Pres Ali says regional leadership; support important to resolving Haitian

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

…as Haiti PM commits to holding elections by August 2025

President Dr Irfaan Ali has underscored the importance of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) as a collective in providing support as well as leadership in resolving the prolonged crisis in member state Haiti.

The Guyanese Leader made this remark in his capacity as Caricom Chairman, following the 46th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government held in Georgetown this week. At the closing press conference on Wednesday evening, President Ali disclosed that more than 20 hours were expended by regional leaders discussing this “difficult” issue.

“It was a very, very frank discussion; it was a very difficult discussion… You have to understand the situation in Haiti…This is of such importance to the Region, and the Region has to provide the leadership on this issue [and] we cannot avoid this at this time,” the Head of State noted.

CARICOM Heads on Tuesday

During the three-day meeting of regional Heads, Jamaica, Barbados, Dominica, and The Bahamas were tasked with pushing discussions on the Haitian crisis. Talks were held between Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry as well as with international partners including Canada, France, the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Nations. Updates were also given by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) that was established to represent Caricom’s Good Offices to the Government of Haiti and Haitian stakeholders.

Electoral needs assessment

Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis revealed at the press conference, held at the Marriott Hotel in Georgetown, that based on the reports received from the EPG, they were “deeply concerned” over the continued deterioration of the security, humanitarian and political situation in Haiti. While regional leaders also expressed concern over the delays in resolving the political stalemate in Haiti which has blocked the possibility of free and fair elections, “major steps” were taken to move the political process forward during the discussions with the Haitian Prime Minister.

“[These include], which we think is a significant step forward, holding of general elections to restore a constitutional government and authority no later than 31st August 2025. I think that was a significant step in the right direction…,” the Bahamian Prime Minister noted.

To this end, Caricom has agreed to set up an Electoral Needs Gap Assessment team in collaboration with the UN and with the support of its partners – Canada, the US and the Organisation of American States (OAS). That assessment committee would be established immediately and is tasked with preparing a report by March 31, identifying and outlining the gaps in Haiti that need to be bridged in order for the smooth holding of polls next year.

“That assessment team would be there to support the planning and efforts of relevant Haitian institutions, that hopefully would be established for the purpose of holding those elections before August 31, 2025,” PM Davis stated.

He added that an invitation would be extended to all the stakeholders in Haiti to participate in an urgent meeting. While the date and location for that meeting are yet to be ironed out, it was revealed that Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley would be leading those engagements.

The Bahamian leader also dismissed claims of Caricom’s interference in Haiti, pointing out that it was a matter of the country not having the resources or capacity to deal with its crisis situation and having reached out for help. Caricom’s intervention, he stated, is to support institutions such as the Haitian National Police through training and resources so that they can bring some semblance of order in the violence-ridden nation.

Haiti-led solution

Meanwhile, President Ali has called for this meeting to be held urgently and with “great intensity” given the gravity of the situation in Haiti.

“I want this message to be heard by all the stakeholders, that is, we’re urging that each stakeholder must recognise that it will not obtain all they want, but Haiti must obtain what it needs. So, every stakeholder in Haiti must also give, in order for Haiti to get what it needs,” the Guyanese Leader pointed.

President Ali went on to note that Caricom’s continued support for Haiti was not only monetary but also extended to humanitarian and security assistance. He added that during “frank” discussions with international partners, commitments were made to fulfil prior pledges while new commitments were made.

“We have committed ourselves to continue the mobilisation of resources, whether it’s for humanitarian support, whether it’s to finance the operations of Caricom in Haiti, to support the operations in Haiti, whether it’s going to be direct support to the efforts of Haiti. – these are all things that engaged our attention and things we’re committed to,” the Head of State noted.

While he further noted that many resources were being expended on training and resourcing the authorities, the Guyanese Leader disclosed that many of the international partners are now requesting to push more financing into the multinational force that is being established for Haiti.

“So, this issue of Haiti and the resources needed has many moving parts. It is a difficult situation for Haiti. It is a complex situation for the Region. It is a situation in which we have to navigate between international community, Haiti and of course, the Region issues that we still have to confront…”

“What is important to note is that we’re facilitating a Haitian-led solution and that is key… We’re approaching Haiti as a collective. There is collective effort… Haiti is a priority and we’re approaching Haiti from a regional perspective,” President Ali stated.

Battered by a series of natural disasters over the years, Haiti has been experiencing an escalated and protracted political, economic and social crisis that has led to mass violence along with food shortages and fuel shortages for several years, which was exacerbated by the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Only earlier this month, gang-related violence in the Caribbean nation escalated.

During his engagements on the sidelines of the Caricom summit, Haitian Prime Minister Henry also met with US Representative to the UN, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who was also in Guyana earlier this week.

On Monday, she told reporters at a press conference that extensive discussions with Prime Minister Henry centred on the needs of the Haitian people. She also related that Benin, a West African country that shares commonalities with Haiti such as language and religion, has offered to join the coalition looking to help restore order in Haiti, with the contribution of up to 2000 troops to the multinational force.

Kenya and Rwanda, along with Caricom countries such as Jamaica, have volunteered their troops to provide training and other support to the multinational force, which is being funded through financing from international partners like the US.

In fact, the US committed some US$200 million towards these efforts, along with other support, such as provision of equipment.