UN Security Council reports on border improvements, reminds Haiti of election report due, while WFP describes food crisis looming throughout Haiti.
A textiles factory will lose about 12,000 jobs, families will experience harsher food shortages and gang-fueled violence will continue to escalate as ill-equipped police struggle to contain riots, officials told members of the United Nations Security Council during a briefing Monday. Meaning, some within the council said, it’s time for the UN to take action on Haiti, including freezing the assets of gangs’ political backers and utilizing more “culturally sensitive” support from African nations.
“An economic crisis has the country in a stranglehold with Haitians facing soaring food prices and fuel often available only on the black market,” said Helen La Lime, head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH).
“As these trials play out and the Haitian people engage in legitimate protest, political stakeholders are still struggling to find common ground and define a path to elections,” she said.
During the wide-ranging 2-plus-hour meeting about Haiti at the 77th General Assembly, streamed virtually, Haiti’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship, Jean Victor Geneus, shared the details about production stopping at CARICOL industrial park in northern Haiti due to lack of fuel. He also described Haitian government efforts to adopt an austerity budget and reform the Customs Administration to combat smuggling, increase customs revenue and halt the entry of weapons and ammunition into Haiti.
Representatives from three U.N. offices and the 15 council member nations spoke, in addition to three from the General Assembly — the Dominican Republic, Canada and Haiti. Most representatives offered their thoughts on the socio-political or humanitarian activities that took place recently in Haiti.
“There were important rays of hope — school meals were reaching more than 350,000 children, one third of which were fed with food locally grown by smallholder farmers,” said Valerie Guarnieri, deputy executive director of the World Food Program (WFP).
She described the positives of a Haitian program in which students received nutritious meals in school, working with the Haitian government to develop a national social protection policy and giving more than 450,000 people emergency food. But that came crashing to a halt due to the gang warfare.
“Today, the situation in Haiti has sadly reached new levels of desperation.” Guarnieri said. “Haiti needs help now.”
UN moves on Haiti, elections plan promised
“Whereas a few weeks ago there was essentially silence, now there seems to be an attempt to move things in a certain direction,” said Robert Fatton, University of Virginia Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs.
“I don’t know which direction because what they are doing is still talking about giving money to the police,” said Fatton. “And even if you give money to the police and you train the police, for that to have a significant effect on the local situation is going to take months.”
Among the signs of increased action is the additional work with Haitian police. Jeffrey DeLaurentis, a former U.S. ambassador speaking on behalf of the U.S., confirmed that the first 100 candidates of the SWAT training program will soon be vetted for training expected to start later this fall.
In addition, Geng Shuang, China’s representative to the U.N., reminded the council of its requirements made to the government of Haiti to update the Security Council by Oct. 17 on a framework for presidential elections.
“We have taken note of the commitment by Prime Minister Henry of the interim government to create the necessary conditions for elections by the end of the year,” Shuang added. “We look forward to the submission in October of concrete and credible reports to the council by the government of Haiti.”
One week prior, President Joe Biden made a 21-word comment the Miami Herald referred to as “a rare moment reflecting the seriousness of Haiti’s descent into chaos.”
“We continue to stand with our neighbor in Haiti as it faces political-fueled gang violence and an enormous human crisis,” Biden said at the time.
Two days before Biden’s speech, the U.S. Department of State announced it had added $3 million to the “basket fund” on security in Haiti — a fund managed by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) in coordination with the Haitian National Police (PNH), BINUH and other stakeholders. Over the past 18 months, the U.S. has provided more than $80 million in assistance to the PNH, according to DeLaurentis, speaking at the Security Council meeting. Some experts question the overall effectiveness of that expenditure.
Freezing gang assets among actions to consider
Reports by other U.N. officials indicated the progress made in other administrative areas in Haiti.
WFP expects food security to further deteriorate this year, surpassing the record high of 4.5 million people estimated to face crisis-or-worse levels of acute food insecurity, said WFP’s Guarneri. She called for additional support.
“The Haiti humanitarian operation is chronically underfunded,” said Guarneri.
In March this year, a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) multidisciplinary team worked with BINUH to build the Haitian administration and improve technology to make borders more secure from illegal firearms, according to Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director of UNODC.
The recent reforms had effectively combatted smuggling, halted the entry of weapons and ammunition and increased customs revenues by 40 percent, said Geneus.
Shuang, the China representative, called on the U.S. and Mexico to take action based on Resolution 2645, which set BINUH’s current mandate.
“Resolution 2645 expresses its readiness to take appropriate measures that could include asset freeze or travel ban measures against those engaged in or supporting gang violence,” said Shuang. “Given the current situation in the country, it is necessary for the council to translate this readiness into action.”
He suggested BINUH submit a list of criminal gangs and their heads to the Security Council for consideration.
Martin Kimani, the Kenyan representative to the U.N., who also spoke for member nations Gabon and Ghana, reminded the council that the immediate focus should be to offer the PNH sufficient training and equipment to effectively challenge armed gangs.
“It would be particularly helpful if the training was undertaken with countries that have the experience and whose policy professionals can relate well to their Haitian counterparts,” Kimani said.
He noted that the area from Africa from which the Haitian people originated could play an important part in Haiti’s present difficulties. Those African nations, he said, have mediated complex conflict situations, recovered from failed states and faced armed groups in urban and rural environments.
“The continent has the experience and the know-how,” Kimani said. “It also has the political and cultural sensitivity to be a trusted partner to Haiti.”