Amid Surging Gang Violence, Ongoing Political Deadlock, Haiti’s Economic, Political Heart in State of Terror, Special Representative Tells Security Council
Delegates Urge Greater Role for United Nations Office, Foreign Minister Says National Police Need International Support in Coming Days, Not Months
Haitian national authorities require urgent international support to address a rapidly deteriorating security situation and deadlocked talks about future governance, the United Nations top official for that country told the Security Council today, as members underscored that the United Nations presence in Haiti must work to address unprecedented gang violence and strengthen fragile State institutions to restore the rule of law.
Helen La Lime, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti and Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), briefing the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Office (document S/2022/481), said that gangs are tightening their control over swaths of the capital, Port-au-Prince, metropolitan area. The horrific violence that unfurled over the Port-au-Prince suburbs of Cité Soleil, Croix-des-Bouqets and Tabarre in late April and early May “is but an example of the state of terror in which Haiti’s political and economic heart is plunged,” she said. The pervasive, deepening sense of insecurity — exacerbated by the seeming inability of the Haitian National Police to address the situation — “is dangerously fraying the rule of law in the country,” she added.
She went on to emphasize that the stalled investigation into the assassination of late President Jovenel Moïse epitomizes the deeply entrenched issues affecting Haiti’s justice system. Further, she pointed out that the formation of a new Provisional Electoral Council is “frustratingly still a distant prospect” and elections that would usher in a return to democratic governance are highly unlikely to occur this year. Also detailing Haiti’s economic and humanitarian challenges, she underscored that the country must remain at the forefront of the international community’s agenda so that national authorities receive the assistance they need to address these interconnected challenges.
Arnoux Descardes, Executive Director of Volontariat pour le Développement d’Haïti, echoed the Special Representative’s assessment of such challenges and stressed the urgency of taking action against those involved in smuggling, the illegal arms trade and financial crimes. The Haitian National Police must deploy effective operations to dismantle gangs, and the Government should appoint a Provisional Electoral Council while guaranteeing financial support for political parties to prevent dirty money from influencing electoral campaigns. He also stressed the need to revise Haiti’s Constitution, including its provisions governing terms of office, the balance of power and the participation of Haitians living abroad in the country’s political, economic and social spheres.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members expressed concern over the rampant gang violence and political deadlock in Haiti. Many highlighted the importance of a Haitian-led solution to the country’s many challenges, calling for political stakeholders to reach consensus and hold elections as soon as possible and on the international community to support the Government in strengthening the capacity of the Haitian National Police. While some emphasized that BINUH cannot replace national efforts to address these issues, many members noted the importance of the Office’s work, which can help strengthen Haiti’s fragile institutions.
On that point, the representative of Mexico stressed that Haiti must have a robust United Nations presence in the form of a special political mission with a solid, stable mandate. BINUH is essential for encouraging political dialogue and revitalizing the national judicial system, he said, adding that tackling the flow of arms into the country is “an inescapable first step to address this crisis”.
Brazil’s representative, however, noted that the Organization’s efforts in Haiti — especially those of BINUH — are currently insufficient to prompt progress on the ground. The Office’s structure should be reinforced to provide specialized support to the Haitian National Police, include a specific mandate to control illicit financial flows and strengthen its efforts to prevent, monitor and investigate human-rights abuses.
Echoing those concerns, the speaker for the Dominican Republic, which shares the Hispaniola island with Haiti, recalled that less than three years ago his delegation warned of the negative consequences of scaling back the United Nations mission, “and today we are reaping the results of that disastrous decision”. There must be no delay in aid to Haiti, he said, citing studies by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) that 5.3 million of Haiti’s 11 million inhabitants suffer from chronic hunger, a figure that has doubled in the last four years — mainly due to economic decline, political instability, poor resilience to natural disasters and gangs controlling critical infrastructure. “For our country, this situation is a national security issue,” he said.
Meanwhile, the representative of Gabon, also speaking for Ghana and Kenya, stressed that the legacy of underdevelopment and insecurity cannot be disassociated from historic injustices inflicted on Haiti for rising up against slavery. He urged the Council to take more urgent steps and called for stakeholders to set aside differences and create favourable conditions for safe, transparent and credible elections.
On that point, Ireland’s representative pointed out that civic space in the country is shrinking as a direct consequence of gang violence, calling for inclusive dialogue, capacity-building for the Haitian National Police, judicial reform and holistic responses for victims. The humanitarian response plan for the country remains less than 30 per cent funded, he added, calling on the Council to ensure adequate resources for those “who carry an unimaginable burden in our name”.
