United Nations (UN) – The United States and Canada, the two countries most often cited as leaders of a possible international force to help Haiti fight gangs, showed no interest in deploying security personnel on Tuesday, despite repeated calls from the United Nations and Haiti . for helping to end the escalation of violence in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood told the UN Security Council that “Haiti must address its ongoing insecurity” and urged the international community to support its efforts.
Canada’s ambassador to the UN, Robert Ray, said the world must learn from all previous military interventions in Haiti, which have failed to provide long-term stability in the country, and ensure that future solutions “must be led by Haitians and Haitian institutions.”
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the country’s Council of Ministers sent an urgent appeal on October 7 calling for the “immediate deployment of specialized armed forces in sufficient numbers” to stem the crisis, which was caused in part by “the criminal activities of armed gangs.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued the call, but more than three months later, no country has followed through.
Hélène La Laima, the UN’s special envoy to Haiti, echoed the secretary-general’s call, noting that “gang-related violence has reached levels not seen in years.”
Murders and kidnappings rose for the fourth straight year in 2022, she said, pointing to 1,359 kidnappings, more than double the number in 2021 and an average of about four a day, and murders rose by a third to 2,183, affecting all segments of society, including the former. presidential candidate and director of the State Police Academy.
On the political front, La Lime said the expiration of the mandate of the last 10 senators who held office on January 9 means that “there is no elected official left in the country.”
While this is a “profound challenge,” she said, it’s also an opportunity for Haitians to look at the root causes of dysfunction in the country and address them.
The UN envoy pointed to two key developments – the Security Council’s unanimous resolution in October imposing sanctions on individuals and groups that threaten peace and stability in the country, starting with a powerful gang leader, and the December 21 signing by a wide range of . political, civil, religious, trade union and private sector officials in the “National Consensus Agreement on Inclusive Transition and Transparent Elections”.
The agreement sets a timetable for the installation of an elected government by February 2024, including immediate measures to promote fiscal reform and increase public revenue, La Lime said. She said a High Transitional Council has been named and will work with the government to nominate candidates for the country’s highest court.
La Lime said the agreement, whose number of supporters is growing by the day, is “the most promising sign to come from the dialogue efforts so far”. Along with UN sanctions, it “offers a clear path to restoring democracy and legitimacy,” she said.
But La Lime said the deployment of an international specialized force was an essential third element needed to strengthen policing, sanctions and transition.
Without international forces, she said, “the very positive impact of the political process and sanctions so far will remain fragile and vulnerable to reversal.”
Haiti’s U.N. ambassador, Antonio Rodrigue, cited ongoing efforts to reach an agreement, but called the current situation an “emergency” and warned that restoring security is a prerequisite for the country to move forward.
“Without security, we cannot hold fair, transparent and democratic elections, nor can we restore normal functioning of institutions in the country,” he warned.
Rodrigues urged the international community to respond to Secretary-General Guterres’ repeated call for the immediate deployment of international forces “to help us suppress the gangs and allow us to complete the process of returning democratic order to our country.”
“It’s a must right now,” Rodrigues said. “We cannot wait and the security situation could deteriorate any day and worsen the fate of people who are already suffering terribly.”
On the suffering, UN envoy La Lime told the council that gangs have deliberately blocked access to food, water and health services during the current cholera outbreak, with nearly 5 million Haitians across the country facing acute hunger.