On December 1, 2016 when UN Secretary-General at the time, Ban Ki-moon, announced a new approach to cholera in Haiti, victims and advocates rejoiced at the UN finally taking a step towards the justice that had been denied for six years. Of the $400 million promised that day though, only $2.7 million has been received and $10 million total including pledged contributions. It seems that the new Secretary General, António Guterres is also leaning towards not asking for assessed contributions from UN member states despite their inaction in funding this plan. After six years of denial and dodging accountability for cholera, a failure to follow through on this new plan would do irreparable damage to the UN and its role in promoting human rights all over the world.
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Will State Inaction at UN Imperil Haiti Cholera Response?
Nathan Yaffe, IPI Global Observatory
April 4, 2017
The United Nations took a decisive step toward strengthening accountability when it announced a “new approach” to cholera in Haiti, on December 1 last year. In an official apology for the UN mission in Haiti’s role in the disease outbreak, then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged not only the UN’s “moral duty” to “do the right thing for the Haitian people,” but also the international community’s “collective responsibility to deliver.” Six years after the start of what remains the world’s largest modern day cholera epidemic, the apology and commitment to redress marked an important shift from the UN’s earlier and widely criticized denial of responsibility for the outbreak.
Yet just four months later, concerns abound that the world body will fail to deliver on the promise of its new approach. Voluntary contributions are stagnant: The trust fund established by the UN has received only $2.7 million of the $400 million estimated to be required, with additional contributions bringing the funding total to roughly $10 million. Now, Secretary-General António Guterres appears to have caved to pressure from some UN member states to take the option of funding its new approach through assessed contributions off the table, despite other states favoring this approach.
Thus, there is a real risk that the UN will break its promise to the people of Haiti, dealing another blow to the organization’s credibility on the world stage. This would also send a message that member state commitment to peacekeeper accountability stops at the point where funding is needed. As the New York Times put it in a recent editorial, the lack of follow-through to date provides a “lesson in evading moral responsibility.” At a time when faith in multilateralism and peacekeeping is receding, this is a blow the UN cannot afford.