Holness joins UN chief in call for global community to step up response to Haiti crisis
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (seventh right) and United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres (ninth left) are flanked by members of the Cabinet, just before holding bilateral talks at the Office of the Prime Minister on Monday, May 15, 2023. (Photo: JIS)

KINGSTON, Jamaica – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres joined forces with Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Monday to reiterate their call for greater support from the international community in addressing the worsening crisis in Haiti.

Guterres and Holness made the call at a press conference following bilateral discussions between the two world leaders at the Office of the Prime Minister in Jamaica.

“We lamented that there has not been more action to address the situation in Haiti,” Holness told reporters.

“We repeat our call for greater attention to be paid by the international community to the very urgent security and humanitarian situation in Haiti,” added Holness, who noted that while the Caribbean Community was doing its part to assist, more support was needed.

Holness earlier this year said Jamaica stands ready to send members of the security forces to Haiti as part of an international effort aimed at restoring stability to the violence-torn French-speaking Caribbean nation.

READ: Jamaica willing to send security forces to Haiti, says Holness

According to UN figures, there was a 20 per cent increase in killings in Haiti from January to the end of March, compared with the last quarter of 2022. There were 637 kidnappings over the period, a 63 per cent increase compared with the last three months of 2022.

More than 100,000 Haitians have had to flee their communities as gangs break into homes and set them ablaze, and kill people in territory held by rival gangs.

Gutteres described the current situation in Haiti as “tragic” and noted that the deployment of a foreign armed force was urgently needed.

“Haiti is in a tragic situation… you have dramatic humanitarian needs, you have a politic system that is paralysed, and you have a level of violence by gangs that are absolutely appalling… It needs much stronger commitment by the international community,” Guterres said.

However, despite the appeals, the international community has largely shown little interest, a reluctance that Guterres said is rooted in skepticism over the political situation in the country.

“This has been a difficult exercise, it has been difficult to mobilise the will of those that would have the best capacity to lead this operation and it has been difficult to create also the political condition to make it easier for different countries to accept to be part of these actions,” he told journalists.

The UN chief lauded Jamaica for the leadership role it has played in Caricom efforts to assist Haiti.

“Jamaica was the first country to immediately express its readiness to be part of this operation and Jamaica in the context of Caricom is involved in a very important political process trying to bring together the different stakeholders to find a way out of this political crisis,” Guterres said.

“I want to express my full support to the initiative of Jamaica and Caricom and I want to once again ask the international community to understand that an effective solidarity with Haiti is not only a matter of generosity, its essentially a matter of enlightened self-interest because the present situation of Haiti reflects a threat to the security of the whole region and further afield,” he added.

For his part, Holness noted that a Caricom delegation led by him “had very meaningful discussions with stakeholders there and that process is advancing.”

However, he added that “the inescapable fact, however, is that Haiti needs security support”.

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