The head of Haiti’s democratic transition council on Monday urged action on a plan to deploy foreign troops to the Caribbean island nation to help police restore security amid a worsening conflict as powerful gangs have forced around 200,000 people to flee their homes.
“I very much hope the United Nations Security Council will move from words to actions,” High Transition Council (HTC) leader Mirlande Manigat told the Security Council.
“Foreign troops to support national police is something many Haitians are awaiting, including those who have been victims,” Manigat said, calling for the force to prioritize protection of the vulnerable and for more action against arms trafficking.
A year ago, Haiti’s unelected prime minister requested an international force to help police – out-gunned by powerful gangs armed with vast stocks of firearms which the U.N. says are mainly trafficked from the United States – to restore order.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry has vowed to hold elections after security is reestablished. The HTC is part of efforts to prepare for elections, but it has faced setbacks including the kidnapping of its secretary general last week.
“His kidnapping was certainly not by chance,” Manigat said, without giving further information.
Gangs have continued to expand their territory and some 2 million people now live under their domain, according to estimates from the UN, which earlier this month ratified deploying an international force. But few countries have pledged troops.
Diplomats at the Security Council on Monday urged countries that had committed to deliver documents required before deployment, including rules of engagement and exit strategies.
The head of the UN UNICEF children’s agency, Catherine Russell, said the force would play a “critical role” in re-establishing social services, saying aid was also suffering from drastically under-funded campaigns.
“Quite frankly, we need more support,” Russell told diplomats. “The international community should prioritise increasing flexible humanitarian funding.”