By J. C. Suresh
NEW YORK (IDN) - “The objective of every peacekeeping mission is for the national authorities to take over the responsibilities to which the mission makes its contributions,” says Sandra Honoré of Trinidad and Tobago, who is Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Haiti and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission there, known as MINUSTAH, a position she assumed in July 2013.
MINUSTAH was authorized in the aftermath of the ouster of President Bertrand Aristide and augmented after the destruction of the 2010 earthquake that took some 220,000 lives including 96 UN peacekeepers. Following the completion of Presidential elections in 2011 that allowed the Government to take over its full role in coordinating recovery, MINUSTAH has been working to fulfil its original mandate to restore a secure and stable environment, to promote a functioning political process, to strengthen Haiti’s Government institutions and rule-of-law-structures and to promote and to protect human rights.
In an interview with the UN News Centre, Honoré ensured that progress was not endangered by the drawdown and eventual withdrawal of MINUSTAH in 2016. “We have been working with the Government and the Haitian National Police (HNP) with respect to building the capacity of the police, working for the professionalization of the police and increasing the numbers of police who are available to provide for security throughout the national territory.”
The police in Haiti were some 5,000 in number when MINUSTAH was established. That number has increased to 11,228 and, of these, 950 are women, she said, adding: “One of our goals is to increase the number of female police officers serving and we see that the Haitian National Police is on a definite path of improvement in its performance, the manner it acquits itself of its security responsibilities and our goal is to work with the HNP so that their number increases to a minimum of 15,000 by the year 2016, at which time additional work will still be required. When we consider that the population of Haiti is 10 million, 15,000 is the goal that we have set but the HNP will have to continue its development path.”
Excerpts from the interview follow.
State of the government
Honoré: There has been a long period of acute polarization in the politics of the country, a long period of stalemate between the executive and legislative branches. What was interesting about the inter-Haitian dialogue which took place between 24 January and 14 February this year was that, for the first time in the country’s recent political history, various currents of opinion were able to sit around the same table: the executive, the legislative and political parties to discuss a number of issues of critical importance to the country such as elections, such as an amendment to the constitution and also the question of governance.
That dialogue ended with the signing of an accord, the Accord of El Rancho, in which the participants agreed to the holding of one combined election in 2014 for two-thirds of the Senate, for the entire Chamber of Deputies and for the municipalities and territorial collectives – local elections. Elections for the municipalities have been delayed since 2011, the Senate is now function with two-thirds of its membership because the mandate of one third has already expired.
If elections are not held this year, this would mean that another third of the Senate would see its mandate come to an end, by January 2015. That would mean that the Parliament would be dysfunctional. The mandates of the Chamber of Deputies will end in October, and therefore the idea of one combined election to fill the Parliament and the municipalities was a very good idea. We look forward to the work that will be done by the electoral counsel, by the Government, to organize transparent and inclusive elections to fill these posts before the end of 2014.
Efforts to deal with the cholera outbreak
The UN country team in Haiti and MINUSTAH have worked with the Government since the outbreak of the epidemic in support of its efforts to eliminate cholera from Haiti. The overall incidence of the disease has now been reduced by half and fatality rates are now below one per cent, which is the alert threshold defined by the World Health Organization, globally. The persistence of cholera in Haiti is mainly due to the lack of accessibility of the population to clean water and to appropriate sanitation facilities.
The number of cases that we have seen since the outbreak in 2010, in 2011, for instance, 53 per cent of the total number were recorded, while in 2013 only six per cent of that large number of 680,000 cases since the outbreak. So what we are seeing is that there is in fact a drop in the number infections, a significant drop in the number of fatalities and, for the month of January 2014, we saw the lowest number of cases and cholera-related deaths since the beginning of the epidemic in October 2010. These results show that the strategy that the UN is employing in support of the efforts of the Government, focused on reducing the factors that will increase the spread during the dry season is in fact bearing fruit.
What Haiti can achieve before the departure of MINUSTAH in 2016
The best hopes have to do with the four areas on which the Mission is now concentrating in this phase of its consolidation. Those have to do with our work in support of the professionalization and modernization of the Haitian National Police, the strengthening of the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human rights, the strengthening of the national capacity for electoral management and the use of dialogue as a means of arriving at consensus, the use of consensus-building in the consideration of the critical issues which the country faces, the challenges which the country faces and the direction of the energies of the authorities and of the population as a whole toward the goal of the country for sustained economic development. [IDN-InDepthNews – April 29, 2014]
Photo: Sandra Honoré, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras