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Statements and speeches Special Procedures

Comment by UN Designated Expert on Human Rights in Haiti, William O’Neill

18 September 2023



“I am extremely alarmed by the decision of the Government of the Dominican Republic to close its land, sea and air border with Haiti. I urge the Government to reconsider its decision which will have serious impacts on people on both sides of the border. I further urge both governments to return to the negotiating table and follow the process outlined by the Joint Declaration of 27 May 2021 to reach a peaceful resolution of this dispute.

Many businesses in the Dominican Republic depend on cross-border trade with Haiti for their livelihoods. Thousands of jobs are at risk, and enterprises in the Dominican Republic that heavily depend on day labourers from Haiti will face immediate economic repercussions from the closure.

On the Haitian side, the impact will be even more dire. Due to the insecurity and gang violence in Haiti, many essential products like food, medical equipment and medicines are imported from the Dominican Republic. Directors of medical clinics in Haiti have told me that they will not be able to care for their patients if access to the Dominican Republic is cut off. Lives are at stake.

Haiti receives at least 25% of its food from the Dominican Republic. Many schools in the border area purchase the food they use to provide lunch to their students. Access to water will also be further hindered.

I urge the Dominican Republic to allow the delivery of all forms of humanitarian assistance and essential goods to Haiti to avoid further exacerbating an already grave crisis that especially endangers the most vulnerable, including children and the elderly.

I understand that the complexity of the situation in Haiti has an important impact in the region and has raised concerns in the Dominican society. Addressing successfully these concerns requires measures and steps grounded in human rights and humanitarian principles and responding with solidarity in light of the humanitarian situation in the country.

I also urge the Haitian Government to exert its authority over all activities relating to the proposed canal on the Rio Massacre (Dajabon) to ensure that appropriate engineering, health and safety and environmental protocols are followed.

I finally call on both the Dominican and Haitian authorities to share all relevant information on the water table, hydrological studies, environmental impacts and other information outlined in the May 2021 Joint Statement to achieve a peaceful and quick end to this crisis. If such an agreement cannot be reached, I encourage both parties to agree to an international arbitration to resolve their differences.


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