Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield During a Telephonic Press Briefing on the Multinational Security Support Mission for Haiti

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
Washington, D.C.
October 2, 2023


MODERATOR: Hey, everyone. Thanks for joining us late here on a Monday night. I hope everyone’s doing well. Tonight, we have Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield calling to discuss the resolution that just passed the Security Council on Haiti. So, she’ll give brief remarks at the top and then we’ll have time for a few questions after that. So, with that, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you so much, Nate, and hello, everyone. Thank you for joining this call.

This summer, ABC News reporter Matt Rivers traveled to Port-au-Prince to shed light on the dire crisis facing the Haitian people. The displacement, and acute food insecurity, and devastating cholera outbreak, the brutal gang violence, kidnappings, and killings, and widespread sexual violence. While there, ABC interviewed the youngest victims of this violence: Haiti’s children. And one 12-year-old boy told ABC, and I’d like to quote him – he said: “I would like the shooting to stop, so people can be at home and have normal lives.”

This young boy, and people across Haiti, are crying out for help. And they are calling on the international community to step up. Today, we answered that call. The UN Security Council passed a historic resolution – co-penned by the United States and Ecuador – to authorize a Multinational Security Support mission to Haiti. The Haitian Government, Haitian civil society, Secretary-General Guterres, and other international partners have long called for this mission – a mission that will support the Haitian National Police and help them pave the way toward long-term stability.

Today’s vote speaks to the United Nations’ ability to galvanize collective action. But as we come together to support this mission, we must also guard against potential abuses – and learn from past mistakes.

That’s why this Security Council resolution makes clear the mission must operate in strict compliance with international law and calls for safeguards to promote respect for human rights and accountability. Now we must get this mission off the ground. And now the work begins in earnest.

And I want to thank Kenya for positively stepping up to lead, and countries like Jamaica, Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda for publicly pledging personnel to the mission. For our part, the United States will continue to support the Haitian people in their time of need. And we are committed to surging assistance to this multinational mission. We intend to work with Congress to provide $100 million in support. And the Department of Defense is prepared to provide robust enabling support. We call on the rest of the international community to join us. We need more countries to step forward.

If we act with urgency, the mission can deploy within months. And there is no time to waste. As President Biden told the UN General Assembly last month, “the people of Haiti cannot wait much longer.” The late Haitian singer Mikaben described Haiti as a mother who stands strong and tall. Who has been through a lot, but whose children can walk with their heads held up proud.

To the people of Haiti, my message is this: Continue to stand strong and tall. Help and hope are on the way.

Thank you. I look forward to your questions.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Ambassador. Again, we have time for a few questions here. So, we’ll start, I believe, with Farnaz with The New York Times.

QUESTION: [Inaudible] and congratulations on getting this resolution passed. I wanted to hear your thoughts on what this represents in terms of Security Council action at a time – an ability to sort of act at a time where we’ve seen it challenged, and Russian vetoes back-to-back on issues from Mali to Syria cross-border and other issues. So, what do you think the message is here and how hard was it to get Russia and China to at least not veto this resolution and go along with it? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we worked with all of the members of the Security Council, and particularly with E10 countries and the A3, the three African members, to impress upon them to join us in impressing upon others to support this resolution. And it really shows that when the Council comes together, we can work to achieve common goals. The vote was 13 to 2. Russia and China did abstain, but they did not veto. And I think this says a lot to the world about what the Council is capable of doing in such a time of need.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Farnaz. And then Dave, I’m sorry to – if you want to chime in here and just make sure everyone has the instructions for raising their hand. I’m sorry.

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if you have not pressed 1 then 0 so far to signal that you wish to ask a question, you may press 1 then 0 right now to join the queue.

MODERATOR: Great. Thanks, Dave. I believe next we’ll go to Eyder with NPR, if you’re on, Eyder.

QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you for doing this, Ambassador. So, the Kenyan police are notorious for extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses of all kinds. What makes you think that it’s a good idea to send them to Haiti, and what guarantees have you had from them that they’re ready for this mission?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The Kenyans have a – also have a strong record of participating in these kinds of international forces. And what we did to ensure that accountability was front-and-center is that we put strong accountability, strong vetting language in the resolution, and we are looking to ensure that accountability on issues – on the issues of human rights violations or abuses on SEA, that there is transparency on these matters. And we plan to work to engage all of the participating Member States to urge them to hold accountable any of their personnel who might be implicated in such violence. We’ve had very intense discussions with the Kenyans on this, and we’re confident that they will be able to carry out this mission.

QUESTION: So, Ambassador, I mean, I’ve seen the Kenyan police in action, and I have seen them indiscriminately beat Kenyans. Back in 2017 they shot and killed dozens of protestors. I saw bodies in downtown Nairobi. And similar clashes have been reported – have been repeated over the past year. And does this mean about accountability, what you just talked about, that we can hold the United States responsible for what the Kenyan forces do in Haiti?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I don’t – I wouldn’t say you can hold the United States responsible, but we will hold the Kenyans responsible, and that’s what the resolution calls for. And I think that’s an important inclusion in the resolution, that we’ve added this strong language of accountability, the strong vetting language, the strong language on transparency and on human rights. And I can assure you that the U.S. will engage on these issues very, very aggressively, and we will work with Member States to hold any personnel involved in these types of actions accountable. And you can be assured of that. We’ve learned from mistakes of the past and we are certainly being very, very aggressive, but very committed to ensuring that there are reporting mechanisms so that if there are issues, we will address those issues immediately.

MODERATOR: Great, thanks. I think we have time for one or two more, so we’ll go next to Jacqueline Charles with the Miami Herald.

QUESTION: A couple of questions. I mean, the U.S. by now is at 200 million, but realistically, how much do we think that this mission is going to cost? And secondly, China spoke a lot about the illicit trafficking of arms, and we know that they are getting into Haiti not just from the ports of Florida, but across the borders. We saw an incident last week where a quiet town and a hospital – Mirebalais – was shot up because of a shipment. CARICOM countries have said, even after the Vice President announced these new measures, that it’s not enough. What else do we have planned to address the smuggling of guns in Haiti that’s fueling this gang crisis?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, this was an issue that was raised, and there is in the resolution an expression of concern about the illicit provision of arms into Haiti and that we will work to address those issues, as well. But right now, the gangs are operating with impunity. So, they have access to arms, but they also have the ability to use those arms to intimidate. And this multinational security support mission will start to address the gang violence, address some of the root causes which emanate from the political situation in the country. And then BINUH, the UN mission there, will be working with the Haitian authorities to move forward with elections to start the process of stabilizing this country so that the people of Haiti will have confidence in their country to address these issues over the long term.

MODERATOR: Thanks. And we have time for one very last quick one. Pam Falk with CBS. Pam, we have a minute or two left here.

QUESTION: Thanks, Nate. Thank you, Ambassador. Just to clarify first, the 200 million – 100 plus 100 – has that been submitted yet? Is that part of the past package or is that to be submitted? And then the second is, do you think that Haitians fleeing by boat or land to the United States will be, to some extent, deterred by this, I mean helped by the force? Thanks.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, look, it is, as the Secretary announced on Friday, that we intend to work with our Congress to provide $100 million in support, and then the Department of Defense is prepared to provide robust enabling support that will be up to 100 million, as well. And while we don’t know, ultimately, in the end, what this will cost, we will be looking, now that we have this resolution in place, for the contributions of other countries. Other countries indicated to us that they were waiting for the resolution before they would either provide in-kind or funding for the mission. So, we will be looking for other countries to provide this additional funding as we move forward.

And on the issue of migration, Pam, Haitians are leaving the country because of fear. They are leaving the country because of intimidation and being terrorized. So, it is our hope that this mission, as it works to provide stability, it works to provide security, that fewer Haitians will feel the need to leave the country.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Pam, and thanks, Ambassador. That’s all we have time for tonight, but we really appreciate again everyone joining late on this Monday, and we will talk to everyone soon. If you have any additional questions, you know how to reach us. Thanks.