September 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 August 2008
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AMERICAS

Haiti

Expected Council Action
The Secretary-General’s report on the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is due by 31 August. In September, the Group of Friends of Haiti (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Peru, Uruguay and the US) is likely to review the report and discuss options for a draft resolution renewing MINUSTAH’s mandate—due to expire on 15 October. Discussions are expected to also focus on Haiti’s political situation, which has deteriorated since April when the Council received its last briefing on Haiti. Some discussion of benchmarks for future reconfiguration is also likely as recommendations were promised by the Secretary-General in his 26 March report on MINUSTAH. However, the recent political and security setbacks may have introduced new factors. Council consultations on the report seem unlikely in September.

Key Recent Developments
Haiti has seen considerable social and political turmoil in recent months. On 4 April, violent demonstrations broke out in several cities over the rising cost of living. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), global food and fuel prices have risen an estimated 55 percent since June 2007. Haiti was particularly affected.Haiti has one of the highest daily caloric deficits per person in the world (on average Haitians have 460 kcal per day while the daily requirement is 2100 kcal per day). During the protests, which lasted several days, the UN compound was attacked. Three Sri Lankan peacekeepers on patrol were shot at and wounded and a Nigerian police officer was killed in Port-au-Prince.

Because of the unrest, on 12 April the Haitian senate voted to dismiss Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis. After a three-month impasse, Michele Pierre-Louis was approved by the senate on 31 July to be the new prime minister (the lower house of parliament having approved her nomination on 17 July). An economist, Pierre-Louis said that one of her priorities would be to facilitate investments in Haiti, foster national food production and development of infrastructure. At press time, she had yet to form a new government. On 21 August, some Haitian political parties said they would back the prime minister’s political programme. MINUSTAH issued a statement saying that this was a first step in efforts to place the interests of the Haitian people above political actors’ own interests.

On 2 June, during a high-level conference on world food security in Rome, hosted by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the problems of Haiti saying that there was an urgent need to tackle the food crisis in Haiti and calling for immediate humanitarian aid and steps to boost agricultural production. On 4 June, the World Food Programme said that it would provide $1.2 billion in additional food aid in the 62 countries hit hardest by the crisis caused by surging food and fuel prices. This means for Haiti that the number of people receiving food aid would be tripling. On 5 August, the EU announced that it would provide $5 million for Haiti.

It seems that several of MINUSTAH’s civilian priorities—in particular, supporting Haitian authorities in institutional and police reform—have been delayed due to this five-month political vacuum. However, on the security front, MINUSTAH reinforced its land border presence to deter smuggling and trafficking and improve security.

On 2 June, MINUSTAH announced that a kidnapping gang had been broken up in Port-au-Prince. According to UNICEF, there has been a surge in the number of kidnappings of children in 2008, particularly in May. This was confirmed in a report on grave violations against children compiled by the child protection unit of MINUSTAH, released in July and covering the period January-July 2008. The report also found that children continue to be affected by armed violence despite the general security improvements in Haiti. In particular, sexual violence against children remains a high concern, and there has been an “alarming increase” in the trafficking of children to the Dominican Republic for labour and sexual exploitation. (Nearly 750 children were repatriated by the Dominican authorities in the first five months of 2008.)

The Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti of the UN Economic and Social Council cancelled its annual trip to Haiti, originally planned for 27-30 April, because of the uncertain political context. However, it met in Washington DC and New York and produced a report on 27 June analysing key issues for Haiti’s long-term development and providing information on the food crisis. It made several recommendations to improve the economic and social situation, in particular for aid coordination, institutional capacity-building, and how to use Haitian and international levers to boost economic and social development and respond to the food crisis.

Briefing the Council on 8 April, Hédi Annabi said that there could not be any durable progress in the absence of a minimum level of political consensus. While MINUSTAH has a role in promoting constructive political dialogue, the international community could also do more to encourage a responsible approach by all political actors. The Council adopted a press statement in which it welcomed progress achieved in judicial and prison systems’ reform. It strongly deplored the 4 April violence and condemned attacks against UN personnel. The Council also expressed concern at the humanitarian situation and encouraged international donors to strengthen levels of assistance.

On 26 March, the Secretary-General published an interim report on the activities of MINUSTAH. He noted that although significant progress had been made towards the stabilisation of Haiti, the situation remains fragile. In particular, divisions among branches of the government have distracted from the reform agenda. He expressed concern for the rising number of kidnappings and the increase in the cost of living. He also reported on progress on identifying key benchmarks for the consolidation of the emerging stability. Those benchmarks could include: successful elections and the resolution of political differences; formation of a sustainable security structure; establishment of independent and credible judicial and penal systems; and extension of state authority throughout the country. Socio-economic indicators could include: improvement in the living standards of the population; availability of basic services to the population; increase in state revenue and in the Gross Domestic Product; and rise of employment rates and of internal and foreign direct investment. Progress towards those benchmarks would guide future MINUSTAH activities and reconfiguration. The Secretary-General said that his August report would provide additional details.

