplished, she said, adding that United Nations humanitarian agencies, MINUSTAH, the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations had all played their part.
She said that since last January, 1.5 million people had been given shelter, with 800,000 of them remaining in camps and the rest having been able to return home or find transitional shelter. At least 5 litres of drinking water per person had been delivered to 1.2 million people daily and more than 11,000 latrines had been constructed, giving many people their first modern sanitation services. More than 1.1 million children were receiving daily meals through the national school feeding programme of the World Food Programme (WFP), she said, noting that 68 per cent of damaged schools had been cleared of debris, allowing more than 2 million children to resume their studies.
In October, the international community had pulled together to prepare Haiti for Hurricane Tomas, she recalled. Although the hurricane had turned out to be less severe than expected, the exercise highlighted the extremely serious vulnerabilities of many of the poorest Haitians. In the same month, the cholera outbreak had been confirmed, affecting almost 200,000 people and claiming the lives of more than 3,700 so far. The poor and non-existent water, sanitation and health-care infrastructure in many densely populated urban areas as well as rural areas had created the ideal conditions for the disease to spread, she said.
Since cholera had not been present in their country for more than 40 years, Haitians had no idea how to prevent infection, particularly in remote areas, she continued. Still, the overall cholera fatality rate had fallen from a peak of 9 per cent to 2 per cent, indicating that while infection was spreading around the country, treatment facilities and the intensive public information campaign to teach people how to protect themselves was now working. In Port-au-Prince, the mortality rate had fallen to 1.2 per cent, but continuing that effort would require stability, she said. “If aid supplies and aid workers cannot move around freely, or if sick people cannot reach help in time, the fatality rate will quickly rise again. There is still an urgent need for massive mobilization activities to promote prevention and early treatment.”
Ms. Amos went on to emphasize that malnutrition, a chronically weak health care system, appallingly low literacy rates and a widespread lack of access to clean water, sanitation and other basic services meant that humanitarian aid was still a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of Haitians. Aid agencies were still providing water to more than 1 million people daily, food to 2 million people monthly, and helping to keep 2.2 million children in school. Those efforts must continue at least through 2011, she stressed, adding that in order to do that, the United Nations had launched a humanitarian appeal for $906 million, about half the amount requested for 2010.
Of that amount, $174 million would be for the cholera response, but only 27 per cent of that had been delivered, she said. “Much more attention to the cholera response is needed if the improved response of the last weeks is to be sustained.” The relief efforts had helped millions of people, but would not provide the long-term solutions so desperately needed, she said, emphasizing: “Accelerating recovery efforts must be the absolute priority for 2011.” For aid to draw down, recovery and reconstruction must pick up, and the Interim Haitian Reconstruction Commission was central to that effort, she said, adding that it was important to be realistic. “We cannot expect that Haiti, the poorest and least developed country in the Western Hemisphere before the earthquake, will be rebuilt in one year or even two.” Humanitarian agencies were prepared to stand by the poorest Haitians for as long as necessary, she added.
JEAN WESLEY CAZEAU (Haiti) thanked all those involved in providing assistance following the devastating earthquake, which had been the saddest moment in Haiti’s history, with a quarter of a million people killed. Just prior to the tragedy, the Government had developed a national development plan and had subsequently been forced to change everything. However, the worldwide response would never be forgotten, even if all donors had not fully delivered on their pledges, he said.
A major effort was required, he continued. Unfortunately, many officials and civil servants had been killed in the earthquake and every day presented urgent challenges for the country. “There is so much to be done that sometimes one gets the impression that nothing has been done,” he said. Detailing the impressive amount of work already accomplished, he noted, however, that hundreds of thousands of people remained in camps and thousands were afflicted with cholera. Despite the devastation it had wrought, however, the earthquake had provided the opportunity for a modern vision of Haiti, he said, calling on the international community to help realize it through its continued support and patience.