Jean Victor Geneus, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Haiti, stressed that, while the Government is doing everything possible to normalize the deteriorating security environment, the national police must receive — in the coming days, not weeks or months — robust international support to end this “unacceptable” situation. He also urged increasing BINUH’s capacity to address the unprecedented level of crime and violence in the country, pointing out the impossibility of holding free democratic elections in the current environment. He went on to stress that a lasting solution can be made possible through long-term economic development, drawing links between crime and extreme poverty.
Also speaking were representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, China, India, Norway, France, Russian Federation and Albania.
The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 4:59 p.m.
HELEN LA LIME, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti and Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), briefed the Council on the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Haiti, where discussions about the country’s future governance arrangements remain deadlocked. Gang control over swaths of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area has grown tighter, and kidnappings and intentional homicides have risen by 36 and 17 per cent, respectively, compared with the last five months of 2021. She said that the horrific violence that unfurled over the suburbs of Cité Soleil, Croix-des-Bouquets and Tabarre in late April and early May — during which women and girls were particularly exposed to sexual violence — “is but an example of the state of terror in which Haiti’s political and economic heart is plunged”. Further, dozens of schools, medical centres, businesses and markets have been forced to close; many people are trapped in their neighbourhoods or residences; and movement along the main national roads is seriously compromised by barriers erected by gangs, severely affecting the flow of goods.
She went on to say that the pervasive, deepening sense of insecurity — exacerbated by the Haitian National Police’s seeming inability to address the situation — “is dangerously fraying the rule of law in the country”. Haiti requires immediate assistance to develop its national police and counter increasing criminality and violence, and she called on Member States to provide greater support and contribute to the newly established basket fund, managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and dedicated to supporting the Haitian National Police. Noting that Haiti’s acute instability stems in large part from its prolonged institutional vacuum, she pointed out that multiple initiatives to foster a common vision among national stakeholders as to how the country can move forward have yielded few results. Amidst growing political polarization, BINUH is focused on reviving contacts between parties at all levels.
However, she stated that the formation of a new Provisional Electoral Council is “frustratingly still a distant prospect” and elections that would usher in a return to democratic governance are highly unlikely to take place this year. The stalled investigation into the assassination of late President Jovenel Moïse epitomizes the deeply entrenched issues affecting Haiti’s justice system, which is crippled by limited financial and material resources, frequent strikes by judicial personnel and the deteriorating security situation. 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. Also detailing Haiti’s economic and humanitarian challenges, she underscored that the country must remain at the forefront of the international community’s agenda so that national authorities receive the assistance they need to address these interconnected challenges.
ARNOUX DESCARDES, Executive Director, Volontariat pour le développement d’Haïti, said that he comes from a country plagued by a multidimensional crisis and has come to convey the true voices of Haitians. In 2020 and 2021, he coordinated more than 10 regional workshops and a national forum for civil society on proposals to resolve the crisis. Haiti faces difficulties in such areas as: governance, security, the rule of law, combating violence, organizing transparent elections and managing public finances. Stressing the need to forge a broader consensus, he said only an inter-Haitian dialogue can lead to such an outcome. Turning to human rights, he cited a study which pointed to a more than 18 per cent increase in kidnapping since 2020. For May 2022 alone, 200 cases have been identified. Armed gangs occupy almost all the territories in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, cutting off land contact between the capital and provincial towns, disrupting the circulation of agricultural products and exacerbating the acute food crisis tormenting more than 4.5 million Haitians.
Impunity persists and justice remains silent, he continued, stressing the urgency of taking action against people involved in smuggling, illegal arms trade and financial crimes. The Haitian National Police must deploy effective operations aimed at dismantling gangs. Regarding elections, the Government should appoint a Provisional Electoral Council, and guarantee financial support for political parties to prevent dirty money from influencing electoral campaigns. It is also necessary to revise the Constitution, including the term of office, balance of power and the participation of Haitians living abroad in the country’s political, economic and social sphere. On consolidating public finances, he said the Government must regain control of the collection agencies. It is also vital to tap the critical mass of Haitian women, both from the diaspora and inside the country.
