Statement by Ambassador Alejandro D. Wolff, U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations, on Haiti, at the Security Council Stakeout

Alejandro Wolff
Deputy Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
January 18, 2010


Ambassador Wolff: Good morning. We had a very good session on Haiti in consultations, where the Secretary-General briefed on the situation on the ground. As you know, he just returned from a visit there yesterday. He gave us a poignant account of the suffering he saw, the devastation and the needs, including needs to beef up the numbers of police and military units under MINUSTAH, something that the Council members all supported. We expect to have a Resolution, which the United States has drafted and circulated, adopted hopefully tomorrow morning.

Again, we all expressed our deep condolences for the loss of life. In particular in this instance the loss of senior leadership of the UN operations there - Special Representative Hedi Annabi, Special Representative da Costa, and Police Commissioner Coates - as well as
others who have perished doing their duty working for the people of Haiti.

As you know, President Obama has declared this a top priority for the United States and we are contributing daily in our effort to assist the Haitian population though humanitarian assistance.  We have forces on the ground and we have assets in the area to help delver the assistance that is necessary. We are in this for the long haul; this is not just a
short term effort. We are committed to the Government of Haiti and to the Haitian people, and we will remain with them steadfast at their side as they try to rebuild their country and reestablish the stability and prosperity that we all hope for them.

Reporter: Ambassador, can you give us any indication whether it is clear where these 3500 police and troops are going to come from? Is there any possibility that maybe the US will contribute to this force? And also, if you can, discuss whether there are initial discussions about the mandate, whether it needs to be more robust. What does the United States think about that?

Ambassador Wolff: As to your first question regarding where the police and troops are coming from - the Secretary-General and DPKO, Under Secretary-General Le Roy, briefed us on this. They already have been in touch with a number of countries, and I would direct you to them because they have more of the details here. They are looking of course for
formed units that are self sustainable. There are offers already on the table. I will leave it to them to describe what those are, both on the police front and on the military front. We are hopeful that on the numbers that we are adding to the existing ceilings - they are seeking up to 2000 military and up to 1500 additional police units, police personnel - that we would have sufficient offers from the region and beyond, and I think those will be forthcoming.

As to the mandate question, again, we are focused now on the urgent humanitarian situation, the need for reconstruction and stability on the ground. Obviously after a calamity of this proportion the circumstances in the country change, and we'll need to evaluate the best posture and role for the UN presence under MINUSTAH over the medium and longer terms.  That's something we will continue to keep an eye on.

Reporter: (inaudible) is that a possibility as part of the new police and troops that the SG is asking for?

Ambassador Wolff: We will be looking for the Secretary-General's detailed requirements on this. If there are opportunities for us to contribute in a way that facilitates MINUSTAH's role, we are obviously prepared to consider those. As you know, we already have liaison units on the ground and we are prepared to secund personnel if needed. Time will tell whether those are required. You know, we have a large presence there already.  We are in close coordination and cooperation with the UN and with the Government of Haiti. We are doing our role.

Reporter: Follow up on that: Someone said on this idea of strengthening the mandate that the U.S. had a concern that this would send a message somehow that the Government of Haiti was too weak. I just want to know whether you think there is a danger in that type of message being sent. And also whether the U.S. will be participating in the UN's Flash Appeal that was announced on Friday, whether the $100 million announced by President Obama in any way is related to that or should be counted towards that.

Ambassador Wolff: I'll get back to you on the later question, I want to make sure I have the right information for you, exactly how that $100 million fits into that, into the Flash Appeal. 

As to the mandate issue, there is no indication, indeed neither the Secretary-General nor Undersecretary-General Le Roy mentioned any deficiency in the current mandate. And so, if the UN is satisfied and the troop contributors are satisfied and the force commander is satisfied then we should focus on what we need to do under the current mandate. Of course, as you indicate, we will need to look and evaluate over the longer term, as we assess the long term impact of this tragedy on the country and on the UN's ability to function, and whether the requirements for the UN have to be adapted in any way.  That is something that we do with any mandate and we will obviously do it with particular attention in this case.

Reporter: Ambassador, I can understand the UN recruiting more police, but why does the UN in the short run need more soldiers considering how many we're sending there, it's like a solider in every street in Port-au-Prince in the next month?

Ambassador Wolff: Well, I would refer you to the UN to give you the detailed account.  But their explanation to us, which all members supported, is that of course there are going to be humanitarian corridors that have to be secured, as you heard before there have been some indications of some minor incidents of looting, so there are security requirements that are needed and many countries don't have the national legislative authorities to deploy troops unless they are under UN command and control. As far as the US is concerned, of course we are there at the request of the Government of Haiti, and in close coordination and cooperation with that government and with the UN.

Reporter: Ambassador, is there any plan for the troops that are already there to stay, you say we are in it for the long haul, to stay longer? How much longer, and will any of this be under the flag of MINUSTAH, as Colum asked before?

Ambassador Wolff: I think we need to look at this in perspective. There is an immediate, urgent humanitarian tragedy that has to be dealt with. We are there to lend our support and assistance in that effort.  It is a support that we do not only as a government but the American people as a whole have shown their generosity on this.  So the support and contributions are large and we hope ongoing. The role we will be playing, of course, will also have to be evaluated over time, in terms of what needs are, whether there are other resources that can fulfill those needs. The objective, of course is to get the Haitian Government and the Haitian authorities to resume their role as quickly as possible.

And we will be evaluating the nature of our presence in conjunction with the UN and the Government of Haiti and making our decision accordingly.

Reporter:  (inaudible) elections in February? Is that still (inaudible)?

Ambassador Wolff: We didn't discuss that today and I am sure it is one of the issues we will be following closely.

Reporter: Aristide has made an offer to come back and there are people who have indicated some desire to have that happen.  Is there an effort to have some kind of political activity so it is a government that is more inclusive?

Ambassador Wolff: We have an elected government, Haiti, under a President and Prime Minister and we respect and support that government.

Thank you.


PRN: 2010/008