strategies for a developing world…

Ambassador Rice: Haiti is at the Crossroads

susan riceHow many times have  you heard that Haiti was at the crossroads of opportunity and despair? Forget it: no answers need be provided. Far too many people have said it far too many times (including this writer), yet opportunities at these crossroads have come and gone. And Haiti has become worse, not better.

Outfitted with a new Administration that includes a significant number of officials sympathetic to Haiti,  the US government is poised to make another go of helping Haiti get on the path of socio-economic and political development. In her statement to the UN Security Council on Monday April 6, Ambassador Susan Rice said just as much. We have yet to see the specific proposals that the Obama Administration plans to put forward, but there’s no doubt there will be a good faith effort to provide as much support as Haiti can handle,  at least in the foreseeable future. Following is Ambassador Susan Rice’s statement to the UN Security Council.

Thank you very much, Mr. President. 

I want to begin by thanking the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Hedi Annabi, for his excellent leadership of MINUSTAH, and we want to welcome the Secretary-General’s March 6 report. And I also want to extend my thanks to Ambassador Merores, and we ask him to thank the Haitian leadership and the representatives of the Haitian private sector and civil society for the warm reception they extended to all of us during the Security Council’s visit last month. We are also particularly pleased that former President Clinton and the Secretary-General were also able to visit Haiti together, which brought additional helpful attention to the challenges and opportunities there.

Mr. President, we stand at an inflection point in Haiti—a moment of real opportunity but also one of real risk.

Let me start with some of the progress that we witnessed during our visit last month. The United States salutes the work and bravery of MINUSTAH. Thanks to its efforts and to the work of the Haitian people, progress has been made towards consolidating stability and security, including strengthening the Haitian National Police. MINUSTAH has achieved important gains in the area of security, and we hope that its accomplishments will provide a sound basis for progress in other critical areas.

MINUSTAH’s success is indeed an impressive story, but it is not the whole story. Much of Haiti’s progress remains fragile, especially after the terrible difficulties of the past year. Haiti continues to face extreme hardships in the wake of the 2008 food crisis, the hurricanes and storms that struck the country, and the ongoing global financial crisis.  All of these factors could yet imperil Haiti’s security and seriously exacerbate the poverty and privation that afflict the Haitian people. 

Especially in light of last year’s troubles, the United States is particularly encouraged by the progress Haiti has made towards achievement of four of the five benchmarks outlined by the Secretary-General—benchmarks that have helped this Council assess progress.  But we recognize that much more must still be done in key areas. 

Desperate poverty, malnutrition, lack of education, and other socioeconomic problems continue to bedevil Haiti.  We look forward to participating actively and generously in the April 14 Donors’ Conference on Haiti, to be hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington. This gathering will provide an opportunity for partners and the Government of Haiti to help address Haiti’s budget gap and move forward towards lasting recovery and development.

We welcome the plan that will be tabled by Prime Minister Pierre Louis, and we believe that forms a very important basis for enhancing that partnership. 

Haiti reminds us yet again that we should not view security and development as separate spheres. Indeed, they are inextricably linked. The absence of one will undermine the other. During our trip, my colleagues and I saw compelling evidence firsthand how poverty and unemployment, especially among Haiti’s young people, have created an environment conducive to potential civil unrest—one that could undo many of Haiti’s hard-won gains. The Secretary-General has correctly underscored the relationship between progress on security and progress in socioeconomic and development efforts. The United States could not agree more.

We are encouraged by the advances that have been made—with the help of MINUSTAH and the bilateral donors—in professionalizing the Haitian National Police, which is moving toward the goal of having 14,000 officers in its ranks by 2011.  More than 9,000 have already been trained and vetted, and nearly 500 new officers will graduate by the second half of this year. The US will continue to work with MINUSTAH to help expand the facilities at the national police academy and create specialized leadership training there. For Haiti to be secure, it will need its police forces to stand on their own. And it will need intensified efforts to reform the justice sector as a whole, to address prison overcrowding, and deepen and extend the rule of law throughout the country.

This is particularly true because of the ongoing scourge of drug trafficking, which harms Haiti and the region. My government believes that real progress must be made here, particularly through the continued professionalization of the Haitian National Police, other stabilization efforts, assistance from Haiti’s partners—including the United States—and initiatives to promote sustainable development. The United States will increase its support for the Haitian National Police’s counter-narcotics efforts, which will help expand law enforcement operations throughout the country. We look forward to continuing to work with Haitian law enforcement and MINUSTAH to tackle these serious challenges.

As part of our common efforts, we urge the Government of Haiti to take advantage of the benefits that the HOPE II legislation passed last year by the U.S. Congress can bring. As the Secretary-General has noted, HOPE II opens up “a huge window of opportunity” for Haitian access to U.S. markets. This program offers Haiti a crucial chance to move beyond assistance to genuine economic growth and, above all, to achieve the job creation that can fuel sustainable development.   

Mr. President, the United States congratulates Haitian leaders for their efforts to get their country back on its feet. We recognize the constructive political developments that have taken place since 2006, and we are particularly pleased that opposition leaders are free to express their views. The April 19 Senate elections mark one more step in Haiti’s democratic development. These elections must be free, fair, and inclusive. We thank MINUSTAH for its continued support of Haiti’s electoral process, and we urge the Government of Haiti to intensify its efforts to promote a political dialogue in which all voices can speak and be heard. 

Finally, my government remains firmly committed to MINUSTAH and to Haiti. We urge the Haitian leadership, the UN, troop-contributing countries, and other parties to deepen our common efforts to support this country in this fragile transition period.

As the Secretary-General rightly noted, Haiti stands at a crossroads—a turning point between risk and renewal. With continued effort from Haiti’s leaders, relentless determination of its remarkable people, and enhanced support from the international community, Haiti can move towards lasting security that will sustain itself, towards democracy that grows deeper roots, and towards economic progress for all. Haiti will ultimately choose its own way, but we must all do our part to help the Haitian people succeed.  

Thank you, Mr. President. 

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