Ambassador Rice on U.N. Security Council’s Mission to Haiti

USUN Press Release
February 28, 2012

Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the Security Council Mission to Haiti.

Let me begin this report on the Council’s trip to Haiti by thanking the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mariano Fernandez, the MINUSTAH team, and the government of Haiti for welcoming us and facilitating our visit. This trip, the Security Council’s first to the country in three years, was undertaken to examine the security situation, review post-quake reconstruction efforts, and assess the consolidation of democracy. We saw firsthand Haiti’s important progress since the tragic earthquake of January 2010. We also saw a disturbing level of political infighting in a country that can ill afford it. Throughout our trip, we reiterated the international community’s solidarity with Haitians as they tackle these challenges.

In Port-au-Prince, we heard President Martelly and then Prime Minister Conille outline their respective visions, including for promoting development by attracting foreign investment and creating jobs. We gained some insights into the government’s ideas for rebuilding Haiti’s devastated infrastructure and strengthening health care. Our interlocutors underscored that development efforts are a critical part of ensuring Haiti’s long-term stability.

President Martelly told us that he wants to create a second security force, with responsibilities that could include border security, environmental protection, and disaster response. Council members questioned this course of action and emphasized instead the importance of completing the reform and strengthening of the Haitian National Police (HNP) so it can assume full responsibility for the country’s security.

Members of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies shared with us very frank and sometimes critical views about the slow progress of international support, alleged sexual abuse by MINUSTAH personnel, cholera, and what the legislators saw as the failings of Haiti’s executive branch.

On the first full day, MINUSTAH officials briefed us on plans underway to reduce the mission’s military component in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2012 and to put greater responsibility on UN police and their Haitian counterparts. Later, we traveled to Miragoane, from which MINUSTAH has already withdrawn military forces. There we saw a demonstration of how a MINUSTAH police unit from Bangladesh was supporting the Haitian National Police in crowd control and other security operations.

From Miragoane the Council traveled to Leogane, the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake. We met the leaders of a Korean company of MINUSTAH engineers, whose work included rebuilding roads and other infrastructure necessary for MINUSTAH’s operations and installation of solar-powered lights in nearby displaced-persons camps to help increase security. We also visited the site of an NGO-led project constructing houses for people who lost theirs in the earthquake. The MINUSTAH engineers were working there to strengthen local capacity by training Haitians in construction and basic engineering.

We met representatives of the Haitian private sector and civil society as well as members of the diplomatic corps at a reception at the end of our first full day. We heard a range of views regarding the challenges that face Haiti and the role of the international community in supporting the country.

On our second full day, the Council traveled to Cap Haitien in the north to examine how rule-of-law institutions function at the local level. We visited a typical, severely overcrowded prison and a judicial tribunal plainly unable to cope with the demands it faces. These visits were stark reminders of the enormous challenges in strengthening the judicial system in Haiti.

We toured Caracol, also in the north, where Haitians and international partners are starting to construct the first major industrial development since the earthquake — the Caracol Industrial Park. The project is set to open later this year and Sae-A Trading Co., a leading Korean garment manufacturer, has already committed to invest in an operation there. Once up and running, the park could create up to 60,000 new jobs when it is completed.

On returning to Port-au-Prince, we visited the Delmas 33 Police Station, where we saw how the simple act of co-locating UN and Haitian police can enable mentoring, training and the transfer of key skills.

We began our final day with a visit to the Haitian National Police academy in Port-au-Prince, where we were briefed about efforts to increase the numbers of HNP personnel, bring more women into the force, investigate officers accused of corruption or human-rights violations, and build skills for combating drug trafficking and sexual and gender-based violence.

In the Carredeux IDP camp, Council members visited tent homes and witnessed the difficult conditions that face Haitians still living in camps – nearly half a million people. UN police and camp leaders briefed us on efforts to protect women and other vulnerable groups from sexual and other violence. We also visited one of only two cholera treatment centers in the capital, where Haitian and international partners are working to slow the spread of the disease and treat those stricken by it.

We met over lunch with members of women’s organizations, religious groups, non-governmental organizations, youth leaders, and other civil society leaders. They shared with us Haitians’ deep desire to see their country stand on its own and rely less on international support.

Mr. President and fellow Council members, many Haitians shared with us serious concerns about the bitter disputes that divide Haiti’s political leaders, both within and between the executive and legislative branches of government. Ordinary Haitians told us they want their elected leaders to put aside winner-take-all politics and work together in a spirit of compromise to solve the nation’s problems. Moving forward with elections for local officials and one-third of the Senate is a critical part of this process.

The Council saw that Haiti’s enormous challenges require the coordinated efforts of all stakeholders — most importantly the Haitian government and civil society, but also the civilian and military elements of MINUSTAH, other parts of the UN system, donor governments, and local and international NGOs. These efforts are critical to realizing the government’s goals of attracting investment and creating jobs.

This trip gave us the opportunity to see the dedicated work that the men and women of MINUSTAH perform under very difficult conditions. Many Haitians acknowledged that MINUSTAH plays a necessary role maintaining security and stability. However, they also shared a desire to see the mission eventually leave, with strengthened Haitian institutions taking on its responsibilities. The cholera epidemic and allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by some mission personnel have badly eroded support for MINUSTAH and undermine its work. We are deeply troubled by these allegations, and expect the United Nations to redouble its efforts to prevent any further incidents of this kind and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.

Haitians and the United Nations mission have endured much together, and accomplished much, in the two years since the earthquake. With continued dedication and hard work, they can yet build a better future for Haiti.

Thank you, Mr. President.