UN calls on Haiti government to step up

UN calls on Haiti government to step up

Port-au-Prince (AFP) - The UN Security Council on Saturday urged Haiti's government to take on a more active role in the country's development, as international peacekeepers prepare to pull out after a 13-year mission.

"It is important to stress that we expect a stronger level of national ownership and leadership from the government and authorities in Haiti," said Bolivian envoy Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz, as the Security Council wrapped up a 48-hour visit to Haiti.

After two years of political turmoil, Haiti has brought its electoral process to a close, but concerns persist in the country, the poorest in the Americas.

Economic growth remains significantly lower than in neighboring countries, as the country's poor majority struggles against inflation exceeding 15 percent annually.

However, an improved security environment prompted the Security Council to vote in April to renew for a final six-month period its UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known by its French acronym MINUSTAH.

Once the last foreign soldiers have gone, the UN will deploy a successor operation, the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).

Its two-year mission involves training Haiti's national police and working to help the country bolster the rule of law.

During their visit, members of the Security Council met with President Jovenel Moise and lawmakers, as well as leaders from civil society groups and the private sector.

Those meetings helped the Security Council gain a better understanding of the challenges facing Haiti, Llorenty said.

"Peace and security are intrinsically linked to the basic needs of the population. If the basic needs such as health, education, water and sanitation services are not met, the work to install stability and development could be difficult if not impossible to achieve," said Llorenty, whose country holds the Council's presidency this month.

MINUSTAH was deployed in 2004 to help stem political violence after the departure of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide -- but it has not endeared itself to Haitians.

In 2010, Nepalese UN peacekeepers introduced cholera, leading to an outbreak that killed more than 9,000 Haitians.

The Security Council visit, which was marked by two protests, comes as the UN aid fund for Haiti's cholera victims is in chaos: only about $2.7 million of the $400 million needed for the relief funds has been raised.

The MINUSTAH operation in Haiti also ranks among those with the highest number of cases of sexual abuse.