Leaders in Haiti must step up and end the political impasse between President Jovenel Moïse and a surging opposition movement that has paralyzed the island nation since July 2018, the top UN official there said on Thursday in a briefing to the UN Security Council in New York.
UN Special Representative Helen La Lime updated ambassadors on latest developments in the prolonged divide which has left Haiti without a functioning government, deflated the economy, and fueled insecurity.
“Haiti is about to enter in its second year with a caretaker government, its economy is forecast to sink deeper into recession, and 4.6 million of its citizens are now estimated to require humanitarian assistance,” she said, speaking via videoconference from the capital, Port-au-Prince.
“To avoid a greater deterioration, Haitian leaders need to rise to the occasion and commit to a way out of this impasse that will best serve the interests of their people.”
Threat of prolonged stalemate
Ms. La Lime was introducing the first report on the UN Integrated Office in Haiti, which she heads.
Known by the French acronym BINUH, it was stablished last October, following the end of 15 years of UN peacekeeping operations.
Its mandate includes strengthening political stability and good governance.
During the past months, Ms. La Lime and international partners the Organization of American States and the Holy See have been supporting negotiations to forge consensus on a political agreement.
However, talks failed to yield progress on the formation of a new government and the designation of a “consensual” Prime Minister by the President.
“The lack of agreement on this matter, as well as on the remaining length of President Moïse’s term, threatens to needlessly prolong a situation that has already lasted too long,” she told the Council.
‘Rising tide of cruelty’
In the interim, Haitians are being subjected to widespread human rights violations as armed gangs now control around a third of the country, generating “a rising tide of cruelty,” according to Marie Yolène Gilles, Executive Director of the non-profit Fondasyon Je Klere, who also spoke from the capital city.
“We have witnessed odious killings, decapitations, rapes, robberies, embezzlement and the diversion of supplies, abductions and kidnappings,” she reported, later adding “we have death squadrons, and that’s a form of state terrorism.”
As Ms. La Lime told ambassadors, the ongoing impasse and economic troubles risk further affecting the integrity of the national police and other key institutions.
New chapter in UN collaboration
Haiti’s modern history has been characterized by recurring cycles of political and socio-economic crisis.
They have been rooted in factors such as poverty, gender inequalities, limited access to basic services, natural resource depletion, gang activity, corruption and impunity, said Ms. La Lime.
While the road to improved governance will be difficult, the deployment of the new UN office should see deeper and more targeted collaboration with the country, she said.
Success will be measured by progress in six areas. Besides facilitating political consensus, strengthening the police and justice sectors, and addressing unemployment and other grievances, benchmarks also focus on addressing gang violence and promoting human rights.
“Only through a combination of strong national will and steadfast international support can Haiti surmount the multifaceted crisis with which it is contending,” said Ms. La Lime.
“I remain confident that the United Nations, in its new configuration, is uniquely placed to help State institutions address the factors that catalyze cyclical periods of instability in the country and ensure that Haiti is once again on the path to stability and sustainable development.”