UN Update: Haiti

Upon receiving a dire call about the situation in Haiti in the beginning of April, five Catholic Sister NGO’s and Clarition Fathers began to research Haiti.  Little did we know when we ventured off into this new world for all of us, how deeply immersed we would become. It was as if something obsessed us and wouldn’t let us go until we completed writing a comprehensive document called the UN (UPR) Universal Periodic Review.  It is an official document that is submitted to the UN. Haiti was due for its review by civil society in Mid-July.

We wrote letters to the Member States of Latin America and Caribbean that we thought would help us provide an Arria Formula at the UN. We sent electronic letters as well as hand delivered letters to these Member States: Colombia, United States, Ireland, Dominican Republic and Canada to see if they would assist us in sponsoring an Arria Formula. We only heard from Canada. Unfortunately, Canada is not a member of the Security Council and so is unable to sponsor an Aria Formula meeting. Before I go on you may be asking what is an Arria Formula?

‘The Arria Formula is an informal arrangement that allows the Council greater flexibility to be briefed about international peace and security issues…The meeting is called for the purpose of a briefing given by one or more persons, considered an expert in a matter of concern to the Council.’

We decided to have our own Pseudo Arria Formula on June 24th. We had several conversations with citizens of Haiti, Professionals working in Haiti as well as other consultants. We connected with personnel in Haiti, e.g. as the Presentation Dominicans in Haiti. Sister Rosemary Finnegan, OP, who ministers in Winter Park, FL, and whose St. Margaret Mary parish has been going to Haiti monthly since 2009, and others to create a meaningful and informative webinar. We also informed the Dominican Delegate to the UN and International Justice Promoter for the Order, Aniedi Okure, OP.

At the end of the zoom/webinar we invited people to complete a questionnaire that we could use to create the Universal Periodic Review document coming from civil society.

I’m happy to report that our document was submitted with the able editing of two young professionals, Cecile Kern of the Mercy’s, and Teresa Blumenstein of JCOR, as well as the other members of the committee on Haiti, Annemarie Connell, Teresa Kotturan, and myself. The Pseudo Arria Formula of June 24th is available to watch on YouTube.

I invited our Dominicans in Haiti to offer some reflections about the Hearing as well as their concerns for Haiti.

Dominican Sister Gloria Ines Gonzalez of the Presentation in Colombia writes:

“I am Sister Gloria Inés González R. Dominican Sister of the Presentation, of Colombian nationality and working in the mission of Haiti for more than 22 years. The Zoom meeting seemed to me a formidable experience. There was a real harmony and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for having taken me into account for this seminar.

The Haitian population is experiencing a great capacity for endurance in the face of suffering, extreme violence, hunger and loneliness, since it is in the hands of heavily armed bandits,  and massacres have multiplied, bringing the country and massacres have multiplied, bringing the country into total decay. Currently, we could call Haiti, especially the capital Port-au-Prince, as a country of frontiers, the south of the country is practically separated from the capital. The inhabitants of Martisan, Carrefour cannot pass through because the area is impassable, almost impossible, is also experiencing difficult and tense times. The political situation is still very unstable, there is no viable way out with clean elections.

On the other hand, the COVID pandemic is marking and leaving many sorrows due to the precarious health situation in the country. the vaccine has not arrived and many of the people want to go to another country to get to another country to get it, as in our case, we would have to go to the Dominican Republic.”

Our Brother Aniedi Okure, the new UN Delegate for the Dominicans for Justice and Peace also participated in the pseudo arria formula. Here are his remarks.

Invest in a lasting solution for Haiti

“The Prophet Amos lamented the deeds of devious people who exploited and oppressed the poor in their society. While posing as noble saviors, these people were heartlessly formulating ways to ‘buy the poor for silver, the needy for a pair of shoes; and sell the chaff of wheat to the poor for gain’ (Amos 8:6). 

The current condition in Haiti highlights the anguish of many, akin to that of Amos and paints a grim society in crisis and at the control of people who see the poor as disposable goods. The insecurity, incessant kidnappings, high rate of unemployment and outright hunger of millions of Haitians has provided a fertile condition for exploiters. Speakers at a recent webinar on Haiti, by the Justice Coalition of Religious, painted a grim situation regarding governance, social and political tensions, strain of health care and a failing education system. 

As if that was not bad enough, the social and political elite, exploiting the situation for selfish gains, are literally buying the poor with token gifts, food items in exchange for votes during elections, promise of protection in exchange for unquestioned loyalty, and exposing the children of the poor to hazardous situations in the name of education. One speaker at the webinar aptly noted that there can be no true democratic government in Haiti, understood as a government that is transparent and accountable to the people, until the dire situation fomenting exploitation is resolved.” 

“Any lasting solution to the situation in Haiti must go beyond the façade to address the underlying issues that drive Haiti into a perennial cycle of instability and victimization of the poor.  Attempts at quick fix solutions only make things worse the next time the quick fix wears off. We appeal to all concerned to take the needed steps, invest the necessary resources to find a lasting solution to the plight of the suffering millions in Haiti. A peaceful Haiti is good for all of us.”  ANIEDI OKURE, OP

I’m glad we were able to offer some support to Haiti through our role at the UN as NGO’s as a simple way to support our brothers and sisters in the global community.  

It was a huge learning, as I did not know many of the UN documents that are used in a UPR, so I became familiar with all of them as well as how to write up such an awesome document.  The report was over seventeen pages, requiring footnotes, references to UN documents and formal set up of a table of contents etc.  

There was an enormous feeling of accomplishment on behalf of Haiti. May reform and peace prevail in Haiti.