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Haiti: UN envoy hails ‘unprecedented’ political progress as key step ahead of elections

Special Representative and Head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) Sandra Honoré.
UN Photo/JC McIlwaine
Special Representative and Head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) Sandra Honoré.

Haiti: UN envoy hails ‘unprecedented’ political progress as key step ahead of elections

Following a recent agreement on an inter-Haitian dialogue, the long-troubled country is at a turning point where progress on peace, security and stability must be sustained through the consolidation of the democratic process, the rule of law, good governance and better support for the needs of the population, the top United Nations official in Haiti told the Security Council today.

“Dialogue as means of agreement is a victory for Haiti,” said Sandra Honoré, head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), as she hailed as an “unprecedented step in Haitian political history,” the launch of a dialogue among the Executive, the Parliament and political parties to discuss democratic governance, elections and amendment of the Constitution.

She told the Council that the resulting El Rancho Accord was formally signed on 14 March and stipulates that one election will be held this year, combining the long-delayed local, municipal and partial senatorial elections with those foreseen for the end of 2014, for a second third of the Senate, and the entire Chamber of Deputies.

In addition, key provisions to be implemented within a ten-day timeframe are: amendment of the Electoral Law to confer the appropriate mandate upon the electoral council; replacement of up to one member of the electoral council by each of the three powers of the State; and a cabinet reshuffle to include individuals drawn from interested political parties.

“The long-awaited adoption and promulgation of the Electoral Law in December 2013, along with the March 14th Accord emanating from the inter-Haitian dialogue, have prepared a path toward inclusive and transparent elections to be held later this year – a sine qua non for the continuous functioning of Parliament in January 2015,” she said.

Ms. Honoré said it is now of critical importance that the provisions of the Accord, including the amendment of the Electoral Law, be implemented in a timely manner by the Haitian authorities. “To this end, MINUSTAH along with members of the international community represented in Haiti, are engaging Haiti’s key political actors,” she added.

She went on to note that the overall security situation has remained relatively stable, including in the five departments vacated by MINUSTAH’s military component. She cautioned that when the capacity of the national police was put to severe test, operational support by MINUSTAH peacekeepers was necessary, and stressed that “the further strengthening of the Haitian national police remains critical.”

As for the economic situation, Ms. Honoré said there is reason for “cautious optimism and renewed hope” because of Haiti’s economic growth rate last year of 4.3 per cent, which will provide the Government with an important building block for more sustainable and equitable development. While citing gains in post-earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation, she said the Government had a humanitarian imperative to close the remaining temporary camps and find durable housing solutions for those that had been displaced.

“While the number of suspected cholera cases has been reduced significantly every year from 352,033 cases in 2011 to 58,608 cases in 2013, more needs to be done since Haiti still has the highest number of cholera cases in the world,” she continued, adding that delivering and sustaining better health requires an urgent, scaled up effort to combat the disease and address decades of under-investment in basic systems for safe water, hygiene, sanitation and healthcare.

Ms. Honoré said that the UN system in Haiti has developed a two-year, $68 million initiative in support of the Government’ s 10-year National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera. In addition, the UN and the Haitian Government are finalizing the creation of a high-level committee that will oversee the coordinated implementation of the cholera response measures as contained in the National Plan.

Finally, she emphasized that the gains made in the stabilization of Haiti should be preserved. She also underlined the importance for the Government of Haiti, with the support of MINUSTAH, to continue to make progress in the areas of police development, electoral capacity building, rule of law and human rights, and on key governance issues.