Expected Council Action
In March, the Council will consider the Secretary-General’s semi-annual report on the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The report is expected to include a plan for the consolidation of MINUSTAH based on a set of stabilisation benchmarks. A debate with a briefing by Nigel Fisher (Canada), acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of mission, is expected. At press time, no outcome was anticipated.
Ahead of the debate, the Council is expected to convene a meeting with MINUSTAH’s troop-contributing countries. The mission’s mandate expires on 15 October.
Key Recent Developments
The Council’s last debate on Haiti was held on 3 October 2012. The then Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mariano Fernández, briefed the Council on the 31 August MINUSTAH report (S/2012/678), which contained recommendations for a further drawdown of the mission.
Subsequently, on 12 October the Council adopted resolution 2070, renewing the mandate of MINUSTAH until 15 October 2013 and authorising a reduction by June of 1,070 military personnel (from 7,340 to 6,270) and 640 police personnel (from 3,241 to 2,601) as recommended by the Secretary-General. (This will bring the total troop level down to approximately where it was before the 12 January 2010 earthquake, but with an increased ratio of police to military personnel.
Among other things, the resolution called for the installation of the Permanent Electoral Council (a necessary step for the holding of legislative, municipal and local elections postponed since November 2011) and also called for the elections to be held. In addition, it emphasised the importance of strengthening the Haitian National Police, recognising police capacity-building as “a most critical task” for MINUSTAH.
On the third anniversary of the 2010 earthquake, President Michel Martelly said in a speech that international aid to Haiti after the earthquake had failed in helping rebuild the country. Noting that most of the resources had been used on emergency operations rather than reconstruction, he asserted that a new approach was needed.
Before leaving his post, Fernández gave a final briefing to Council members—at the initiative of Guatemala—in consultations on 22 January. His assessment of the situation in Haiti was perceived as markedly less positive than at the Council meeting in October. In particular, Fernández said there had been no progress towards establishing a functioning Permanent Electoral Council and that the political situation had deteriorated significantly. In the ensuing discussions, he called on the Council to react to the situation.
The Group of Friends of Haiti in New York (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Guatemala, Peru, Uruguay and the US) issued a joint statement on 23 January, recognising Fernández for his work as Special Representative, emphasising the importance of maintaining the focus on strengthening the rule of law, reiterating their support for the development of a consolidation plan for MINUSTAH and strongly encouraging all political actors in Haiti to enhance cooperation and move forward with elections.
In a 28 January press statement (SC/10901), Council members reaffirmed their support for Haiti, urged political actors to redouble their efforts to preserve progress made over the past year and underscored the importance of holding elections by the end of 2013.
In a press briefing on 15 February, Fisher expressed concern about the continuing impasse over the elections. He said this was also one of the predominant concerns raised in recent meetings in New York he had with Council members and the Friends of Haiti. Additionally, Fisher noted that economic growth had been much slower in 2012 than predicted (GDP grew by only 2.5 percent instead of the foreseen 8 percent) and that there were concerns about the independence of the judiciary.
On 21 February, former President Jean-Claude Duvalier failed to appear for the third time at a court hearing in Port-au-Prince relating to accusations against him of crimes against humanity. In January 2012, a court ruled that Duvalier could not be prosecuted for such crimes because of the statute of limitations. The hearing was intended to consider an appeal filed by alleged victims of abuses committed under the Duvalier regime. It was postponed until 28 February.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported in January that the cholera epidemic was still of great concern, with the number of new cases and deaths for the first two weeks of 2013 exceeding the 2012 numbers for the same period. As of 15 January, the total number of deaths since the epidemic started had reached 7,965. Meanwhile, the UN on 21 February announced that it had formally rejected compensation claims brought by victims of the epidemic, referring to the claims as “not receivable” under the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN. A lawyer for the cholera victims said, however, that they would challenge the UN’s right to immunity from Haitian courts on the grounds that it had not established an alternative mechanism for dealing with accountability issues, as stipulated in its agreement with the government.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 20 March, during its 22nd session, the Human Rights Council will consider the report of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, Michel Forst, who last visited the country from 25 November to 1 December 2012. His latest report, issued on 7 February, addresses progress and obstacles in reforming the justice system. It highlights the link between extended pre-trial detention and prison overcrowding while deploring poor detention conditions. The report also underlines the importance of police reform and expresses concern about illegal and arbitrary detention, harassment, ill treatment and impunity. The report furthermore notes the ratification of the 1993 Hague Convention on Adoption and addresses the issues of child domestic servants and trafficking of children. As for economic, social and cultural rights, the report focuses in particular on the right to food, education and access to health, as well as living conditions in camps, including gender-based violence.
