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Haiti - Elections : “How the international community can best help ?”

By Charles Arthur

London, 8 Feb. 06 [AlterPresse] --- In a new briefing paper entitled, "Hope against the odds - What elections promise for Haiti", the British development organisation, Christian Aid, has made a number of recommendations on how the international community can best help Haiti move forward.

With regard to the election process that began yesterday (February 7, 2006) with the first round voting for the Presidency and the Parliament, Christian Aid says the international community, including the United Kingdom (UK), must be alert to the destabilising tactics of certain political groups who stand to lose from the election results. The report states, "The will of the Haitian people expressed at the (forthcoming) polls must be respected".

In the longer term, Christian Aid says, "the international community must support a process of genuine popular participation in Haiti that not only develops consensus around agreed national development priorities such as education, health and judicial reform, but also focuses on how to end the exclusion of ordinary Haitians from power."

With regard to insecurity and the role of the MINUSTAH, Christian Aid states that when the peacekeeping mission’s new mandate is discussed at the UN security council later in February, the UK must use its influence as a permanent council member and a powerful voice in the European Union (EU) to ensure that it:

- focuses less on military action, which has failed to root out the gangs and has led to civilian deaths, and resists the pressure to increase its use of force arbitrarily;

- concentrates more on restoring law and order by supporting, strengthening and training the Haitian police force. To this end, MINUSTAH will need a large increase in UN civilian police;

- improves coordination with the Haitian National Police force (HNP), and develops a joint strategy with the HNP to tackle armed criminals;

- does its utmost to ensure the protection of civilians in the face of armed hostilities;

- engages in greater dialogue with Haitian organisations with a track record on human rights issues; and

- starts discussing, as an urgent matter, an exit strategy with the new government in order to prepare for its withdrawal.

As well as reforming the MINUSTAH, Christian Aid urges the international community to support other longer-term processes that will help provide greater security for the Haitian people. "These should include tackling impunity, reforming the police and judicial sector, including training on international human rights standards, and supporting sustained programmes to provide livelihoods and improve both urban and rural living and working conditions."

When the new government is elected, Christian Aid believes that proper regulation of the arms currently in circulation must be a priority for this government.

Christian Aid, on the basis of consultations with Haitian partner organisations that it has supported through crisis after crisis over the years, is also calling for the cancellation of Haiti’s debts to international financing bodies, and for poor Haitians to have a greater say in determining aid priorities so that their needs are met.

In the context of the lack of communication and consultation with local representative bodies during the drafting of the interim cooperation framework - a short and medium term economic strategy drawn up in mid-2004 - Christian Aid calls on the UK to use its influence within the EU and the international financial institutions to ensure that a broad range of Haitian civil society organisations are consulted on, and can influence the use and allocation of aid committed to Haiti. "This would ensure the funds provided will benefit Haiti’s poor."

The briefing paper also recommends that "the new government be allowed to hold a proper consultation process with a broad range of civil society groups regarding the use of US$1.3 billion committed by donors in 2004, and be allowed to alter previous agreements such as the interim cooperation framework if necessary."

Finally, Christian Aid says, "Greater attention must be paid by donors to longer-term poverty reduction measures, particularly widening access to education, support for the rural economy, including environmental protection, and sustainable job creation." [ca apr 08/02/2006 14:20]

Link : Hope against the odds - What elections promise for Haiti