Originally: International conference to stimulate aid, improve security in Haiti

16 juin 2005

MONTREAL, (AFP) : The international community will meet in Montreal Thursday and Friday to stress the dire situation in Haiti, plagued by political instability and hit by a recent wave of criminal activity, including kidnappings, while financial aid to kick-start democracy trickles in.

Behind closed doors at a posh hotel, Canadian and Haitian ministers ? notably foreign affairs ministers Pierre Pettigrew of Canada and Herard Abraham of Haiti ? as well as senior government officials from donor countries such as France and the United States and UN special representative Juan Gabriel Valdes will discuss how the situation has changed since their last meeting three months ago in Cayenne, French Guiana.

Pettigrew plans to pressure other donor countries to reduce “the bottlenecks associated with lengthy bureaucratic procedures, to get the money to Haiti as soon as possible” and “accelerate their activities and disbursements,” he told a House of Commons committee on foreign affairs Tuesday.

While the Cayenne conference resulted in the creation of 380 projects in Haiti to encourage national reconciliation, such moves are “difficult if Haitians do not see any concrete progress ? no improvement in their daily lives,” he said, denouncing “the slow pace at which the international community disburses the pledges made for the future of Haiti.”

“Red tape is unjustified ? these people cannot wait,” Pettigrew said.

The situation in Haiti “remains fragile” and kidnappings are on the rise, Pettigrew admitted, particularly in Port-au-Prince, where a Montreal woman was abducted Sunday and threatened with execution if a ransom was not paid.

Thus, conference participants must implement “the measures necessary to improve security and justice” to ensure smooth municipal elections scheduled for October 9, ahead of legislative and presidential elections on November 13 and December 18, respectively.

“Although preparations for the elections are nearly two months behind schedule, we believe that elections can still take place as planned, in the fall,” Pettigrew insisted.

“Despite the situation in the capital, tangible progress has been made in the country thanks to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH),” he added.

The conference must also push the United Nations Security Council to prolong the mandate of some 6,000 MINUSTAH peacekeepers before June 24, when their mission officially ends.

Secretary General Kofi Annan has said he wishes to extend the mission for another year and add more than 1,000 peacekeepers, with the elections in mind ; but China, which has veto power, is reluctant.