U.N. is committed to partnership with Haiti that works

In 2014, Heineken, the Dutch brewer, announced it was bringing a production plant to Haiti.
In 2014, Heineken, the Dutch brewer, announced it was bringing a production plant to Haiti. AP

The United Nations was created to live up to the highest standards of humanity. To meet those ambitious ideals, the organization must continually seek to improve the way we work.

There is perhaps no better place to demonstrate that commitment than in Haiti, where the U.N. has done much good, but, unfortunately, also has fallen short.

This week, I am sending a high-level UN delegation to the country. The U.N. Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, and my Special Envoy to Haiti, Josette Sheeran, will carry a clear message from me: The United Nations will stand with the Haitian people in a new spirit of partnership.

That partnership is grounded in helping Haiti move from emergency approaches to long-lasting solutions, from assistance to investment, from handouts to hand-in-hand cooperation for sustainable development, democracy, and dignity for all Haitians.

Last month, the United Nations wound down its stabilization mission in Haiti. When the peacekeeping operation began in 2004, Haiti was the scene of profound instability and political violence.

Today, that picture has improved. Everyday Haitians enjoy a considerable degree of security. The Haitian National Police has more than doubled in size. The executive and legislative branches are fully functioning after a smooth and successful transition of power earlier this year. The government is working closely with the legislature to advance a much-needed reform agenda.

The credit for this progress belongs, above all, to the Haitian people.

We are now committed to working with Haitians through the continued work of U.N. agencies. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change provide new avenues, investment opportunities, and guidance to realize Haitian aspirations.

We will also continue to promote stability through the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti, following the recent resolution of the Security Council.

The mandate of this leaner mission is based on an essential understanding: More security, improved rule of law, and respect for human rights will lead to greater development, opportunity, and improved lives for all Haitians.

As a core part of our new partnership, the U.N. is resolved to continue addressing Haiti’s cholera challenge. With more than 9,600 lives lost, the cholera outbreak is a tragedy from every perspective.

The U.N. simply did not do enough at the onset of the crisis and should have responded more effectively and more quickly. We have a moral responsibility to the victims of cholera and for supporting Haiti in overcoming the epidemic.

Since 2010, the international community has invested more than $685 million to combat the spread of cholera in Haiti, a many-faceted undertaking that has generated concrete results.

New efforts to take on cholera are built on three goals: eliminating the transmission of cholera; supporting affected communities; and achieving long-term sustainable development.

The good news is that since late 2016, concerted efforts such as rapid response teams, community mobilization and targeted vaccination campaigns have made a real difference.

Cholera cases are falling fast — from more than 18,500 new cases per week at its peak to 250 cases per week today. Cholera deaths have dropped from 410 weekly deaths at the onset of the epidemic to three per week this year. But, of course, every single death is a tragedy.

The elimination of cholera is within reach. But the last stage of any disease eradication campaign is the hardest. If we do not knock out cholera now, we risk it shooting back up in the future.

Success will require more funding to maintain the highly effective work of emergency response teams — and to focus on root causes. The U.N. is working closely with the government of Haiti and cholera-affected communities to improve infrastructure, including water and sanitation, and to strengthen the education and health systems.

We are also conducting meaningful community and individual consultations with victims of cholera. These dialogues will inform our response and future work in providing support to those affected by the tragedy.

The new partnership stretches across every aspect of the U.N.’s work in Haiti — including unacceptable incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations personnel. I have launched urgent and much-needed action to root out sexual exploitation and abuse and put the needs and voices of victims front and center.

The United Nations is determined to learn from mistakes and put in place new policies and procedures to ensure we employ the best practices of the world in our work.

During their visit, the U.N. delegation will tour some of the areas hardest hit by the cholera epidemic. I want to make sure that the people of those communities, and all Haitians, can see a future beyond cholera and chronic poverty. They deserve a future of education, decent jobs, and dignity.

The United Nations is committed to working with the Haitian government and rallying the international community to live up to that promise.

António Guterres is Secretary-General of the United Nations.