While some claim the U.N. official's promise to fully commit to ensuring the organization fulfills its human rights obligations concerning the cholera epidemic in Haiti as a potential breakthrough, I remain rather reserved with tremendous trepidation because, to use an old cliché, actions speak louder than words.
I am not a pessimist. Far from it, but the fact remains that the United Nations has yet to take the step most crucial to rectify this problem for which they are responsible. Until the organization assumes full liability for the disease brought into the fragile republic by their peacekeepers, any promise is empty. Accountability remains elusive and Haitians, once again, are left alone to bear the brunt of the burden of another catastrophe that is not of their causing.
To date, over thirty thousand lives have been lost to the cholera epidemic. The trail of evidence, revealed by persistent investigative journalists and scientists since its inception in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake, has been denied by the international organization, and in some cases decried by others as an outright cover up. Until now, the number of dead has been mounting as the U.N. becomes better adapted to deflecting responsibility. As it has been repeatedly reported, their meager responses to containing the disease do not scratch the surface and make a total mockery of the severity of its continuous impact. This 'massacre of negligence', as Slate dubbed it, is a cleansing of a particular kind.
Could the exchange value of Haitian lives on the geopolitical futures market be that low?
Author of The Big Truck that Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, journalist Jonathan M. Katz, recently told NPR, "The U.N.'s position essentially hasn't changed for five years now... At the very beginning, they were extremely actively involved in a cover up -- literally destroying evidence and putting out press releases disclaiming any possibility that they could be responsible, [all] based on evidence and assertions that just weren't true." As this story unfolds, Haitians continue to pay the price with their lives. Efforts to redress this have been full of fits and starts. The lawsuit currently in effect in the U.S., that has prompted the sense of optimism reported in the Guardian, is the second attempt by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) to hold the UN accountable. The first attempt, a class action lawsuit, was dismissed in 2015.
In April, in reference to the newly re-postponed presidential elections, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon issued a warning to Haiti wrapped in a benevolent narrative too typical of mighty Northern superpowers. He called "on all Haitian actors to ensure the prompt return to constitutional order, as the country can ill afford a period of prolonged transitional governance while facing major socio-economic and humanitarian challenges." There is irony in his deprecation of this electoral stalemate--a small win for the Haitian people's infinite pursuit of democracy, who dodged the 'selection' of yet another head of state, amidst the most brazen internationally sanctioned fraudulence. His caution contained a dose of audacity, expressed as deep concern, that the international community could tighten its purse strings.
There is a double entendre here not be ignored as the U.N. refuses to acknowledge its role in the epidemic. The Secretary General does not deserve a free pass. If I may be so bold, au contraire Monsieur Moon, it is the United Nations that can ill afford a prolonged period of denial of accountability for their blatant disregard and ruination of Haitian lives. Their refusal to take responsibility for the cholera outbreak only exacerbates their declining integrity globally. In this era of #BlackLivesMatter, the U.N. is further certifying its shameful place in history for another epic humanitarian failure. See: #Rwanda. To live up to its mandate and human rights obligations, the U.N. must own its culpability, compensate the victims, and take aggressively concrete steps to eradicate the disease. For nothing less will right this human wrong.