SUSAN RICE (United States), recalling the terrible toll that the earthquake had exacted on Haiti and the United Nations, said the road to recovery was still long and difficult but must be walked together with Haiti and its global partners. She welcomed the report of the OAS mission and urged the Provisional Electoral Council to enact its recommendations so as to ensure a credible election process. Expressing strong support for the Secretary-General’s statements calling for such a process, she said that for that to happen, a timely calendar must be issued, alongside other measures to boost confidence in the present election as well as those of the future.
She expressed concern over the return of former President Duvalier, given his human rights record, but said the Government seemed to be taking steps to deal with the situation. She called for the continued strengthening of the rule of law, and for restraint and calm among the population. On cholera, she said the disease would unfortunately be present for years to come, and it was therefore necessary to sustain efforts to mitigate its effects in the short and long term. The United States would continue working to help fill gaps in the Government’s strategy and encouraged other donors to do the same, she said, while underscoring the crucial importance of creating jobs. All must remain committed to Haiti’s recovery and deliver on pledges, she said, promising that her country’s spending against its pledges would continue to scale up, not cut back, having already spent more than $1 billion.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said the current political crisis in Haiti demanded a legally sound and politically viable solution. The electoral process must be transparent and effective, with full respect for the pertinent legislation. It was incumbent upon Haiti’s leaders to ensure that the people’s will was respected at the poll and to help maintain calm. Brazil was confident that the report prepared by the OAS verification mission would be very useful in deliberations on the future of the electoral process.
Emphasizing that MINUSTAH remained crucial, she commended the Mission’s support for the electoral process, noting that electing a new President and installing a new parliament were important for Haiti’s democracy and reconstruction. More funding was needed for recovery, she said, pointing out that disbursements remained insufficient and that adequate funding for critical activities, such as cash-for-work programmes, was lacking. Partners would have to bolster their support if the Interim Haitian Reconstruction Commission was to achieve its strategic targets in key areas during the course of 2011, she cautioned.
Humanitarian aid also remained a priority, she said. Brazil had given $2 million to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) for medical supplies and equipment to address the cholera epidemic. It had also shipped almost 2.5 tonnes of medical and non-medical supplies, in addition to having sent medical teams to help provide treatment to people affected by cholera and to train local staff. Commending the Secretary-General’s decision to create an independent panel of experts to investigate the cholera outbreak, she said it was crucial to meet the food, health, water, sanitation, housing and protection needs of displaced persons and returnees.
GÉRARD ARAUD (France) said that the series of disasters that had struck Haiti since the earthquake, among them Hurricane Tomas and the cholera epidemic, explained why the country still needed urgent humanitarian assistance. France was keenly aware of the importance of coordinating aid and reconstruction efforts. As for the elections, he said the OAS mission sent to scrutinize the results of the first round of the presidential election had revealed many cases of electoral fraud. He called on the authorities to stand by their commitment to the international community, emphasizing that Haiti could not be allowed to fall into violence. The will of the people must be respected, he stressed, commending MINUSTAH’s unwavering commitment to the electoral process and his own country’s commitment to Haiti’s recovery. A partnership of France and the United States with the Haitian Ministry of Health would enable the main hospital in Port-au-Prince to keep its doors open, he said, noting that his country was providing €326 million in aid to Haiti for 2010 and 2011.
PHILIP PARHAM (United Kingdom) assured the Council of his country’s full support for MINUSTAH, but underscored the importance of the Haitian people themselves taking the lead in reconstruction efforts. Recognizing the progress made, he said the challenges remained immense and the international community must remain committed. He urged the Provisional Electoral Council to follow the OAS recommendations and urged all candidates to help maintain an environment conducive to free, fair and transparent elections.
NÉSTOR OSORIO (Colombia) reaffirmed that MINUSTAH should be transformed into a development organization, working in full recognition of Haiti’s independence and national sovereignty. Bilateral cooperation was not enough in view of the country’s immense problems and the great opportunities available. The credible completion of the second round of the presidential election was also crucial to Haiti’s reconstruction and development, he said, adding that projects which created political trust should be a priority.
