What's In Blue

Dispatches from Haiti: A Wrap-Up of the Council Visit

Port-au-Prince: The Council mission to Haiti yesterday wrapped up its visit with a press conference at the airport in Port-au-Prince. Speaking on behalf of the Council delegation, Ambassador Susan Rice (United States) summarised some of the main impressions from the trip. She highlighted the continuing challenges in building rule of law institutions and the importance of further developing the capacity of the Haitian National Police (HNP), as well as the benefits of co-location with UN police. Ambassador Rice also emphasised the still difficult humanitarian situation and the prevalence of sexual violence in Haiti, as well as the need to create opportunities for economic development.

Rice also emphasised that the different branches of government needed to rise above protecting their own interests and work together for the future of Haiti. Addressing the allegations of sexual misconduct against the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), she said the Council took these very seriously and while encouraged by the UN’s response so far, the allegations must be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

Earlier Thurday the Council delegation toured the facilities of the police academy in Port-au-Prince. Council members received briefings on MINSUTAH’s work in supporting the development and training of the HNP and some estimated timelines for it to reach self-sufficiency. This supplemented the previous day’s visit to a police station in Port-au-Prince where the delegation saw another example of the benefits of close cooperation between UN police and HNP in day-to-day operations.

Yesterday the Council delegation also went to the Carradeux camp for internally displaced persons in the capital, which is one of seven camps in Haiti with a permanent MINUSTAH presence. Council members were able to walk around the camp and talk to some of the 10,000 people living there. They also met with MINUSTAH’s gender unit. The programme ended with a visit to a privately run cholera treatment centre.

Impact on Council members
The trip seems to have confirmed the doubts some Council members have over whether peacekeeping is what is most needed in Haiti right now. While they acknowledge that the work MINUSTAH is doing is important, they believe some of it, such as the reconstruction work, should now be left to others in the UN who are better equipped to perform such tasks. At the same time, Council members seem to have come away with the impression that the situation in Haiti is still very fragile. In particular, the visit appears to have deepened their concerns about Haiti’s political stability given the lack of political cohesiveness between the president, the parliament and the prime minister.

It appears that Council members also found it particularly useful to get a better understanding of the challenges involved in building the capacity of the HNP and the crucial importance of this work as a condition for a further drawdown of MINUSTAH. (In resolution 2012, the Council extended the mission’s mandate last year until 15 October 2012, “with the intention of further renewal.”) The presentations on the positive impact of the close cooperation between UN police and HNP seem to have influenced Council members’ thinking on the future of MINUSTAH and are likely to be something they will keep in mind when deciding on its future size and composition with regard to military versus police personnel.

It seems some Council members had hoped to get more clarity on when the HNP could be expected to reach the capacity considered necessary for it to handle security without international support. However, it appears they came away from the trip with the feeling that there is still considerable uncertainty on this and differing views among various interlocutors. . The absence of a shared understanding of the way forward seems to have caused some concern and it is possible that this issue will be pursued further in future discussions on MINUSTAH.

Rice is expected to brief the Council on 28 February on the visit. Council members will also have an opportunity to present their views on Haiti during a debate on the Secretary-General’s report on Haiti which is due in early March.

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