Permanent Representative of Costa Rica plans Security Council Mission to Haiti

The Security Council would conduct its own mission to Haiti on March 11, immediately following Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit there with former United States President Bill Clinton from March 9 to 10, Jorge Urbina, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica, said Friday, March 6.

Speaking at a Headquarters press conference, Mr. Urbina said the nine-member mission would split into two groups, with one visiting Gonaïves, the town that suffered severe flood damage after four hurricanes ravaged the country last year. The second group would visit Fort-Liberté to assess progress on border management, including an initiative to develop a free-trade zone near the border with the Dominican Republic.

He said the Council had agreed on the dates for the mission before learning of the trip by the Secretary-General and Mr. Clinton, adding that it was intended as a follow-up to a late January visit by Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. The trip would allow the Council to fulfil its oversight of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), mandated by Security Council resolution 1840 (2008) to provide assistance in security-sector reform, border management, institutional support and good governance, elections, rule of law, human rights and economic and social development.

The mission was also designed to convey a strong message of support for the Haitian Government and people, and to promote the nation’s recovery from the effects of natural disasters in 2008. “By carrying out such an extensive programme, the Council wants to underline the importance of the mutual commitments made by the international community and Haiti.”

Once in Haiti, he said, meetings were planned with President René Préval, Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis, and ministers responsible for key Government departments, including public security, justice, planning, foreign affairs, public works, transport, agriculture, rural development and the interior. Meetings would also be held with representatives of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Since August 2008, Costa Rica had taken the lead on the Council’s involvement with Haiti’s reconstruction, which was a high priority for the Latin American and Caribbean region, he said. A donor conference would be held in Washington, DC, in April, and hopefully many countries would pledge, and disburse as soon as possible, additional aid for Haiti. “ Haiti has received a very important amount of money in the last few years, and somehow many programmes depend on this,” he added.

A correspondent, noting that a $108 million appeal launched by the United Nations was not fully funded, asked what the donor conference could reasonably expect in pledges.

“It is hard to say what we can expect,” Mr. Urbina replied, adding that he sensed a general slowdown in funding for humanitarian and development projects around the world. “We’re trying to raise awareness of the situation in Haiti and seeing if we can receive important support from Washington.”

Another goal of the mission was to review preparations for upcoming elections, he explained, noting that a meeting was scheduled with the High Representatives of the National Assembly and Senate, as well as leaders of the opposition. [One of the provisions of Security Council resolution 1840 (2008) stipulates that MINUSTAH will help provide logistical and security assistance for elections — originally slated for May 2008 — to fill a number of vacant Senate seats.]

Responding to a suggestion that MINUSTAH was experiencing a kind of “mission creep”, Mr. Urbina said the Security Council was due to re-examine its mandate “to find out what is important”. It was also essential to bolster the efforts of Haiti — disadvantaged by a lack of natural resources — to lay the foundation for a sustainable economy through security-sector reform, judicial reform and good governance.

“ Haiti has been for many years a weak State,” he said, asserting that no member of the international community, least of all the Latin American group of nations, “would like to see Haiti as a failed State”. Council members were known to have different opinions on the role of peacekeeping missions, and former Secretary-General Kofi Annan had once suggested that MINUSTAH would be needed for 20 years. “Those of us who know Haiti, we are aware that any effort in Haiti is a long-term effort.”

He went on to say that the Council would like to go further in its partnership with the national authorities and might soon hear from President Préval and Prime Minister Pierre-Louis regarding progress made on their end.

Responding to another query, he said he would raise the question of alleged sexual harassment by peacekeepers when he met with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Haiti and the Force Commander of MINUSTAH, and acknowledged that the country was plagued by AIDS in addition to sexual violence and abuse.

He concluded by noting that the situation in Haiti had been made more complex by its use as a “platform” for drug trafficking, which the international must address.

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