He went on to encourage BINUH to continue working with young people and civil society to implement projects. BINUH would be even more effective by mobilizing adequate resources to strengthen its good offices and advisory work as well as assist the Haitian National Police in the fight against armed gangs. He called for addressing the root causes of human rights abuses and emphasized the need for better integration of women in decision-making as well as for the empowerment of youth.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said the Council will again express its concern over gang violence, insecurity and worrying conditions in Haiti, and condemn the horrific toll of violence on women and children. However, substantive actions can only be taken by Haiti’s leaders — and until they choose to do so, years-long discussions towards a political accord will remain fundamental challenges to an electoral process. The time is long past for Haitian stakeholders and competing coalitions to find consensus, she stated. The United States will continue to support efforts towards an inclusive Provisional Electoral Council, but the Government of Haiti must do the technical work towards holding free and fair elections when conditions permit. Given the conditions, her Government will also provide increased capacity-building assistance to the Haitian National Police and help improve citizen security. Emphasizing that the ongoing political impasse and human rights conditions and poverty only underscore the importance of BINUH, she affirmed that the special political mission remains the United Nations’ recommended configuration to address the issue. She looked forward to beginning mandate renewal discussions in the coming weeks, but while BINUH and a robust United Nations presence are essential, they are no substitutes for reforms to be undertaken by Haiti’s leaders.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMIREZ (Mexico) expressed concern over “staggering” levels of gang violence, sexual violence and the juxtaposition of gang impunity and the deplorable conditions in which prisoners are living — the vast majority without trial. Spotlighting the ready availability of weapons, he stressed the need to target the sources of arms supply as an “inescapable initial step to address this crisis”. In this, support for customs authorities is essential. Given the weakness of the country’s judicial and police systems, international cooperation is also necessary for strengthening the rule of law. Expressing regret that no agreement has been reached among Haiti’s main political players, he called for the Provisional Electoral Council to be established in order to coordinate and conduct upcoming elections. Haiti must have a robust United Nations presence in the form of a special political mission with a solid, stable mandate, he added, stating that BINUH is essential for encouraging political dialogue and revitalizing the national judicial system.
ALICE JACOBS (United Kingdom) urged the international community to remain committed to supporting a Haitian-led solution to the complex security, health and economic challenges faced by the Haitian people. BINUH’s work is fundamental in facilitating a unified approach to resolving these multifaceted challenges, he said. By strengthening the Haitian National Police and facilitating dialogue between Haitian political stakeholders, BINUH’s efforts lay the groundwork for stability in Haiti. It is therefore critical that BINUH continues this work, and his delegation looks forward to discussions on the renewal of its mandate. He called on all actors to resume negotiations and agree to form a Government capable of ensuring the necessary security environment within which free and fair elections can be held as soon as possible.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), also speaking on behalf of Ghana and Kenya, noted Haitian gang violence continues to cause unprecedented suffering, with people fleeing homes, children out of school and an overwhelmed police force. Citing the heavy burden of the outcome of the Haitian revolution and the price of its freedom in terms of reparations, he stressed that the legacy of underdevelopment and insecurity cannot be disassociated from historic injustices inflicted upon the country for rising up against slavery. He urged the Council take more urgent steps, highlighting the importance of regional efforts by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and calling for stakeholders to lay aside differences and create favourable conditions for safe, transparent and credible elections.
Condemning armed gang murders, ghastly mutilations and the terror reigning over the people, he stressed that a spike in gender-based and sexual violence demands that the National Police must be reinforced. He further urged the donor community to contribute to the basket fund and commended the idea of setting up a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) office in Haiti. Haitian authorities must comprehensively reform the justice sector to address unnecessary detentions but also to bring perpetrators to account. Noting that 31 per cent of Haiti’s population is aged 10 to 24, he called for a focus on employment and voiced support for consideration of the BINUH mandate renewal.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil), noting that the international community’s efforts regarding Haiti have simply not rendered the expected results, pointed to the political deadlock, increased gang violence and the country’s “inoperative” legislative and judicial systems. Security seems to be deteriorating; Haiti’s economic and political institutions are extremely fragile; and holding elections in such a context remains a daunting and elusive objective, he said, noting that the United Nations efforts in Haiti, especially of BINUH, are currently insufficient to prompt progress on the ground. BINUH’s efforts should encompass urgent measures to control gang violence and improve the functioning of the justice system, as well as longer-term projects addressing the root causes behind chronic violence and instability. He also called for efforts to reinforce BINUH’s structure to provide specialized support to the Haitian National Police, include a specific mandate regarding illicit financial flows control, and strengthen the Mission’s mandate concerning prevention, monitoring and investigation of human rights abuses, in light of serious reports in that regard, especially those of a sexual and gender nature.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) emphasized that a nationally owned, inclusive political process remains one of the most important tools in assisting Haiti on its path to peace and stability. BINUH can contribute to this objective, particularly through its efforts to create space for national dialogue. Stressing that sustainable peace requires women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in such efforts, she welcomed BINUH’s work with local women to identify recommendations for advancing their political participation. She also highlighted the need to support measures aimed at preventing and combating corruption, which must include tackling the trafficking and proliferation of illegal arms and illicit financial flows that amplify gang violence and undermine national and regional stability. The capacity of the Haitian National Police must also be strengthened to respond effectively to the worsening security situation and rising levels of gang-related violence. She added that all efforts to strengthen Haiti’s security sector will be more effective if complemented by community violence reduction programmes, which can address the root causes of violence and socioeconomic disparity.
