Remarks at the Special Meeting of the Permanent Council of the OAS by Ambassador Odeen Ishmael of Guyana, on Behalf of CARICOM Delegations, During Discussion on the Resolution, "Support for Strengthening Democracy in Haiti" September 4, 2002
Posted September 4th, 2002
The CARICOM delegations here at the OAS are pleased to give their solid support to this draft resolution which supports democracy in Haiti. I want to also express our sincere thanks to the delegations who participated in the informal working group to negotiate and craft the text of this document. By intense discussions, they have managed to draw up a strong, meaningful and far-reaching resolution. When its terms are implemented, the resolution will definitely work to improve the welfare of the long-suffering people of the Haitian Republic.
I hasten to pay tribute to our colleague, Ambassador Raymond Valcin of Haiti, for his fortitude as he negotiated with tact, great understanding and flexibility, the drafting of the text that we are approving today.
The joint OAS-CARICOM missions worked very strenuously to get the ruling party and the opposition in Haiti to sign a joint accord last July. However, as we know that did not happen, even though the ruling party agreed to almost everything stated in the draft accord. Initially, there were some who argued that a resolution to support the release of funding by the international financial institutions should be linked to a political settlement marked by the signing of the accord. But what happens if the ruling party supports the accord, and the opposition refuses to sign? Does it mean that we should have a stalemate? Obviously, we in the OAS do not feel that such a situation should be allowed to develop. Hence, we have a general agreement that there must be a delinking of the political agreement with the reinstatement of multilateral economic assistance to Haiti. In this respect, I must complement the United States delegation for agreeing with this position, and for working so assiduously with the Haitian delegation and other delegations to finalize the terms of this resolution.
It is clear that this resolution will help to bring about a number of benefits for the people of Haiti. Let me pinpoint three of them. First, and most important, it expresses the support of this hemispheric body for the restoration of the economic assistance by the international financial institutions. Financial resources are greatly needed to rebuild and maintain the physical and social infrastructure in the country. The resolution demands that Haiti sets up a reformed police force and improvement of all round security to set the stage for free and fair elections next year. But to do all of this, the Government of Haiti needs financial resources to be released as quickly as possible. I am pleased to note that a team from the IDB visited Haiti and came back with a very positive report that the Government will service its debts. At the same time, the Finance Minister of Haiti offered total cooperation to the IDB as the institution carries out its work with the Haitian Government to clear all financial hurdles and bottlenecks. We in CARICOM are very pleased with the report of the recent IDB mission to Haiti, about which we were briefed earlier in August by the head of that mission.
Second, the resolution makes a clear and unambiguous statement that elections would be held by mid-2003. The Haitian Government has long made this commitment, and all efforts must be made by the OAS - and all of us - to ensure that no group attempts to place impediments to cause any delay in the electoral process. Only last week we learned that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that the human rights situation in Haiti remains in a poor state. It is obvious that improved policing to combat crime and violence, and a reformed judicial system, are essential to improve this state of affairs. It is clear that in order to do so, properly trained personnel will be essential. But to carry out this work, Haiti needs financial resources and international assistance most urgently. And the sooner these are made available, the more ready will be the people to participate in the elections, and thus promoting the process of democracy.
Finally, the resolution calls for political dialogue as imperative for a democratic Haiti. This will have to happen, because if the people of Haiti are to pull themselves out from the current political and economic quagmire, they have to influence their leaders and their political groupings to hold civilized dialogue with each other. There are always some extremist elements who claim that to dialogue is to express political weakness. But not wanting to dialogue is political cowardice. To hold political discussions with your political opponents to decide on the way forward for your nation is a form of great political strength and utmost political leadership. President Aristide has stated his firm commitment to such dialogue on many an occasion. We in CARICOM support this call for political discourse, and we urge all political parties and political leaders in Haiti to commence, with all seriousness, structured political discussions and exchange of opinions to activate political and economic forward movement in the country.
By no means are we saying that the implementation of this resolution will immediately ease Haiti's onerous burdens. But it will play a meaningful part in efforts to combat poverty and its effects, to improve justice and human rights, to nurture democracy, and hopefully, uplift the general health and human conditions of the people of Haiti. It will also breed a sense of optimism as the Haitian Republic begins within the next year or so to celebrate its 200th anniversary as an independent nation.