CAROLINE ZIADE (Lebanon), expressing concern over developments following the release of results from the first round of the presidential election, underscored that any objections must be dealt with through the Constitution, in accordance with applicable law and without violence. The political parties must take the report of the OAS mission into account, she said, adding that the second round of the election should be held fairly, transparently and in a way that would promote democracy and continued constitutional reforms. Calling on all political forces to remain calm at the present “critical juncture” in Haiti’s history, she said the elections should reflect the true will of the Haitian people. Concerned about the spread of cholera, she called on the international community to provide immediate assistance to contain it, emphasizing that only a large-scale response would be able to overcome the crisis that threatened the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) said humanitarian relief must continue to be the main priority as millions of Haitians still depended on it daily, despite progress in reducing the number of internally displaced persons, slashing the mortality rate and stabilizing the cholera outbreak. He expressed hope that the OAS mission’s findings would help restore confidence in the political system, stressing the crucial importance of a free, fair and transparent second round of presidential elections, with effective international monitoring to minimize the potential for irregularities. Haiti’s long-term structural deficiencies must be taken into account in designing a response to the political and social situation, he said. Stability as well as democratically elected authorities and political leadership were needed for recovery and sustainable development. Security was a prerequisite for effective aid delivery, he said, emphasizing also that Haiti must have the capacity effectively to absorb the aid needed for reconstruction. The international community’s capacity-building efforts should aim to diminish poor coordination, he said, calling on all parties to allow MINUSTAH and aid workers full and unhindered access to people in need.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation), recounting the events of the past year and outlining his country’s assistance, said the Haitian Government must play the leading role in reconstruction and its structures must therefore be strengthened. In that regard, political parties must resolve their differences through dialogue and the Provisional Electoral Council should complete the second round of the presidential election in a credible manner, with the assistance of the international community. He paid tribute to MINUSTAH and all those helping Haiti realize its national potential.
EMMANUEL ISSOZE-NGONDET (Gabon) expressed concern that the second round of the presidential election had not yet taken place and urged the Provisional Electoral Council as well as the Haitian political class to heed the recommendations of the OAS mission’s report. He also expressed alarm over reports of sexual violence, and welcomed the Haitian Government’s efforts to reform the judiciary and strengthen rule of law, with international assistance. The timely dispersal of all international assistance and its rational use was critical, he stressed, pledging his country’s continued support for MINUSTAH’s efforts to help in Haiti’s reconstruction.
PETER WITTIG (Germany) encouraged the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to continue its efforts to improve the coordination of aid among all stakeholders involved. The millions of private donors that had demonstrated their solidarity with Haiti expected the international community’s best efforts to ensure that assistance reached those in need. He expressed concern over sexual violence against women and girls, particularly in the camps for the internally displaced, and commended ongoing efforts to address such abuses. Political stability was indispensable for recovery, reconstruction and development, he added.
He went on to say that the current political crisis following the first round of the presidential election was cause for serious concern, and expressed his country’s full support for the recommendations of the OAS mission. He also commended the Provisional Electoral Council for providing the mission with access to information and urged the Electoral Council to take “the logical second step” and base its decisions on the OAS recommendations in the second-round election. Credible elections were crucial for political stability and ongoing reconstruction, he stressed, calling on all Haitian political leaders to work together in bringing the electoral process to a successful conclusion.
BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said he remained deeply concerned about the political and humanitarian situation, and stressed that ongoing recovery efforts must be a priority for 2011. Concerned as well over the slow pace of recovery, he called on the international community to redouble efforts to support the Haitian Government’s lead role in that effort. Government measures must be closely coordinated, efficient, transparent and meet the needs of the most vulnerable, he emphasized. Individually and as a partner in the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Forum, South Africa would continue contributing to Haiti’s recovery and sustainable development, he said, adding that his country had already given aid through the United Nations humanitarian system and would provide more funds in the future.
He noted with serious concern the stalemate over the 28 November presidential election, saying it would only worsen Haiti’s already fragile political, socio-economic and governmental system. Credible elections were essential for stability, recovery and development, he said, expressing concern about the recurring violence and calling on all parties to act cautiously to avoid plunging Haiti into further turmoil. It was crucial to resolve the current situation within the established legal process and in a way that accurately reflected the will of the people. The Council’s continued engagement and focus on Haiti, including its support for the electoral process, was very important, he said, adding that the Council must demand that all parties, and the population at large, refrain from violence and address the current situation through the legal processes provided for by the Constitution and the electoral law.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said that, due to the magnitude of the destruction in Haiti, international assistance must continue until it was no longer needed. India had been particularly supportive of the Emergency Response Fund, he said, stressing, however, the urgent need for better coordination between the Haitian Government and aid agencies. United Nations entities should help build capacity for that purpose, as India was trying to do, he added. Noting in particular the role of Indian contributions to MINUSTAH, he said anything likely to impede the work of the peacekeepers should be avoided. On cholera, he called for rigorous scientific studies, while urging restraint with regard to the political situation, in order to allow the focus to remain on reconstruction. MINUSTAH should not get involved in the political crisis, which would be better addressed by the relevant regional organizations, he emphasized.
PAUL LOLO ( Nigeria), recalling the devastation wrought by the earthquake and the cholera epidemic, conveyed his country’s gratitude to all those who had “stood shoulder to shoulder” with Haiti following the tragedy. He commended MINUSTAH’s efforts, including those of its Nigerian contingent. In the face of the great remaining challenges, the international community must remain steadfast, responding to OCHA’s consolidated appeal and endeavouring to “build back better”. He encouraged the Provisional Electoral Council to take the OAS mission report into account, complete the second-round presidential election in a timely and credible manner and refrain from any action that could undermine Haiti’s march to democracy.
WANG MIN ( China) said the process of consolidating security and achieving sustainable peace and stability in Haiti faced many challenges. The United Nations and the international community should focus on supporting appropriate solutions to the election crisis, he said, emphasizing the importance of holding free, fair and credible polls. He called on all sides to focus on making Haiti peaceful and stable, renouncing violence, resolving disputes within the framework of the Constitution, and ensuring that the laws truly reflected the will of the Haitian people. He lauded the role played by the OAS expert mission.
Calling on the international community to step up its long-term support for post-disaster reconstruction, he said United Nations agencies, international financial institutions and regional organizations should further enhance coordination and avoid duplication and waste. The Organization should play a more effective role in post-disaster reconstruction, while the international community continued to provide aid to prevent the cholera epidemic from spreading. MINUSTAH should focus on helping Haiti maintain peace and security, and to build its judicial system.
Council President IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), speaking in his national capacity, said a peaceful and credible conclusion of the electoral process was critical to Haiti’s ongoing recovery and reconstruction. Creating a legitimate Government was a basic precondition for long-term stability and development. The population and all political actors must show maximum restraint to prevent the country from deteriorating further, he said, calling on the Haitian authorities to ensure a calm, secure environment for the second round of the presidential election. The electoral authorities and political parties should take into account the OAS mission’s recommendations, he added.
Special attention was needed for security-sector reform, he said, emphasizing that enhancing the capacity of the Haitian National Police must be a priority. The international community and MINUSTAH must continue to assist Haiti in that regard. The ad-hoc presidential commission on resettlement must closely monitor and coordinate activities for relocating and resettling internally displaced persons, he said. Donors must continue to fulfil their commitments to Haiti and provide the necessary resources for reconstruction and development, he said, adding that they must coordinate their efforts closely with the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission.
Ms. AMOS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, thanked Member States for their contributions to the overall aid effort. Regarding coordination, she said OCHA was indeed strengthening its efforts in that regard and working to ensure Haitian ownership of reconstruction and development. Sexual violence was also a major concern that was being addressed, not only as a security issue, but also as a recovery and development matter.