U.N. Security Council says progress being made in Haiti, but peacekeepers should remain

Acknowledging recent progress in Haiti, U.N. Security Council members on Wednesday called on Haitian leaders to deliver on promises — including strengthening the rule of law and holding credible and transparent elections to “send a powerful message” to the international community, potential investors and the Haitian population.

“The swearing in of a new government, the publication of the constitutional amendments and the establishment of a superior council of the judiciary are positive achievements that Haiti’s government has made,” Sun Xiaobo of China said during the U.N. Security Council hearing on Haiti.

But Haiti, he and others said, still has a long way to go with its rebuilding and faces “colossal challenges” in its political, economic and humanitarian situation.

Council members met as part of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s request to extend the U.N. peacekeeping mission’s mandate in Haiti until October 2013 with certain adjustments.

They include reducing the number of uniformed personnel and a narrowing of the activities of the mission known by its French acronym, MINUSTAH.

“It’s in no one’s interest that MINUSTAH leaves before the security that it establishes can be sustained by the Haitian authorities,” said Philip Parham, the United Kingdom’s representative, who called for more Haitian ownership in the country’s rebuilding.

In a report to the Security Council, Ban commended Haiti for taking steps to lure foreign investors and combat smuggling. But, he added, “the political process in Haiti remains vulnerable to setbacks linked to political instability, lack of respect for the rule of law and unmet social grievances.”

In recent weeks, grievances over rising food prices and complaints about government corruption have triggered protests. Council members didn’t acknowledge the growing opposition to President Michel Martelly, but praised him for recent key decisions. They did urge him to ensure political stability by working to find an agreement on the creation of a Permanent Electoral Council to hold long overdue elections. At least one member country recognized this may not be easy.

“The political process continues to be on shaky footing,” Russian Federation member Nikita Zhukov said. “The Permanent Electoral Council doesn’t enjoy widespread support and the legitimacy of the amendments made to the constitution are not recognized by all. This is the background upon which difficult elections will take place in the parliament and local government bodies.”

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