UN Official Says Haiti Must Remain at ‘Forefront’ of International Agenda

UNITED NATIONS – A senior United Nations official says Haiti must remain at the “forefront” of the international agenda amid the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the French-speaking CARICOM country.

lalimesHelen La LimeIn briefing the UN Security Council on Thursday, UN Special Representative Helen La Lime called for greater support for Haiti as protracted insecurity and prolonged political uncertainty, together with the dire economic situation and growing humanitarian needs, are “severely hampering development and undermining peace building efforts.”

“It is essential that Haiti remain at the forefront of the international community’s agenda, and that national authorities receive the assistance they need to address these inter-connected challenges,” she said, noting however that “only Haitians hold the key to unlocking sustainable solutions to the country’s protracted crisis”.

La Lime, who also heads the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), reported on growing gang control of large areas of the capital, Port-au-Prince, stating that kidnappings and homicides also are on the rise.

The UN said, last month alone, 201 people were killed, and 198 abducted, representing an average for each of almost seven cases per day.

The violence has kept people trapped in their homes or neighborhoods, and forced the closure of dozens of schools, medical centers, businesses and markets, the UN said, adding that an estimated 17,000 people have been displaced.

La Lime said the deepening sense of insecurity is exacerbated by the “seeming inability” of the Haitian National Police (HNP) to address both the situation and impunity.

“More than ever, Haiti requires immediate assistance to develop its national police and counter increasing criminality and violence,” she said, appealing for greater support for the force, “which currently lacks the human, material and financial resources to effectively fulfil its mandate.”

The instability is largely due to what the UN envoy described as the “prolonged institutional vacuum” in Haiti.

The UN said the country has been without a functioning parliament for more than two years, the justice sector is almost completely paralyzed, and it has been a year since the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moïse.

La Lime said initiatives on the way forward have netted few concrete results so far, adding that BINUH is engaging with the parties in efforts towards forging consensus on a path to elections, though it is “highly unlikely” they will take place this year.

“The stalled investigation into the assassination of late President Moïse – to which a fifth judge in 11 months was recently assigned – epitomizes the deeply entrenched issues affecting Haiti’s justice system, a branch crippled by limited financial and material resources, frequent strikes by judicial personnel, and the deteriorating security situation,” she said.

“Resolute efforts are needed not only to enable courts to process and try a myriad of pending cases, but also for prolonged pre-trial detention levels to be sustainably reduced,” added La Lime, urging the Haitian Government and relevant judicial institutions to “urgently find consensus on the appointment of Supreme Court judges so its activities can resume.”

She said action on criminal code reform, to bring the framework in line with international norms and standards, is also needed.

In updating the Security Council on the economic situation in Haiti, La Lime said it remains “a serious cause for concern”, as the gross domestic product contracted by 1.8 percent last year, and government revenues shrank.

Meanwhile, she said humanitarian needs continue to increase, particularly in the wake of the devastating August 2021 earthquake.

La Lime estimated that 4.9 million people will require humanitarian aid this year, with at least 4.5 million forecasted to need urgent food assistance.