Despite progress since quake, Haiti still threatened by unrest, Ban warns

8 September 2010

Eight months after the catastrophic earthquake, Haiti has fended off a second-wave disaster of epidemics and unrest, but the impoverished nation’s political, social and economic situation will remain fragile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report.

“It is to the great credit of the Haitian people that large-scale disturbances have so far been avoided despite the extremely harsh and precarious conditions of so many,” he writes in the report to the Security Council made public today.

The Haitian Government estimates that 1.3 million people are still uprooted following the devastating January earthquake. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands will still be in camps or improvised shelters over the coming year.

The Secretary-General cautions that the potential for social unrest exists, underscoring that debris removal and advancing reconstruction efforts is imperative.

“Haiti is now entering a period of change which will be critical to its future stability. The most immediate challenge, besides reconstruction, is the organization of presidential and legislative elections,” he notes.

Those polls, set to take place on 28 November, must be credible and legitimate so that they usher in a president and government “with a clear and uncontested mandate” to lead the reconstruction process, Mr. Ban writes, voicing hope that many Haitians will cast their ballot in the elections.

“Political stability will be essential for recovery and the resumption of socio-economic development,” he stresses, urging the international community to deliver on its commitments to support the polls.

For its part, the United Nations peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSTAH, will continue its support, including in the potentially volatile post-election period.

Other important political tasks, the Secretary-General points out, include completing the constitutional reform process initiated by President René Préval’s Government, which seeks to simplify the electoral cycle and boost the diaspora’s economic participation.

He also cites the need to resettle those displaced by the quake, underscoring the need for decisive leadership to resolve complex issues related to land, property and rental rights.

“A balance will also need to be struck between the provision of essential services for the displaced population, and the need to encourage camp residents to return to their communities and neighbourhoods of origin,” the report says.

“Even before 12 January, a significant number of the displaced were living in conditions comparable to, and in many cases worse than, those in the camps,” it notes.

Therefore, Mr. Ban says, there must be incentives for returns through the provision of adequate shelter and basic services, as well as the establishment of a protective environment, especially for women and children.

“With over a million displaced currently living in makeshift conditions, and the risk of transitional shelters evolving into a ‘new generation’ of slums, there is a continuing need for a clear, considered and comprehensive strategy for the resettlement of earthquake victims and the urban poor,” he writes.

The new publication also highlights the importance of donors and others maintaining their support for Haiti, even as media interest in the country wanes.

“Rebuilding Haiti will be a long-term project,” the Secretary-General underscores. “It will require decisive leadership on the part of the Government of Haiti, with the sustained support of the international community.”

 

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