'Doing nothing is not an option'
Strident Johnson Smith urges UN states to take urgent action to save Haiti
Armed members of "G9 and Family" march in a protest against Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, last Tuesday. (Photos: AP)

MINISTER of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith has warned that only chaos will reign in Haiti if the international community fails to act quickly to help that country.

Delivering Jamaica's policy statement at the 78th Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, Johnson Smith reiterated Jamaica and the Caribbean Community's (Caricom) call for international action to restore order and security in Haiti.

"It is critical that we fully support all meaningful efforts to contribute to a Haitian-led solutions to the multidimensional and multifaceted challenges with which they are faced. Let me be clear: there are no easy fixes. But let me be equally clear — doing nothing is not an option," said Johnson Smith

"Jamaica supports the call for a multinational security support mission to bolster the Haitian National Police in their efforts to vanquish ever strengthening criminal gangs," added Johnson Smith as she noted that Prime Minister Andrew Holness has already made it clear that, subject to the relevant Security Council resolution, Jamaica will contribute personnel to participate in such an effort.

Jamaica's Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith (right) is escorted to address the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

"We listened in Port-au-Prince when the Caricom mission visited earlier this year. We have also heard the clear call of the majority of the Haitian people as reflected in the polls conducted in Haiti by reputable local civil society and international agencies.

"We, therefore, urge the permanent members of the Security Council to put aside geo-political sensitivities, and to answer the call of the Haitian people and of their brothers and sisters in the Caribbean region.

"A UNSC Chapter 7 resolution, authorising a multinational security support mission, must be adopted without further delay," added Johnson Smith.

She told the General Assembly that Jamaica joins Caricom's commendations of Kenya's President William Ruto for his commitment to lead such a mission and welcome the offers from other countries, including from our own region.

"We call on other capable countries, other capable regions, to lend their, financial, human, logistical and in-kind support to ensure that the mission on which we must embark will be effective in delivering peace and stability for the people of Haiti.

"Despite the many competing issues, Jamaica cannot be any clearer. Ordinary Haitians are suffering. Humanitarian support cannot be distributed in insecurity; hospitals cannot deliver care in insecurity; children cannot go to school in insecurity; people cannot go to work in insecurity; candidates cannot offer themselves and citizens cannot vote in insecurity," declared Johnson Smith.

She warned that the situation in Haiti can, and will become even worse, if the world does not act.

"Peace and reasonable stability are indisputably necessary preconditions for each and every aspect of support, short. Medium- and long-term development needed in Haiti include the holding of free and fair elections. Rest assured that only chaos will reign if the international community remains distracted. We must meet the moment," added Johnson Smith.

The foreign affairs minister underscored that Jamaica will also continue to lend its support to the Caricom Eminent Persons Group (EMG) as they work with the Haitian Government and stakeholders towards a Haitian-owned solution to the political and governance crisis that has gripped the nation.

"Having hosted the first EPG meeting with stakeholders in Kingston in June of this year, we remain unwavering in our commitment to working towards a sustainable political outcome," said Johnson Smith, some 24 hours after the the United States and Kenya signed a defence agreement that will see the East African nation get resources and support for security deployments as it is poised to lead a multinational peacekeeping mission to Haiti to combat gang violence.

Kenya has pledged to send 1,000 security officers to Haiti to combat gang violence in a mission that is pending the UN Security Council's formal approval.

Gang violence has surged in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas in recent months, with 1,860 people reported killed, injured or kidnapped from April to June, a 14 per cent increase compared with the first three months of the year, according to the latest UN statistics.

Gangs have overwhelmed Haiti's National Police, which is under-resourced and understaffed, with roughly 10,000 active officers for a country of more than 11 million people.

Gangs are now estimated to control up to 80 per cent of Port-au-Prince and have grown more powerful since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

Nearly 200,000 Haitians have been forced to flee their homes as gangs pillage communities and rape and kill people living in areas controlled by rival gangs, a tenfold increase in the past two years, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

More than 20,000 displaced Haitians are living in crumbling and unhygienic shelters where gangs prey on young children and try to recruit them.

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