Distinguished Members of the Council,
Thank you for inviting me to address the esteemed Council regarding the situation in Haiti.
At the outset, allow me to welcome the adoption of resolution 2700 renewing the sanctions regime for Haiti.
I also wish to praise the remarkable work of SRSG Salvador and her team in such a sensitive and precarious environment.
As this Council has acknowledged, gangs have seized control of areas of territory and some key infrastructure in Haiti and are perpetuating horrific violence, including homicides, kidnapping, and sexual and gender-based violence, enabled by sophisticated firearms brought into the country illegally.
Halting the flow of illicit firearms into Haiti and establishing a robust regulatory framework for firearms are imperative steps for the Haitian authorities to assert control and re-establish normalcy.
Member States should take measures to achieve these aims and to provide relevant support to Haiti, parallel to the deployment of the Multinational Security Support Mission recently authorized by the Council, which will be operating in a volatile environment.
Pursuant to Security Council resolution 2692, paragraph 9, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime submitted its latest report to the Council on October 17, through the Secretary-General, including updates on sources and routes of illicit arms and financial flows in Haiti.
The report presents the results of an in-depth analysis by UNODC of the movement of weapons into and within Haiti, identifying four major sea and land routes for the illicit flows of firearms and ammunition, which are coming in primarily from the United States of America.
The first route is direct shipment in containers from the US to Port-au-Prince.
The second is from the US to the northern regions of the country including Port-de-Paix, where arms and ammunition are transported overland to coastal cities in Artibonite, then by small boats or by land to docks controlled by gangs or traffickers, and eventually to Port-au-Prince.
The third is by land through the Belladère and Malpasse border crossings, used mainly for trafficking ammunition, primarily via the Dominican Republic.
And the fourth is also by land through Cap-Haitien, where smaller quantities of weapons are hidden in the personal effects of individuals crossing the border by car or on foot.
Through these routes, traffickers are taking advantage of the Haitian security sector’s limited capacities, equipment and infrastructure for border and maritime control and surveillance.
Furthermore, Haiti’s police are operating under a continuous state of emergency and with limited human and technical resources, undermining their ability to manage weapons and ammunition.
The involvement of private security companies to fill the security vacuum, and their reported involvement in illicit firearms flows, further complicate the picture.
Ultimately, the availability of firearms has left criminal armed groups in Haiti with enormous firepower at their disposal, allowing them to consistently outgun security forces.
The number of shootings and kidnappings continues to rise, while almost 200,000 people have been displaced as they flee the violence, exposing them to further risks.
Meanwhile, the insecurity is expanding outside the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince to other departments like the Artibonite and the Central Department.
Using their superior firepower, criminal groups expand territorial control and target critical infrastructure including seaports, fuel terminals, airports, grain stores, warehouses, customs offices, and key roads, enabling them to block critical goods, as well as to secure trafficking routes.
It is key to note that the demand for firearms in Haiti is linked to the need of criminal groups to enforce the illicit drug trade, as the country remains a transit destination primarily for cocaine and cannabis.
Esteemed members of the Council,
To take effective action against weapon and ammunitions trafficking in Haiti, it is essential to enforce tighter controls at borders in Haiti and abroad, to drastically improve maritime interdiction mechanisms, and to enhance capacities to collect, analyse, and use firearms seizure data.
It is similarly important to strengthen the Haitian firearms control regime and the criminal justice capacities to enforce it, and to empower Haitian institutions to detect, investigate and prosecute firearms trafficking and related offences, including though more direct and effective cooperation with neighbouring countries.
As UNODC scales up our team on the ground, last week experts from our Headquarters and from the region joined the Office’s team in Haiti to support our programming at the Belladère land border and the Port-Au-Prince port and airport.
They report excellent cooperation with the Haitian customs, police, airport and port authorities, who have been fully involved in the design of UNODC’s interventions.
We are working with them to establish a joint airport and port control unit, which will bring together officials from customs and police to better understand illicit flows and improve the effectiveness of interdictions. Training begins next month, and equipment is already en route.
We are heartened by the commitment of the Haitian border police, port authorities, and coastguard, all of whom work with limited equipment in volatile security conditions. I am hoping that we will be able to inform you of progress in our next report in three months.
Any measures to control weapons and seize drugs in Haiti must be paired with improved financial transparency and accountability.
As recently reported by the Panel of Experts on Haiti, public and private actors are involved in the distribution and illicit import of weapons for private gain.
This has created a cycle of firearms trafficking, gang violence, and criminal profit.
Haiti needs to strengthen its operational capacity to detect economic crime and trace illicit financial flows and money laundering schemes, and UNODC has experts in the country working with the Organization of American States to support the competent authorities for this purpose.
UNODC is working with Haitian authorities, and in full coordination with the UN Integrated Office in Haiti, to meet needs on the ground.
We will also continue to assist the Haiti Panel of Experts created under the Sanctions Committee, and this esteemed Council, as requested.
The international community must stand with the Haitian people to end the reign of chaos and invest in a more secure Haiti, through urgent assistance to improve the security situation as well as long-term support to establish strong judicial and rule of law capacities.
Delivering meaningful improvements in security is necessary to protect the rights of Haiti’s people, and to pave the way for a Haitian-led and owned political process.