ZHANG JUN (China) urged Haiti to put an end to senseless political struggles and restore law and order, also condemning the kidnapping of United Nations personnel. The Organization has invested immensely in the country over the past 30 years, but the situation has gone from bad to worse, with 4.9 million people needing humanitarian assistance. Expressing concern over rampant transnational crimes, he pointed out that governance is non-existent. Haiti must end political deadlock and put in place an effective constitutional mechanism, which is key to attaining lasting stability, he said, adding that BINUH should increase its mediation efforts as a matter of urgency. Haiti must improve its security situation and address the root causes underlining the volatile security situation. Lessons learned show that cutting off funding is an effective measure to fight against gangs. The Council must give clear warnings to gangs and those who collude with them, he said, adding that regional organizations and countries must play their part in these efforts. China will engage in discussion on the comprehensive review of BINUH’s mandate. The Mission should be seen as “hope, rather than one disappointment after another”, he said.
BRIAN FLYNN (Ireland), noting that Haitian people’s lived reality is one of constant intimidation, grievous violence and absolute terror, expressed concern about the failed judicial system and resulting impunity. Civil society space in the country is shrinking as a direct consequence of gang violence, he said, calling for inclusive dialogue and capacity-building within the Haitian National Police. It is also crucial to support judicial reform, strengthen the capacity to provide protection from gender-based violence, and provide a holistic response to victims, he said. Also pointing to the ripple effect of the global food crisis on Haiti, he highlighted the need for humanitarian access, particularly given the gang control of roads, ports and border crossings. Lamenting that the humanitarian response plan for the country remains less than 30 per cent funded, he called on the Council to ensure the Mission has adequate resources. Its staff “carry an unimaginable burden in our name”, he said.
PRATIK MATHUR (India), noting the Special Representative’s recent efforts to facilitate dialogue between the interim Government, the opposition and civil society groups, said it is important to have a clear timeline and road map for the transition and holding of elections. All Haitian stakeholders work to build trust and confidence and arrive at consensus on restoration of the constitutional order through a realistic, practical road map. Pointing to the persisting gang-related violence, kidnappings and the targeted attacks on United Nations personnel, he stressed the need to proactively pursue capacity-building of the Haitian National Police and welcomed the interim Government’s formal request for assistance from UNODC to deal with the perennial problem of the entry of illicit goods. Recalling findings of the Secretary-General’s assessment that Haiti is undergoing one of the most difficult periods in its history, he said BINUH’s presence is important and needs to be empowered. Noting his country’s long-standing contributions to Haiti in terms of the peacekeeping operations and assistance in its times of need, he said recently it donated essential life-saving medicines to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway), noting that approximately 17,000 citizens have reportedly fled gang-affected areas, and there is evidence of recruitment of minors by armed gangs, said the chronic kidnapping situation is also a worrying example drawing together exploitation, insecurity, and the disregard for human rights that is endemic in Haiti. Alarmed also by reports of the increase in sexual and gender-based violence against girls and women by gangs as a form of retaliation and punishment, she stressed that the rule of law and the justice sector must be strengthened in order to end this cycle of impunity and promote accountability for human rights violations and abuses. She also called for more focus on resilience-building, particularly in the face of stronger, more frequent storms. Noting that climate disasters take multidimensional forms, and impact the poorest rural communities the most, she said there are climate elements that contribute to instability, and addressing that should be a stronger part of BINUH’s and the United Nations family’s work. Reiterating her country’s commitment to the United Nations presence in Haiti through BINUH, she looked forward to actively engaging in the upcoming mandate renewal process of the Mission.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) said Haitian authorities must react and the international community must do more to address the emergency. There is no alternative to dialogue in breaking the current political impasse, and direct contacts established between the Prime Minister and the opposition are positive, as all political actors must build the consensus for holding elections when conditions, particularly security, are met. Calling for an immediate end to gang violence, she cited the increase in murders and kidnappings, undermining State authority and forcing 17,000 people to flee the fighting. The priority is to strengthen the Haitian National Police, she said, welcoming the proposal to increase BINUH police advisers and establish a multi-donor financing fund. Haitian prisons are overcrowded and dilapidated, she noted, without water or basic services, and the judicial system, for lack of resources, is failing and unable to investigate the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. The launch of cooperation between Haiti and UNODC is therefore positive. With nearly half of the population needing humanitarian aid, the State must strengthen institutional governance, particularly in the fight against corruption. She called for the BINUH mandate to be renewed for 12 months, with additional resources if necessary to carry out its difficult mission.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), expressing concern over the deteriorating situation in Haiti, emphasized the need to streamline and improve the national law-enforcement system. However, the international community cannot forget about the likely impact of the food crisis caused by the irresponsible actions of Western States. Further, he stressed that, without progress on the political track, solving security problems in that country “might be tilting at windmills” because chaos in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of power create favourable conditions for growth in crime. It is the Haitians themselves who must determine the most viable solution to break the political deadlock, as externally imposed solutions are not able to consider the complex, unique root causes of the crisis. He pointed out that one such cause is the ongoing external interference and imposition of democratizing models that do not account for national specifics, urging that any international assistance be responsible and stem from broad national discussions.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania), Council President for June, speaking in his national capacity, described the security situation in Haiti as desperate, with failing institutions, extreme poverty, escalating gang violence and massive displacement of people. Expressing concern about the rise in sexual violence, recruitment of minors by armed gangs, and kidnappings for ransom, she emphasized: “Haiti and its people cannot continue to be subject to the law of the street.” Stressing the importance of strengthening and professionalizing the Haitian National Police, she welcomed the creation of the multi-donor basket fund as well as the recommendations of the assessment mission to strengthen BINUH’s mandate. With human rights violations and abuses, including sexual violence, on the rise, it is vital to strengthen BINUH’s human rights mandate and services, she said, calling on Council Members to work together to design a strong mandate for the Mission in order to address the challenging security and political context in Haiti.
JEAN VICTOR GENEUS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Haiti, pointed to multiple challenges, such as gang violence and deteriorating security, cited in the Secretary-General’s report, and stressed that his country’s authorities do not stand idle. The Government is doing everything possible to normalize the situation. The report recognized the efforts of the Haitian National Police. They arrested numerous gangs. The Government also decided to spare no effort to free up resources for the National Police. Warning that gangs are acquiring armoured vehicles and lethal weapons through smuggling, he said it is urgent for National Police to receive, in the coming days — not coming weeks or months — robust support from international partners to put an end to this “unacceptable” situation. Friends of Haiti must determine to rapidly provide equipment, training and other support to help the National Police restore security.
Highlighting assistance by the United States, Canada and France, he also noted bilateral support provided by other United Nations Member States. Taking note of the establishment of BINUH’s multi-donor basket fund to help combat gang violence and organized crimes, he called for increasing BINUH’s capacity to address the unprecedented level of violence and crimes in the country. “Security is a public good and priority” for the Government and the people of Haiti. It is not conceivable to hold free democratic elections in the current environment, he said. It is also imperative to tackle structural problems, such as the dysfunctional judicial system, corruption and smuggling, he said, calling for concerted international action. To restore and provide basic services, the National Police must reclaim territories from gangs. Haiti cannot lose sight of the important point that a lasting solution can be made possible through long-term economic development, he said, drawing links between levels of crimes and extreme poverty.
JOSÉ ALFONSO BLANCO CONDE (Dominican Republic) said that the Haitian National Police have clearly not developed the capacity to maintain order and control the armed gangs that terrorize the population. The United Nations has a duty to act urgently for the peace and stability of Haiti and of the region, with robust immediate support for the police, and by extending BINUH’s mandate, to mitigate the uncertainty in which Haitians live and which concerns their neighbours. He recalled that less than three years ago his delegation warned of the negative consequences of scaling back the mission, “and today we are reaping the results of that disastrous decision,” he affirmed. There must be no delay in aid to Haiti, as according to Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) studies, 5.3 million of 11 million inhabitants suffer from chronic hunger, a figure that has doubled in the last four years — mainly due to economic decline, political instability, poor resilience to natural disasters and gangs that largely control critical infrastructure. “For our country, this situation is a national security issue,” he stated. The Council has the mechanisms in place to lead a joint effort between the international community, the Haitian Government and the Haitian people to draw up a road map for peace and sustainable development. “There is not, nor will there ever be a Dominican solution to the Haitian problem,” he stressed.