Originally: Address by U.S. Delegation to OAS Permanent Council–Haiti Situation

We are further away from a solution | Position of 184 gives hope | Elections must be free

 January 16, 2003

The U.S. delegation notes with regret that we are no closer to a resolution of the political crisis than we were in early November, when the Permanent Council last discussed Haiti. Indeed, in some important respects, we are even farther away. The Government of Haiti continues to show little substantive progress in meeting its commitments under Resolution 822, and a provisional electoral council was not formed despite a fifteen-day extension period. Meanwhile, attacks on opposition demonstrations by government-supported gangs, protest strikes against the government, and escalating political rhetoric have created a situation in which confrontation is replacing dialogue.

We are deeply concerned about this turn of events. We fear that confrontation and polarization will increase unless current trends are reversed. We emphasize that there is one way, and one way only, to break out of this impasse ? President Aristide and his government must find the courage and political will to lead Haiti toward free and fair elections under the process laid out in Resolution 822.

In practical terms, such leadership means that the Government of Haiti must reaffirm the viability of Resolution 822 and begin to meet its commitments under the Resolution. By meeting its commitments, the Government of Haiti will instill in the opposition the confidence it needs for meaningful participation in elections. At the same time, the opposition must show flexibility and be prepared to react constructively once a more secure environment is created that is conducive to fair elections. But make no mistake about it ? the Government of Haiti has the primary responsibility to create the preconditions for free and fair elections. It can meet this responsibility by fulfilling its Resolution 822 commitments.

Under the Resolution, the OAS created mandates for the Special Mission that were designed to assist the government in meeting its commitments. The Special Mission needs financial support to fulfill its mandates. It has received some financial support from the international community, including $1.6 million from the U.S. and contributions from other countries. The Canadian government has just announced an additional, major contribution in the amount of two million Canadian dollars, which is a positive step forward. These contributions will go a long way toward strengthening the Special Mission, but unfortunately we cannot rest there. Further financial support for the Special Mission is needed. We commend Brazil and the Holy See for their contributions.

We have been encouraged by the position put forward recently by a broad-based group of 184 civil society groups which urged the government to take short-term steps to begin the process of fully implementing Resolution 822. This is an opportunity for the government to demonstrate its commitment to 822 and re-engage in confidence-building efforts. Virtually all the measures the 184 organizations are seeking reflect in whole or in part actions to which the Government of Haiti is already committed under Resolution 822. We urge the Government of Haiti to act on these measures and to undertake immediately a dialogue with civil society leaders on moving the process forward. We understand that civil society leaders laid down January 15 as a deadline for the government to address their concerns. We call on these civil society leaders to welcome any dialogue the government initiates, to continue to pursue a course of dialogue and compromise, and to refrain from confrontation.

Resolution 822 represents consensus on the part of Haiti and the international community about the best way to resolve the political crisis. Neither Haiti, nor the inter-American community, nor the international community as a whole, can afford to abandon the process laid out in the Resolution. Full compliance is crucial to create the conditions for free and fair elections. But time is running out ? the Government of Haiti must act now: first to meet commitments under Resolution 822 and then to form the CEP in accordance with the process laid out in the Draft Initial Accord. Any other CEP – a CEP that is not credible, neutral, and independent – a CEP that does not represent a broad spectrum of political interests in Haiti ? will doom elections to failure as a true expression of popular will. To put it more bluntly ? if there is no credible CEP, there can be no credible elections.

The U.S. government will not support elections in Haiti unless they are free, fair, and reflect the will of the people. Essential preconditions for such elections are an improved climate of security and a CEP formed in accordance with Resolution 822 and the Draft Initial Accord.

As my delegation has said before, time is running out. But it is not too late. My delegation urges the Government of Haiti to act, and to act today.