Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos chaired a UN Security Council meeting today, reportedly attended by representatives of 14 countries (including the foreign ministers of MINUSTAH members Argentina and Chile) and UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton, that focused on Haiti. According to Colombia Reports, Santos said:
"Think of what we could achieve if instead of having a high percentage of military personnel, the mission had more civilian personnel and more engineers to assist the removal of debris, a task which is starting to show significant progress thanks to the efforts of the Haitian authorities," the president said.
"If we have a United Nations operation in Haiti, why don't we use it to serve their immediate needs and begin to cement its transition towards development?" Santos continued.
"Today, the proliferation of organizations operating on this island without any coordination between themselves or the Haitian authorities, undermines any effort to strengthen the institutions of the country and they affect the ability to undertake long-term initiatives which means that their efforts do not lead to anything concrete."
"It does not help Haiti if the international community does not take into account the vision of the Haitians about their own problems. For this reason if the Haitian people accept the renewed support of the international community, we propose that it be based on a foundation that guarantees the effectiveness of our joint action," Santos added.
Colombia Reports reported that Santos “referred to the specific issues of housing, health, infrastructure, agriculture, education. road construction, water infrastructure and the strengthening of security institutions in Haiti as being the most pressing concerns.”
Santos’ remarks were echoed by Haitian President René Préval, who, according to the AP
told the council Wednesday that in 2006 he emphasized the need for U.N. tanks and soldiers to give way to bulldozers, engineers, more police instructors and judicial experts. But he said unfortunately he was not heard.
Preval urged the council to consider the effectiveness of its interventions that have led to a nearly 11-year military presence in Haiti, "a country that has no war."
Santos and Preval’s comments on MINUSTAH’s priorities follow signs of increasing support in Latin America for the mission’s closure, and the news that the Defense Council of South America (CDS), under the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), has decided to form a commission to decide MINUSTAH’s future, with the goal of formulating a resolution to be submitted to the UN by mid-June.
Presumptive president-elect Michel Martelly has spoken in favor of seeing the UN mission replaced by a reconstituted Haitian army, despite the army’s historic record of grave human rights abuses.
Clinton, meanwhile, was much more upbeat in his remarks at today’s meeting, praising the recent elections as a “cause of celebration,” saying that “Haiti is a small miracle of human nature,” and praising “Preval for helping the 'remarkable' progress since the magnitude-8 earthquake killed more than 230,000 people and left more than 1 million people homeless,” according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
DPA noted that
The international community in March 2010 pledged about 5 billion dollars for short-term reconstruction goals in Haiti. Clinton said 37 per cent of that amount had been disbursed. An interim commission for the reconstruction of Haiti has been handling financial matters.
The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which Clinton co-chairs, has been criticized by numerous Haitian and foreign NGO’s, grassroots groups, and others, for, among other things, “not engag[ing] meaningfully with Haitian stakeholders to ensure their participation in decision-making on housing policy,” and its slow progress on reconstruction. In December, Haitian members of the Commission openly protested what they described as their marginalization and lack of a “functional relationship” “between the Executive Secretary and the Haitian side of the council.”