Options
It is unlikely that the Council will take any action in September.

An option is for the Group of Friends and Council members to take advantage of the time available and arrange for some joint meetings so as to improve the overall dynamics and chances for smoother interactions in October.

Key Issues
The main issue for the Council is the re-emergence of political instability and violence. This concern has given rise to the idea of a Council visit to Haiti which would be the first since 2005.

A related issue is the implications for MINUSTAH’s civilian activities. The unrest in April, the continued divisions between the executive and the legislative branches, and the presence of political spoilers indicate that stabilisation cannot be achieved without political reconciliation. (MINUSTAH already has a mandate to support the political process in Haiti, including through good offices, and to assist the government in its efforts to bring about national dialogue and reconciliation.) But there is criticism that the Council does not pay active attention to the full range of peacebuilding needs—in particular the “root causes” and that in this regard the recent developments are a “wake up call” for the Council.

The food crisis and the unrest it has generated are seen as an issue of great concern.

Another major issue is the Secretary-General’s assessment of the current situation in Haiti—whether the crisis is temporary and linked to economic circumstances or structural. Council members will also be keen to examine the detailed proposal for a consolidation plan and see whether the political situation has affected the proposed indicators.

Border control remains an important issue and the Council will be keen to hear about developments regarding the formation and deployment of maritime patrols as requested in resolution 1780. (At press time, Uruguay had yet to provide the boats.)

Council and Wider Dynamics
All Council members seem to agree on the need to visit Haiti. Costa Rica has the lead and Panama is co-leader. But it seems that a prevailing view— especially among the Group of Friends—is that the visit should take place after the formation of the new Haitian government so as not to be seen to be pressuring Haiti’s parliament, and also to keep discussions on MINUSTAH’s mandate renewal separate from the visit.

Overall there seems to be a strong consensus within the Group of Friends on the necessity to renew MINUSTAH for one more year without any change to its mandate. Some, however, (Canada in particular) may want to emphasise MINUSTAH’s political role in preventing further instability.

The foreign and defence vice-ministers of the nine Latin American troop-contributing countries (the “2×9 mechanism”), Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, are expected to meet in Montevideo on 29 August and define a common position on the renewal of the MINUSTAH mandate. It seems that most have concerns regarding the current political vacuum and appear willing to strongly support the consolidation of democratic consensus. They also seem interested in further promoting quick impact projects as their main effect is to reinforce the popularity of MINUSTAH (polls continue to show that MINUSTAH receives mixed reviews from the Haitians). A main issue for most are land and maritime border controls to combat drug trafficking.

On the question of indicators for stabilisation, the Latin-American troop contributors apparently believe that there needs to be a mix of security, socio-economic development and political indicators. This position may not be shared by some in the Council such as China which tends to believe that MINUSTAH should not be involved in development-related tasks and that the Peacebuilding Commission could soon have a role to play.

Underlying Problems
Haiti is still needed. For example, the WFP so far has only received 13 percent (or $12.4 million) of the $96 million necessary to assist 1.7 million people in Haiti. Rising costs have forced WFP to revise its funding requirements upwards by 22 percent.

UN Documents

Latest Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/1780 (15 October 2007) renewed MINUSTAH’s mandate for one year.

Latest Secretary-General’s Report

Latest Press Statement

Latest Security Council Meeting Record

Latest Report of the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Hédi Annabi (Tunisia)

Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Luiz Carlos da Costa (Brazil)

Force Commander

Major General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz (Brazil)

Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator, UNDP Representative

Joel Boutroue (France)

Size and Composition of Mission

  • Authorised strength as of 15 August 2006: military component of up to 7,200 troops and police component of up to 1,951 officers.
  • Current strength as of 31 July 2008: 9,040 total uniformed personnel, including 7,105 troops and 1,935 police, supported by 474 international civilian personnel, 1,166 local civilian staff and 192 UN Volunteers.
  • Contributors of military personnel: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Jordan, Nepal, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Phillipines, Sri Lanka, United States and Uruguay.
  • Contributors of police personnel: Argentina, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, DR Congo, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Grenada, Guinea, Italy, Jordan, Madagascar, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey, United States, Uruguay and Yemen. 

Cost 

1 July 2008-30 June 2009: $601.58 million

Useful Additional Sources

  • Report of grave violations against children in the context of armed violence in Haiti, MINUSTAH Child Protection Unit, January – July 2008

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