The UN chief thinks that “Haiti can be saved”. Here’s what he says must happen

On Saturday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres urged the international community to continue providing funds and equipment to Haiti’s beleaguered police forces.

But he also said he was convinced that only a “robust” international force can help the police dismantle the armed gangs that terrorize the country.

“The gangs have created a situation of terror in Haiti that does not allow for any meaningful economic activity and undermines humanitarian support and which constitutes a serious obstacle to any political process,” António Guterres said in an interview with the Miami Herald after landing in Fort . Lauderdale aboard a commercial flight from Port-au-Prince.

Guterres’ visit to a Haiti in crisis was his first as secretary-general and comes amid ongoing negotiations in New York over the fate of the UN political office in Port-au-Prince. The office’s mandate expires later this month and the UN Security Council will hear a debate on Thursday about the deteriorating situation in Haiti.

During his one-day visit to the country, António Guterres met with members of political parties and civil society as well as Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Following the talks, Guterres said he believed “Haiti can be saved from the current situation.”

To achieve this, however, the country needs the Security Council to approve a “robust” security force to accompany the ill-equipped and understaffed Haitian National Police, and the ongoing political process must be credible.

Haiti is currently governed by an interim government, led by Henry, who came to power days after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Moses was shot in his bedroom two years ago this month.

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With the presidential murder still unsolved, Haitians are at odds in the country over how it should be governed in the absence of a president or an elected parliament – the last 10 of which have completed their terms. in January. The constitutional crisis has led the United States and other actors in the international community to call for a “broad” political consensus without defining exactly what it constitutes, in order to deal with the security crisis and bring the country in the elections.

Last month, after three days of talks in Jamaica led by three former Caribbean prime ministers, between Henry and dozens of Haitian civic and political actors, Haitians still failed to reach an agreement. But they agreed to keep talking — a step that Guterres said was important.

There are still points of disagreement among Haitians, he said, but it was clear in his discussions on Saturday that it is essential that the dialogue continue “so that a credible and inclusive process is fully established and in order to create the conditions, when security also allows” for the elections.

“I believe that the support of [the Caribbean Community] and the support of the international community as a whole will be an important aspect in which there is still a different perspective on the way forward to achieve the broadest possible consensus,” he said. “I saw today that there is a clear will to move forward.”

Guterress’ visit follows that of several other senior United Nations officials, including World Food Program Director Cindy McCain, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell and the United Nations Independent Expert on Human Rights. of man, William O’Neill. They all underlined the disastrous situation of the country with 5.2 million Haitians in need of humanitarian aid, including 3 million children, and the toll that the violence of armed groups has on the population.

In addition to being driven from their homes, Haitians are also victims of kidnapping for ransom and brutal sexual violence, which Guterres says “affects every aspect of public and private life in the country.”

“Port-au-Prince is surrounded by armed gangs who block the main roads leading to the northern and southern departments, control access to water and food, health care,” he said. during a press conference before leaving Port-au-Prince, where he also expressed his solidarity with the approximately 12 million inhabitants of the country. “I remain deeply concerned about the extreme vulnerability of populations to these predatory gangs, including the disproportionate impact of this violence on women and girls.

On Sunday, Guterres will travel to Trinidad and Tobago to attend the gathering of leaders of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM. The 15-member regional bloc, of which Haiti is a member, celebrates 50 years since its founding. The crisis in Haiti is one of the points to be discussed. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also expected to attend the meeting.

Blinken’s visit follows that of Vice President Kamala Harris, who last month met with CARICOM leaders and the president of the Dominican Republic in the Bahamas. In addition to commending the Biden administration’s commitment to the region, Harris also implored Caribbean leaders to support the efforts of the United States, Guterres and others to deploy a force to Haiti, which that the country’s caretaker government first requested in October.

During his visit to Haiti, António Guterres took the opportunity to clarify the type of force he advocates. During one meeting, a member of the Montana Group, a coalition of civil society organizations advocating a different kind of transition, got the impression that he was advocating for a military force that would be a kind of force of occupation, he said.

“It is completely different from what I advocate and what we propose to the Security Council. What we need is a robust security force that works with the police, the Haitian police, to build enough muscle to be able to dismantle the gangs,” Guterres said. “But this force would not be accompanied by a political mission as is the case in peacekeeping operations. It would not essentially be a military force.

Yet nine months after backing the Haitian government’s request, Guterres acknowledged that there were still no countries offering to lead a deployment despite some like Jamaica expressing interest.

“I think now is the time to go the extra mile to have a country ready to be the core of the force,” he said. “We need a country with a robust security apparatus that allows the force to be really effective. This, in my opinion, is the problem that we have to solve. Once this problem is solved, I am optimistic that the Security Council will not create any obstacle to an operation like the one I mentioned.

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