Below is an excerpt from the most recent UN Secretary General candidates’ debate, in which the candidates are asked how they would respond to the cholera epidemic in Haiti as Secretary General. While some of the candidates appeared conflicted, two stood out–one for and one against justice for the cholera victims.
Click HERE for the recording. (In the first video, starts around 48:10.)
The UN Debate
July 12, 2016
James Bays: I’d like to ask you now a specific question about a country that is one of the poorest of the world, and certainly one of the poorest in the Americas. It’s a question about Haiti because the UN’s involvement in Haiti is one that some have found very controversial. Clearly, there has been this outbreak of cholera, now the official figures say 9200 people have died from cholera and many think it’s much more than that. Many scientists believe that the UN peacekeepers brought to Haiti. So maybe we can have a show of hands: as Secretary-General, would any of you would admit responsibility and apologize to the people of Haiti?
[Christiana Figueres boldly raises her hand, Danilo Turk throws his hand up and down suggesting a caveated answer, Igor Luksic briefly raises hand then puts it back down, Irina Bokova and Helen Clark keep their hands down.
Huge applause and cheers from the audience (which mind you is a lot of member states!!) when Figueres raises her hand. ]
Bays: Explain why please and then we’ll speak to the others.
Figueres: Yes, because I believe that the UN’s reputation also on that has actually been tarnished. That was an unintended consequence of a very important goal of the United Nations. Unintended consequence. But we have to be responsible even for unintended consequences. If I go to the 38th floor,I will make sure that during my tenure we completely completely eradicate malaria and cholera from Haiti. The advantage of that is that we will actually increase the sanitation level and the health levels over all. But that is a responsibility – a moral responsibility — that the UN has, and that must be fulfilled. [audience applauds]
Bays: If I may ask a follow-up. Wiill you pay the compensation, Yes or no?
Figures: No, the United Nations is not in a position to pay compensation. But more importantly, the UN is called upon to, as I said, to ensure that the disease is eradicated in Haiti, and that it never happens again in any other country.
Bays: Now let’s hear from someone who didn’t raise their hand. Helen Clark?
Clark: What I learned as prime minister, is that no matter how tempting it might be to comment on a case before the courts, it’s not wise to do so. We have a case on this before the courts in this country. What I know is that people have died, as you said, children are orphaned, people have lost loved ones, because of this. Has the international response to that situation been sufficient? No. Cholera is still in Haiti. So the critical thing now is to really support for Haiti to have better water and sanitation for its people, better living standards, and for the families who have been so damaged by what happened to be able to rebuild their lives. If there are issues of sanitation in UN camps, which there may well be, let us attend to that, because UN peacekeepers shouln’t be living in squalor either. If that is going to cause a problem, as it will, not only to them but to a surrounding neighborhood. So we have a lot of work to do to put things right for the people in Haiti.
for the recording. (Starts around minute 20.)