Expected Council Action
In October, the Council is scheduled to renew the mandate of the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) before it expires on 15 October, most likely with a 15 percent reduction in troop numbers.
Key Recent Developments
Political tensions between the executive and legislative branches of government continued to hamper progress in the preparations for partial senatorial, municipal and local elections in Haiti. Following the submission on 27 August to parliament of the draft electoral law, the chamber of deputies established a special commission to analyse the draft. The commission was divided on two issues in particular. While some argued that the mandate of senators elected in 2009 would end in January 2014, as provided by the 2008 electoral law, others viewed 2015 as the end of term, as provided by the constitution. There were also opposing views on whether the president held the authority to appoint the director general of the Electoral Council.
Despite these divisions, the chamber of deputies on 9 September approved the draft law with provisions ensuring that the terms of the senators elected in 2009 would continue until January 2015 and granting the president the authority to appoint the director general of the Electoral Council. The minister for relations with parliament, Ralph Theano, immediately contested the vote claiming that the procedure had been flawed. At press time, it appeared that the Senate was still in the process of reviewing the proposed draft and had yet to vote on it.
Meanwhile, on 6 September, 13 opposition deputies submitted a motion calling for the indictment of the president, the prime minister and the justice minister on allegations of high treason, abuse of power and crimes against the constitution, among others.
In his latest MINUSTAH report, the Secretary-General expressed deep concern about the continuing delays in the preparation for elections and warned of the possibility that the senate, and by extension the parliament, would become “dysfunctional” if elections were not held by January 2014 given the controversy surrounding the expiration of the mandate of senators elected in 2009 (S/2013/493).
With regard to MINUSTAH, the report recommended a further reduction of the authorised military strength from 6,270 to 5,021 by June 2014, but no change in the number of police. (This was in line with the 2013-2016 consolidation plan presented in the Secretary-General’s 8 March report.)
The Council considered the Secretary-General’s report in a debate on 28 August in which the new Special Representative for Haiti and head of MINUSTAH, Sandra Honoré, briefed the Council for the first time since assuming her post on 15 July. In addressing the difficult political situation, she said there was widespread scepticism about the likelihood of elections taking place in 2013 and speculation among legislators that the executive was intentionally delaying the process to ensure that the parliament would become dysfunctional. She was engaging with all the relevant actors to promote dialogue and move the process forward.
During a trip to Haiti on 14-15 August, the operational director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, said humanitarian and development efforts were showing significant results but emphasised the importance of continued donor support. OCHA reported in August that there had been a steady decline in funding for cholera response activities since 2012. As of 1 September, the number of cumulative cases of cholera and the number of deaths since the epidemic began in October 2010 stood at 674,326 and 8,253, respectively.
According to a report published in August by the Yale Law School and School of Public Health, a scientific study about the origins of the cholera epidemic in Haiti “overwhelmingly demonstrates that UN peacekeeping troops from Nepal introduced the disease into the country”.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The bi-annual report on human rights in Haiti prepared by MINUSTAH’s Human Rights Section and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was released in September. The report, which covers the period from January to June 2013, documents allegations of excessive use of force by the police and by the prison administration, with the majority of cases remaining unpunished on the judicial level. According to the report, the numerous cases of corruption and out-of-court settlements constitute obstacles to the fight against impunity in Haiti. Lynchings, prolonged pre-trial detention in prisons and poor prison conditions remain of great concern. The independent expert on human rights in Haiti, Gustavo Gallón, will visit the country from 23 September to 1 October and report to the Human Rights Council in March 2014.
A key issue is the renewal of MINUSTAH’s mandate and whether to authorise the Secretary-General’s recommended troop reduction.
A second key issue is the delay in holding elections and whether and possibly how the Council should put additional pressure on local stakeholders to act responsibly. In a 28 January press statement (SC/10901), the Council called for elections to be held by the end of 2013, but this now seems increasingly unlikely.
Another issue is the negative impact of the political stalemate between the executive and legislative branches of government on MINUSTAH’s ability to implement its mandate to promote the rule of law and advance good governance and human rights.
The most likely option for the Council is to adopt a resolution renewing MINUSTAH’s mandate for another 12 months and authorise a troop reduction. In addition, such a resolution could:
- emphasise the importance of holding elections and strongly urge political leaders to avoid further delays, in particular with regard to the adoption of the electoral law;
- highlight the ongoing need to strengthen the capacity of the police;
- express continued concern about the impact of the cholera epidemic and call for sustained international support to fight the epidemic;
- emphasise the importance of ensuring accountability for serious human rights violations and welcome the 13 May decree establishing an inter-ministerial commission on human rights; and
- request more regular briefings on the situation in Haiti to signal that the Council is following the situation very closely.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members are united in their concern about the political situation in Haiti and the delayed elections, as was evident from the 28 August debate. While there are some who still maintain that elections might happen this year, they also acknowledge that it now looks increasingly unlikely. At the same time, however, there is an understanding that elections are not an end in and of itself and should not be the only focus in the current situation as there are other, more fundamental problems that must be dealt with.
With regard to the future of MINUSTAH, all Council members seem to agree that the proposed drawdown must be closely linked to progress on the ground as measured by the indicators in the mission’s consolidation plan, although some members appear to be more cautious than others, in particular countries from the region and other troop- and police-contributing countries. It seems the proposed 15 percent troop reduction is balanced enough to be acceptable to all.
While the US is the penholder on Haiti, the Group of Friends of Haiti plays an influential role. (Current members are Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Guatemala, Peru, the US and Uruguay.) At press time, the Group had started drafting a resolution, with Council negotiations anticipated to start towards the end of September. In addition to questions related to MINUSTAH and the political situation, it seems discussions have focused on gender issues as there are concerns about widespread impunity for sexual and gender-based violence.
UN Documents on Haiti
|Security Council Resolution|
|12 October 2012 S/RES/2070||This resolution renewed MINUSTAH’s mandate until 15 October 2013.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|28 January 2013 SC/10901||This press statement called for the holding of elections by the end of 2013.|
|19 August 2013 S/2013/493||This was the latest MINUSTAH report.|
|8 March 2013 S/2013/139||This report contained the consolidation plan for MINUSTAH.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|28 August 2013 S/PV.7024||This was the most recent debate on MINUSTAH.|
Useful Additional Resource
Peacekeeping without Accountability: the UN’s response to the Haitian Cholera Epidemic, Yale Law School, Yale School of Public Health and Association Haitienne de Droit de L’Environnment, August 2013.