U.N. extends Haiti political mission after US-China dispute

Haiti has been contending with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July, an earthquake that killed over 2,200 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes, and escalating gang-related killings, kidnappings and turf wars.

October 16, 2021 01:29 pm | Updated 01:35 pm IST - UNITED NATIONS

In this August 22, 2021 file photo, earthquake victims reach for water being handed out during a food distribution in the Picot neighborhood in Les Cayes, Haiti, eight days after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the area.

In this August 22, 2021 file photo, earthquake victims reach for water being handed out during a food distribution in the Picot neighborhood in Les Cayes, Haiti, eight days after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the area.

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Friday evening to extend the U.N. political mission in Haiti after a dispute between China which has no diplomatic relations with Latin America’s poorest country and many other members who stressed on the importance of the long-term presence of the United Nations in the crisis-wracked nation.

In a compromise just hours before the mission’s mandate ends at midnight Friday, the United States and Mexico, who drafted the council resolution, reached agreement with China to extend it for nine months -- less than the year Washington wanted and more than the six months Beijing was seeking.

That averted a threatened Chinese veto of the resolution and led to the 15-0 vote approving the measure, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations were private.

China’s anger at Haiti

The diplomats said the reason behind China’s down-to-the-wire action is Beijing’s anger at Haiti for maintaining diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Haiti is one of just 15 countries -- and the second largest in population -- that continue to recognize self-ruling democratic Taiwan which China claims as part of its own territory.

The future of Taiwan has increasingly become a potential powder keg, with Beijing recently sending a record number of military aircraft to harass the island over China’s National Day holiday.

Situation in Haiti

Haiti has been contending with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that killed over 2,200 people and damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes in August, and escalating gang-related killings, kidnappings and turf wars.

Last month, the U.S. border patrol agents’ treatment of Haitian migrants massed at the southern U.S. border sparked outrage.

The Security Council condemned Mr. Moise's assassination “in the strongest terms" and urged the government to hold the perpetrators accountable. The resolution also expressed deep concern at the devastating effects of the earthquake and tropical storm Grace two days later.

Last week, Haiti’s top diplomat implored the Security Council for help tackling gang violence and crime, saying the U.N. political mission needs to pivot toward strengthening security and law enforcement institution.

“It’s vital to take account of the new realities that the country is facing and that the mandate is adjusted accordingly,” Foreign Minister Claude Joseph told the council.

The new U.N. resolution

The resolution adopted Friday asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to conduct as assessment of the mandate of the political mission within six months, including whether and how it should be adjusted to address Haiti’s ongoing challenges.

It extends the political mission, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti known as BINUH, until July 15, 2022 but makes no change in its original mandate adopted in June 2019.

It authorizes the political mission to advise Haiti’s government “in promoting and strengthening political stability and good governance,” including promoting the rule of law, supporting an inclusive national dialogue and protecting and promoting human rights.

In Friday's resolution, the council noted “with deep concern the acute political, economic, security, and humanitarian crisis in Haiti and reaffirming the commitment of the international community to continue to support the people of Haiti."

It underlined the importance of addressing the recent rise in gang violence and its roots.

The resolution urges all Haitian parties “to commit to an inclusive inter-Haitian national dialogue to address longstanding drivers of instability” and to create a framework for free and fair presidential and legislative elections “as soon as technically feasible.”

It also encourages cooperation between BINUH, other U.N. officials, regional organizations and international financial institutions to help Haiti achieve long-term stability, development and economic self-sufficiency.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun made no mention of Taiwan in a brief speech after the vote, instead urging the Haitian government and political leaders to put the interests of the country and its people first and “halt any power struggles ... and work together to bring the country out of chaos and put it on the path of orderly development.”

He said China was “a responsible and constructive participant” in discussions on the resolution and pressed for the secretary-general’s assessment.

He also underscored “that ultimately, Haiti cannot achieve stability and development without self-reliance.”

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield alluded to the dispute, telling the council that by renewing the BINUH mandate, the Security Council has “helped to ensure the U.N. can continue its vital efforts to support democratic institutions and planning for elections, strengthen the rule of law, and promote stability.”

Calling BINUH’s role “both advisory and essential,” she said: “Let me be clear: now is not the time for the Security Council to walk away from Haiti.”

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