Expected Council Action
In October, the Security Council is due to hold its semi-annual debate and adopt a resolution extending the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) before the current mandate expires on 15 October. Special Representative Sandra Honoré is expected to present the Secretary-General’s 31 August report and brief the Council on recent developments.
Key Recent Developments
On 9 August, Haiti held the first round of long-overdue legislative elections to fill the 119 seats of the Chamber of Deputies and two-thirds of the 30 Senate seats.
In a 10 August statement, Honoré and members of the international core group based in Port-au-Prince (Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, the US, the EU and the Organisation of American States [OAS]) welcomed the elections and expressed support for the completion of the electoral process according to the established calendar. (The calendar stipulates that the second round shall be held on 25 October together with the first round of presidential elections and local and municipal elections, followed by a possible run-off on 27 December.) The statement also deplored, however, “interruptions of the polls in certain areas, acts of violence and the loss of human life” (two people were killed) and encouraged Haitian authorities to investigate the incidents without delay and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Media coverage of the 9 August elections also highlighted the disruptions faced by voters in casting their ballots and other irregularities, such as ballot-stuffing. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) confirmed that 54 polling stations, or approximately 5 percent of the total, were closed down due to violence and other disruptions. As a result, the CEP later announced that the elections in 25 of 119 voting districts would be repeated and decided to disqualify 16 candidates suspected of involvement in violent acts. Voter turnout was less than 18 percent.
On 25 August, three Haitian NGOs—the National Human Rights Defense Network, the National Observation Council and the Haitian Council of Non State Actors, which together had deployed 1,500 observers in the elections—published a highly critical report calling for an independent investigation to restore confidence in the electoral process. Meanwhile, a group calling itself Front national de coordination des candidats pour la lutte démocratique demanded the annulment of the elections and resignation of the CEP. Several demonstrations took place in Port-au-Prince throughout September.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General noted in his 31 August report that national and international observers (the EU and the OAS) had described the elections as generally peaceful. He commended the CEP for its handling of the electoral process, both in ensuring transparency, fairness and inclusiveness and in maintaining tight deadlines, while standing its ground on difficult decisions.
The campaign for the presidential elections was officially launched on 9 September with a total of 54 accredited candidates. In a controversial decision, the CEP had earlier rejected the candidacy of Jacky Lumarque of Vérité, one of the main opposition parties. Vérité announced on 8 September that the party would not participate in the second round of the legislative elections. On 17 September, the CEP issued the list of candidates for the local elections.
On 15 September, Honoré and members of the core group issued another statement, emphasising the crucial importance of the elections in Haiti. They urged all actors to spare no effort in ensuring the completion of the electoral process, with the installation of a new parliament on 11 January and a new president on 7 February 2016. They also noted the steps taken by the CEP to improve the process based on the experience gained from the first round and the recommendations of the electoral observer missions.
On 28 September, the CEP announced the 9 August final results. Only eight deputies and two senators had been elected in the first round. There was renewed criticism of the CEP following the announcement, in particular relating to its handling of challenges to the initial vote count.
In other developments, MINUSTAH completed the reduction of its military component from 5,021 to 2,370 personnel, as authorised by the Council in last year’s mandate renewal. The authorised police component remains unchanged at 2,601. According to the Secretary-General’s latest report, the security environment remained generally stable although there was an increase in the number of incidents related to public protests. The report also highlighted the leading role played by the CEP in organising the elections as proof of increased national capacity to handle the security situation.
With regard to MINUSTAH’s mandate renewal, the Secretary-General recommends that the mission be extended for an additional and possibly final year without any further reductions, noting the importance of providing “a period of stability” for the new administration. A strategic assessment mission will be dispatched to Haiti following the installation of a new president with a view to presenting recommendations to the Council on the future UN presence. These will presumably build on the five options outlined in the Secretary-General’s 7 March 2014 report to the Council.
On 16 September, the Council held a meeting with MINUSTAH’s troop- and police-contributing countries with a briefing by Honoré via video teleconference.
There was a significant deterioration in the humanitarian situation. The World Food Programme on 26 August warned that a severe drought in Haiti had weakened the already-fragile food supply and might lead to food insecurity for as much as 30 percent of the population. According to the Secretary-General’s report, the UN’s response to the crisis is hampered by reduced funding.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The independent expert on the human rights situation in Haiti, Gustavo Gallón, visited the country from 6 to 15 September. In a press release on 17 September, Gallón voiced concern over serious irregularities surrounding the 9 August elections, such as politically-motivated violence and electoral fraud. He stressed the importance of improving safeguards for the upcoming elections in October and the possible third round in December. He also voiced concern over the precarious conditions in camps where Haitians who have returned from the Dominican Republic live, and called on Haitian authorities to take appropriate measures.
A key issue for the Council is the renewal of MINUSTAH’s mandate and how to address the anticipated reconfiguration of the UN presence.
A further issue is the continued risk of instability and violence associated with the electoral process, as well as the risk of further delays.
The deterioration in the humanitarian situation is also a cause for concern.
One option for the Council is to simply extend MINUSTAH for another year with no changes, as recommended by the Secretary-General.
Another option is to likewise extend the mission but at the same time signal the Council’s intention to review the situation before the end of the mandate, based on recommendations from the Secretary-General’s strategic assessment mission, and to consider a further reduction of MINUSTAH’s military component and reconfiguration of the UN presence. (In his 29 August 2014 report to the Council, the Secretary-General seemed to indicate that a reduction in the military component to one battalion could be possible after the installation of a new government.)
A further option is to extend MINUSTAH for a shorter period, such as nine months.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Group of Friends on Haiti in New York (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Guatemala, Peru, the US and Uruguay, which is the chair) started discussions on MINUSTAH’s mandate renewal in early September based on the Secretary-General’s recommendations, but at press time had yet to agree on a common position. (Following established Council practice on MINUSTAH, the US, as the penholder, seeks the input of the Group of Friends before starting negotiations in the Council.)
There is no disagreement that current troop levels must be maintained until the completion of elections. It appears, however, that France, alone among the Group of Friends but with the assumed backing of the UK, initially pushed to include elements in the draft resolution that would indicate the Council’s intention to review MINUSTAH by June 2016, and depending on the situation on the ground authorise a further drawdown. It seems France would like to anticipate the reconfiguration of the UN presence and possible termination of MINUSTAH, and to include a specific timeline for the strategic assessment mission.
Other members of the Group of Friends, however, believe it is too early for the Council to signal its intentions for the post-election phase or make any references to a further drawdown. They appear concerned that even if the president is inaugurated in February, it may take a while before a new government is formed and MINUSTAH’s continued presence will therefore still be needed to ensure stability during this period. (Honoré has apparently indicated May as a realistic timeframe.) According to this view, the timing of the assessment mission also has to be carefully considered to ensure that the views of the new government can be taken into consideration.
|Security Council Resolution|
|14 October 2014 S/RES/2180||renewed MINUSTAH’s mandate until 15 October 2015.|
|31 August 2015 S/2015/667||was the most recent MINUSTAH report.|
|29 August 2014 S/2014/617||indicated that a further drawdown of MINUSTAH’s military contingent might be possible after the elections.|
|7 March 2014 S/2014/162||outlined five options for the post-2016 UN presence in Haiti.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|18 March 2015 S/PV.7408||was the Council’s last debate on Haiti.|