FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Congresswoman Waters Deplores Three Years of UN Inaction on Haiti Cholera
Letter to Secretary-General Ban Notes Gaps Between 2013 Assurances, Current Reality
BOSTON, July 7 2016 – In a scathing letter sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday, Congresswoman Maxine Waters criticized the UN’s failure to respond effectively to the cholera epidemic introduced to Haiti by UN troops, and warned that the failure is “squandering the UN’s credibility” and “imperils the effectiveness of billions allocated to current and future UN activities” by the US Congress.
“This letter sends a clear message that the UN can no longer hide behind vague assurances and untenable legal positions while cholera continues to kill Haitians” said Brian Concannon, Jr. Esq., Executive Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.
Representative Waters’ letter comes exactly three years after Secretary General Ban wrote to Waters and other members of the US House of Representatives, assuring them of his “personal commitment” to ensuring that the United Nations spare no effort in responding to the cholera situation. Rep. Waters observed that in the intervening three years the UN has “done little to install the water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to stop the epidemic and nothing to compensate the victims for their losses” while cholera continues to kill Haitians. She notes that the UN did not even replace the organization’s coordinator on the cholera response when he left over a year ago.
Representative Waters was particularly critical of Secretary-General Ban’s contention that the cholera victim’s legal claims were “non-receivable”, a position rejected by five UN Human Rights Experts as incompatible with the UN’s human rights obligations. She recommended that Mr. Ban reconsider the contention in light of the UN’s founding commitments to human rights and the rule of law.
“The UN’s ‘non-receivable’ excuse was never morally or legally justified, and as this letter shows, it is no longer politically justifiable either” said Concannon. “Ban Ki-moon must act now to save his legacy and the UN’s credibility by ensuring a just response to the ongoing crisis”
Today’s letter is the latest contribution to a growing tide of global pressure on the UN to uphold its obligations to Haiti’s cholera victims. In recent months a number of governments speaking at UN meetings have called on the UN to do more to address the cholera crisis, including providing victim remedies. A majority of the candidates vying to succeed Mr. Ki-moon who have been asked about cholera have publicly committed to victim remedies. As noted by Congresswoman Waters, the UN’s own human rights experts have advised the Secretary-General that the Organization’s approach “undermines the reputation of the United Nations, calls into question the ethical framework within which its peace-keeping forces operate, and challenges the credibility of the organization as an entity that respects human rights.” Just last week, 158 members of Congress sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Secretary General John Kerry calling on the U.S. to use its leverage with the UN to ensure a just response.
A copy of Rep. Waters’ letter is available here.