A key issue for the Council is the difficult political situation and in particular the current impasse relating to the establishment of the Permanent Electoral Council. (While a compromise was reached in December to establish a Transitional College for a Permanent Electoral College, disputes have continued over its implementation.) A related issue is what role the Council can play in encouraging the political parties to agree on a way forward.
A second key issue in March is the expected MINUSTAH consolidation plan. Outstanding questions include what kind of priorities and benchmarks should be part of the plan and what the time frame should be. (There seems to be general agreement that the next presidential elections, scheduled for 2016, will be an important milestone in this regard.)
A continuing issue is the need to keep up progress in building the capacity of the Haitian National Police to reach the goal of increasing the number of police officers from 10,000 to 15,000 by 2016.
The most likely option is for Council members to listen to the briefing and express their national positions but take no further action at this stage.
Another option would be to adopt a presidential statement that would:
- welcome the conditions-based consolidation plan for MINUSTAH;
- emphasise the importance of holding the elections and urge the political leaders to avoid further delays;
- highlight the ongoing need to strengthen the capacity of the Haitian police;
- express concern about the impact of the cholera epidemic and urge the international community to support the Secretary-General’s initiative to eradicate cholera in Haiti launched last December;
- emphasise the importance of ensuring accountability for crimes against humanity; and
- request more regular briefings from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations on the situation in Haiti (in addition to the customary semi-annual briefings coinciding with the Secretary-General’s reports).
It seems a few Council members were somewhat taken aback by Fernández’s change in tone at the 22 January briefing and the more negative outlook he presented in comparison with the October briefing. While there is general concern about the impasse over the elections, some Council members, in particular the US, found his assessment to be too negative and did not immediately see the need for any Council action. This seems to explain why it took almost a week for Council members to agree on a press statement in response to the briefing.
With regard to MINUSTAH, some differences remain among Council members as to what the mission’s main priorities should be as well as their longer-term perspectives, but they seem less pronounced than in the past. While the UK in particular is perceived as eager for MINUSTAH to leave, Latin American members and the US are generally more cautious. All agree, however, that MINUSTAH must stay until Haiti has the capacity to ensure its own security. The upcoming debate will likely bring more clarity as to Council members’ current positions since the consolidation plan for MINUSTAH is expected to be a key focus.
The US is the lead country on Haiti. MINUSTAH mandate renewals are normally negotiated in the Group of Friends of Haiti before being circulated to all Council members.
UN Documents on Haiti
|Security Council Resolution|
|12 October 2012 S/RES/2070||renewed the Mandate of MINUSTAH until 15 October 2013.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|6 April 2011 S/PRST/2011/7||was the latest presidential statement on Haiti.|
|31 August 2012 S/2012/678||was the lastes report on Haiti.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|3 October 2012 S/PV.6842||was the most recent debate on Haiti.|
|7 February 2013 A/HRC/22/65||was a report of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|28 January 2013 SC/10901||was a Council press statement on Haiti.|
Other Relevant Facts
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of MINUSTAH
Nigel Fisher (Canada)
Size and Composition of Mission
Current strength as of 31 December: 9,464 total uniformed personnel, including 6,809 troops and 2,655 police (including formed units); the uniformed personnel are supported by 451 international civilian personnel and 1,317 local civilian staff.
Useful Additional Source
Governing Haiti: Time for national Consensus, Latin America and Caribbean Report No. 46, International Crisis Group, 4 February 2013.