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 options for the future UN presence following the end of MINUSTAH’s current consolidation plan in 2016. A debate with a briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of mission, Sandra Honoré, is expected.
Ahead of the debate, the Council is expected to convene a meeting with MINUSTAH’s troop contributors to hear a briefing by the outgoing force commander, Lieutenant General Edson Leal Pujol (Brazil).
MINUSTAH’s mandate expires on 15 October.
Key Recent Developments
On 10 October 2013, the Council, in resolution 2119, renewed MINUSTAH’s mandate until 15 October 2014. It also authorised a reduction in troop strength from 6,270 to 5,021 while maintaining the size of the police component at 2,601 as recommended by the Secretary-General in his 19 August report (S/2013/493). With regard to the long-overdue elections in Haiti, the resolution urged political actors in Haiti to work together to hold the elections in accordance with the constitution “to ensure the continued functioning of the national assembly and other elected bodies”. (This referred to the controversy surrounding the mandate of senators elected in 2009, which according to the constitution does not expire until 2015, whereas the 2008 electoral law could be interpreted to mean their term ended in January.)
In an explanation of vote following the adoption, the UK said that MINUSTAH was “the clearest example of a mismatch between the needs on the ground and the tools the Security Council uses to address them” and that it made little sense to have more than 5,000 peacekeepers in a situation with no recent military conflict. It argued that some of the tasks performed by MINUSTAH were better suited to other parts of the UN system, criticising in particular the continued use of quick-impact projects and asserted that there was scope for a more accelerated drawdown of the mission, especially of engineering personnel.
Preparations for elections in Haiti took an important step forward on 27 November 2013 when the Chamber of Deputies approved a new electoral law in a special session convened by President Michel Martelly. The new law replaced the controversial 2008 electoral law, thus resolving the dispute over the term of senators elected in 2009.
The political climate seemed to improve with the launch on 24 January of a new national dialogue involving key political stakeholders under the auspices of the Conférence Episcopale d’Haïti. During the first round of talks, it seems a consensus was reached to organise combined elections in 2014 (as opposed to two separate elections) for the Chamber of Deputies and a second third of the Senate, in addition to the local, municipal and partial senatorial elections already foreseen. Participants also discussed possible changes to the transitional Electoral Council (Collège transition du Conseil Electoral Permanent), reshuffling the cabinet to include opposition leaders and the need for constitutional amendments. A second round of talks was launched on 11 February.
During a visit to Washington, D.C., from 4 to 7 February, Martelly for the first time met with US President Barack Obama. He also met with US Secretary of State John Kerry and members of the US Congress. The organisation of elections was among key issues discussed, which also included security, reconstruction and the economic situation. From 19 to 26 February Martelly travelled to France, Italy and Belgium for high-level meetings and also visited the Vatican.
Capacity building of the Haitian National Police seemed to be progressing well. Its most recent class, whose graduation ceremony was held on 27 December 2013, was the largest in its history with 1,058 graduates, including 111 women.
On 17 December, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs launched its 2014 action plan for Haiti, requesting $169 million in funding. Estimating that 817,000 people will still require assistance this year, the plan focuses in particular on aiding displaced families, alleviating food insecurity, fighting cholera and strengthening emergency preparation. It also notes a number of positive developments since the 2010 earthquake: 89 percent of the displaced population has left the camps; the incidence of cholera has been reduced by over 50 percent and severe food insecurity has been brought down from 1.5 million affected people in early 2013 to 600,000 in October 2013.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 20 February the court of appeals in Haiti voted in favour of opening new investigations into former President Jean-Claude Duvalier for crimes against humanity. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights welcomed the decision as “a landmark step for Haitian justice in combating impunity for past human rights violations”.
During its 25th session in March, the Human Rights Council will consider the report of the independent expert on human rights in Haiti, Gustavo Gallón (A/HRC/25/71). When Gallón last visited the country from 23 September to 1 October 2013, he put an emphasis on five aspects: the right to education; the situation of persons deprived of liberty; the strengthening of justice institutions; addressing human rights violations committed under Duvalier and former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide; and the situation in IDP camps.
The organisation of elections remains a key issue. A related issue is whether the national dialogue will succeed in building consensus on the way forward.
Another key issue is the continued consolidation of MINUSTAH and the future UN presence. Resolution 2119 took note of paragraph 64 of the Secretary-General’s 19 August report, which stated that the option of replacing the mission with a smaller, more focused assistance mission in 2016 would be explored and that proposals on the way forward would be included in the upcoming March report. It seems the report is expected to present four options, ranging from continuing the consolidation of the current operation to replacing MINUSTAH with a small UN office headed by a special envoy.
One option is for Council members to listen to the Special Representative’s briefing and express their national positions but take no further action at this stage.
Another option would be to adopt a presidential statement or press statement to welcome recent political progress, express support for the Special Representative, encourage broad participation in the national dialogue and urge political leaders to keep up the momentum to resolve outstanding issues and expedite the organisation of elections.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members welcome recent progress in the preparations for elections and the launch of a national dialogue, but there are still concerns about the potential for further delays. At press time, it seemed that a press statement focusing on the political situation was being considered as a possible outcome.
Views differ on the way forward for the mission. While the UK believes the mandate should focus strictly on security and favours an accelerated drawdown (it would have preferred, for example, that the mission stop doing quick-impact projects altogether), other members, such as Argentina and Chile, argue that the balance between security and development tasks must be maintained and that Haiti still needs a multidimensional peacekeeping mission.
With regard to the Secretary-General’s expected options for the future reconfiguration of MINUSTAH it seems unlikely that Council members will engage in a very substantive discussion of these at this stage. It is possible, however, that the options will provide further arguments to those in favour of an accelerated drawdown. Furthermore, recent demands for additional peacekeeping resources in other situations such as South Sudan and potentially in the Central African Republic may create additional pressure for MINUSTAH to downsize.
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, which is the chair.)
UN Documents on Haiti
|Security Council Resolution|
|10 October 2013 S/RES/2119||This resolution renewed MINUSTAH’s mandate until 15 October 2014.|
|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.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|10 October 2013 S/PV.7040||This was the adoption of resolution 2119 with the UK’s explanation of vote.|
|28 August 2013 S/PV.7024||was the most recent Council debate on Haiti.|