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Sunday, March 22, 2015

U.S. WELCOMES PROGRESS IN HAITI

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
New York, NY
March 18, 2015
AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President, thank you, Special Representative Honoré, for your briefing and your leadership. And thank you to all the dedicated men and women serving in MINUSTAH, who are working with you to build a more secure and stable Haiti.

The United States welcomes the recent progress Haiti has made toward holding elections this year, including the promulgation of an electoral decree on March 2 drafted by a new electoral council drawn from civil society, and that council’s subsequent announcement of voting dates. While we commend President Martelly’s efforts to promote an inclusive political process, including by forming a multiparty government, the health of Haiti’s democracy depends on restoring a functioning legislature without further delay. That is why it is so important that elections take place this year as planned, and that the government continue to use its extraordinary decree powers solely to administer elections and keep the state running. We also call upon all of Haiti’s political leaders and parties to participate in elections and to ensure an atmosphere of peace so that all eligible Haitians who wish to vote can do so without fear for their safety.

With the electoral decree in place and election dates set, urgent attention to preparing for and organizing the polls is required, to ensure elections that are free, fair, credible, and inclusive. Continued inclusive political dialogue and preparations for elections that are transparent and ensure a level playing field will be required to sustain the generally stable security situation that the Secretary-General has reported.

While MINUSTAH and the rest of the international community, including my government, stand ready to support the administration of the elections, ultimately the responsibility for ensuring their success lies with Haitians: the Haitian government, the electoral council, the political parties, and the Haitian people themselves.

The level of support provided by MINUSTAH, particularly its engineering battalions, for elections in 2010 and 2011 were part of the package of extraordinary measures that the international community took to help Haiti recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake, not an enduring precedent for elections this year or in the future. We join the Secretary-General’s call on the government to ensure the electoral council and other state institutions have adequate resources to administer elections in a manner that reflects Haitians’ increased assumption of a responsibility so central to the exercise of sovereignty. The United States will do our part in support.

Successful elections will require robust international support, of course, including from MINUSTAH. MINUSTAH should without delay catalogue the functions played in the last elections by each of its respective components, including the funds and programs. It should identify any of those critical functions each component will not be able to carry out in 2015. And it should work urgently across the UN system and with the electoral council, donors, Haitian and international civil society actors, and the government of Haiti to ensure that those functions are carried out effectively during this year’s elections. MINUSTAH also should work closely with the electoral council to identify any elements of Haiti’s election planning, including the number and location of polling centers, that may make the process more vulnerable to violence or manipulation, and to develop and implement corrective measures transparently and in consultation with Haitian political actors. The 2015 elections will not be Haiti’s last; it is important to use each electoral cycle to improve Haiti’s electoral system and to make it more sustainable.

We note the generally stable security situation that the Secretary-General reported. This comes amid the continued growth and professionalization of the Haitian National Police, to which donors and MINUSTAH should continue to offer maximum support. The Haitian National Police needs to continue to grow in size and capability. But while we were in Haiti, we heard that every trained Haitian National Policeman or woman is worth ten international police. Moreover, even with the reported increase in crime and gang-related violence, Haiti’s homicide rate remains well below the regional average. Incidents of violent unrest during the reporting period totaled only 215 events. In most of these cases, the HNP required no operational support from any MINUSTAH forces to manage the situation, and in only 16 percent of all incidents of violent unrest nationwide did the HNP require some level of operational support from MINUSTAH’s military forces.

Most of those incidents took place in close proximity to the three locations where the military component will be based following MINUSTAH’s reconfiguration. When support from the military component is required elsewhere in the country going forward, it will be available thanks to the mobility that the reconfigured Mission will have. The overall security situation in the six departments where MINUSTAH military no longer reside remains stable in this reporting period.

MINUSTAH continues to be an essential hedge against the risk of any future deterioration in security conditions. And the United Stated strongly supports a push by the UN, backed by member states, to ensure the dispatch of an additional three hundred international police forces to Haiti, as authorized but not yet deployed. We also support adding without delay medium-lift helicopters to MINUSTAH’s aviation component, which will make the Mission’s forces more quickly deployable in large numbers to any location in the country in the event of a different scale of unrest than we have seen so far. We also support the Secretary-General’s call, echoed here today by the Special Representative, to ensure maximum visibility of MINUSTAH’s forces, an objective well-served by ensuring the Mission’s leaders retain the flexibility to redistribute their forces as necessary to respond to evolving security conditions.

2015 poses extraordinary challenges for Haiti, but also extraordinary opportunities. An opportunity to break from past electoral cycles marred by fraud and disenfranchisement, and the violence that both have historically engendered. An opportunity for Haiti’s political parties to put aside their differences and cooperate to ensure elections that place Haiti’s democracy on sounder footing. An opportunity to adopt more sustainable elections architecture. An opportunity for Haitians to take a giant step forward toward sustained political stability and self-sufficiency. As they seize these opportunities, the government and people of Haiti can continue to count on the utmost support of the United States. Thank you.