Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you Special Representative Fernandez for your briefing.
As Council members saw on our recent trip, and as the Secretary-General's report makes clear, Haiti stands at a moment of decision. In the two years since the earthquake, Haiti has made progress. Haitians have strengthened their democracy, maintained security, and begun rebuilding their shattered country. But serious problems remain, most notably a lack of Haitian political consensus and resolve. The achievements that have been made are fragile at best. The United States stands in solidarity with the Haitian people as they tackle the many challenges that face them. We have been, and will continue to be, firmly committed to helping Haiti build a better future.
Over the past two years, we have seen a peaceful electoral process and transfer of power, followed by the filling of key executive and judicial positions. Today, however, the political stalemate threatens these hard-won gains. Haiti’s politicians need to temper their partisan interests, put aside winner-take-all politics, and work together in a spirit of compromise.
We urge the authorities in Haiti to confirm a new prime minister as soon as possible. Otherwise, they risk undermining the gains made in security and reconstruction. Haiti cannot afford further gridlock. Effective Haitian leadership is critical. The economic and security programs supported by the United Nations and other external partners do not run themselves: they require policy guidance from a fully functioning Haitian government. Toward this end, the government needs to hold its next round of elections – for local government positions and one-third of the Senate – as soon as possible.
While the security situation has been largely stable, significant threats remain. The United States believes any determination of the future size of MINUSTAH forces must be based on security conditions on the ground, including the ability of the Haitian National Police (HNP) to take on greater responsibilities. That said, MINUSTAH cannot be a permanent solution to Haiti's security needs.
The Government of Haiti's next budget proposal to parliament provides a critical opportunity to commit the resources and demonstrate the political determination needed to strengthen the Haitian National Police so it has the right quality and quantity of personnel to assume full responsibility for Haiti's security. This is what Haitians have told us they want. We urge the parliament and executive branch to commit sufficient and lasting budgetary resources to the HNP – in particular, to strengthen the administrative and logistical systems that will enable the HNP to function on its own.
The international community, of course, is there to help. The United States urges the UN and the Haitian government to maintain their focus on strengthening the HNP. We hope that MINUSTAH and the HNP will work jointly to implement a development plan that bolsters the HNP's capacity to meet Haiti's law-enforcement needs and enables the gradual transfer of responsibility from UN forces to the HNP. UN training and police mentoring can deliver important results, and UN technical assistance can truly help the HNP to plan its future. The Government of Haiti announced an ambitious goal of training 2,000 new HNP officers this year. Close collaboration between the HNP and MINUSTAH is necessary to achieve this target.
Beyond the HNP, we encourage the Government of Haiti and the United Nations to collaborate in strengthening other rule-of-law institutions, including courts and prisons. We urge the UN to work collaboratively with the Haiti Presidential Commission on the Rule of Law to present the updated criminal code and criminal procedure codes to Parliament. These updated codes will help address the issue of prolonged pre-trial detention and reduce corruption in the legal system.
As we saw ourselves, prison overcrowding remains a grave problem, one where MINUSTAH and Government of Haiti collaboration can yield real benefits. Haiti and its international partners have built a new prison at Croix de Bouquet, but the prison is unutilized because the Haitian Government has avoided some key decisions that would enable the prison to open.
Turning to economic development, we applaud the government's desire to shift Haiti away from dependence on international assistance to reliance on investment to create jobs and spark sustainable economic growth. But for now, political friction and weak rule-of-law institutions may in fact deter investors from coming to Haiti. The executive branch needs to fulfill its commitment to reduce the time it takes to register a business and to ease the processes for obtaining permits in the construction industry. Both would help empower Haitian entrepreneurs. Getting these reforms through parliament would send a clear signal that Haiti is indeed open for business and determined to create jobs.
The government of Haiti needs to set clear reconstruction and development priorities and work more actively with donors. When the mandate for the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission ended, the prime minister’s office became the focal point for working with international donors on post-earthquake reconstruction and creating economic opportunities. That office, of course, is now in the hands of a caretaker, and the reconstruction effort risks losing direction.
Let me close with a few words about MINUSTAH. The United States greatly appreciates the dedicated service of the men and women of MINUSTAH. They perform important services under difficult conditions. However, we are and remain deeply concerned by serious accusations that some MINUSTAH personnel have engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse. Any occurrence of such misconduct is absolutely unacceptable. It violates the principles of this organization and destroys the bonds of trust between Haitians and the United Nations. The UN must increase its efforts to prevent any incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse. It must ensure that all allegations are thoroughly investigated and those responsible are held fully and transparently accountable.
When this Council visited Haiti, many Haitians told us of their appreciation for all that MINUSTAH has done over the years to improve the country’s security. The United States shares this gratitude and will continue to support MINUSTAH, its troop and police contributors, and its Haitian partners in this crucial work.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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