United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Ms Philippa King, Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you, Madame President. We thank Special Representative Sandra Honoré for her briefing on the situation in Haiti, and we also welcome to the Council His Excellency the Permament Representative of Haiti.
We recently had the opportunity to engage directly with MINUSTAH personnel on the ground in Haiti and see first hand the work being done by the Mission. We recognise their unwavering commitment to the stability and reconstruction of the country.
Of the four stabilisation benchmarks of MINUSTAH’s consolidation plan (2013-2016), we would particularly like to welcome the progress being made in strengthening the capacity of the Haitian National Police, which is increasingly visible and proactive, resulting in a decrease of all major crime indices over the last year. While the Haitian National Police is on track to meet its target of 15,000 officers by 2016, we would encourage greater efforts to recruit female cadets, and we look forward to the continued implementation of community-orientated policing strategies and strengthened resourcing and reform to support a professional and autonomous force. We commend the establishment of the Sexual and Gender Based Violence Specialised Team by the UN Police, with the assistance of the governments of Norway and Canada, which is working with the Haitian National Police to support investigations and build capacity to address these very serious crimes.
Despite these improvements, progress in the Rule of Law is lagging behind, and this could jeopardise progress in other areas. The Government of Haiti must remain committed to strengthening the rule of law and promoting the independence of the judiciary. We remain extremely concerned about prison overcrowding and prolonged pre-trial detention periods. The fact that many of those arrested face years of incarceration before their case is heard is unacceptable. We urge MINUSTAH to redouble its efforts in working with the Government of Haiti to implement effective strategies urgently to address management of pre-trial detention and prison sentences, investigative expertise and legislative reform through the adoption of draft Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes.
In regards to other human rights issues, we acknowledge the positive and constructive steps the Government of Haiti has taken recently, including its ratification of some important international human rights instruments. And notably in December, the Haitian Office of the Ombudsperson was internationally accredited as a National Human Rights Institution and the Inter-Ministerial Commission on Human Rights became operational during the period. These are important developments.
While there has been some improvement in the humanitarian situation, the people of Haiti continue to face numerous challenges. Continued food insecurity and increases in child malnutrition rates are very concerning. They are exacerbated by the ongoing drought in the northwest of the country and we commend the efforts of the World Food Program, which has commenced food distribution to those affected.
It remains a matter of great concern that long overdue local, municipal and partial senatorial elections have not been held. Since the Council last discussed Haiti in September, some much needed steps towards the holding of long overdue elections have been taken. The enacting of an Electoral Act, ensuring that Parliament will continue to operate throughout 2014, and the Political Parties Act are both very welcome. The recent National Dialogue process between the Executive, Parliament and political parties mediated by the Episcopal Conference demonstrated the commitment and determination of political leaders, and we welcome the signing of the ‘El Rancho’ agreement which should pave the way for the planning of elections this year. While such breakthroughs are encouraging it is essential that all political leaders continue to work towards consensus to hold elections in 2014, and for MINUSTAH to continue to provide the electoral assistance and logistical support for those elections.
We welcome the options presented by the Secretary-General for the UN’s future engagement in Haiti post-2016. The considerable progress made in the stabilisation of Haiti since MINUSTAH’s initial deployment in 2004 leads us to consider that it is time for this Council to give MINUSTAH’s transition some thoughtful consideration. We remain open to an accelerated transition to a new United Nations configuration in Haiti, while cautioning that it needs to be carefully calibrated to the situation on the ground. Haiti remains fragile in many areas and we must be sure to preserve and sustain the gains that have been made. We look forward to receiving the Strategic Assessment forshadowed in the Secretary-General’s report and recommendations on the most appropriate option for the UN’s future engagement in Haiti.