Expected Council Action
In March, the Secretary-General is due to submit his semi-annual report on the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The Council is scheduled to hold a debate, with a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Sandra Honoré.
MINUSTAH’s mandate expires on 15 October.
Key Recent Developments
Despite the consistent urging of the international community, Haiti failed to hold presidential elections to appoint a successor to Michel Martelly before his term ended on 7 February. The second round of the elections was called off at two days’ notice, leading to the installation of an interim president on 14 February.
The second round had initially been scheduled for 27 December 2015, but was postponed in response to accusations by the opposition of widespread fraud and irregularities in the first round on 25 October. In a field of 54 candidates, the government-backed candidate, Jovenel Moïse, received the most votes, with 32.76 percent, while the second-most votes went to opposition candidate Jude Célestin, with 25.29 percent.
In response to opposition-led calls for an independent investigation of the 25 October results, Martelly on 22 December created an electoral evaluation commission. That same day, Security Council members issued a press statement on the importance of holding elections as a critical element of Haiti’s development and called on stakeholders to bring the electoral process to conclusion in accordance with the constitutional timeframe, including the inauguration of a new president by 7 February. They took note of the creation of the commission and expressed support for initiatives to increase the transparency and credibility of the electoral process, while calling on all actors to refrain from any violence or other provocations.
The commission’s report, released on 2 January, concluded that a number of serious irregularities had taken place during the first round and made recommendations for improving the process, but did not call for any changes to the elections schedule. In a 4 January statement, Honoré and members of the international core group based in Port-au-Prince—Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, the US, the EU and the Organization of American States (OAS)—took note of the report and asked all relevant parties to take the necessary measures to ensure a peaceful transfer of power on 7 February.
The Provisional Electoral Council (Conseil Electoral Provisoire, or CEP) announced on 5 January that the second round of the presidential elections would be held on 24 January, along with parliamentary elections for the 22 constituencies where the results of the 9 August 2015 first round had been cancelled and country-wide local elections. It affirmed that this would provide enough time for results to be certified by 7 February. In a 7 January statement, the OAS electoral observer mission in Haiti welcomed the setting of a date and appealed to the two candidates to fully participate in the electoral process. It also noted that despite irregularities in the first round, “the information gathered by the OAS on the ground did not show inconsistencies with the final result presented by the CEP in terms of which two candidates go to the run-off”.
Meanwhile, the creation of the electoral evaluation commission and steps taken to implement the commission’s recommendations did not seem to appease the opposition. A group of eight opposition candidates, including Célestin, called for the creation of a provisional government to complete the election process and the resignation of the CEP, while Célestin said he would boycott the 24 January elections. Demonstrations turned increasingly violent, with protesters attacking electoral offices, erecting burning roadblocks and shattering windows. Despite calls by the OAS, the UN, the US and others for the second round to proceed as planned, it was cancelled at the last minute when it became clear that Célestin would not participate. The CEP on 22 January announced the indefinite postponement of the elections following the adoption by the senate on 20 January of a resolution to suspend the second round. Subsequently, at the request of Martelly, the OAS decided on 27 January to send a mission to Haiti to help resolve the stalemate.
At the initiative of the US, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El Ghassim Wane briefed Council members on 28 January on the situation in consultations. In a subsequent press statement, they expressed their “strong concern regarding the developments leading to the indefinite postponement of the final round of elections in Haiti”, and “strongly urged” relevant actors to reach an agreement by 7 February on a road map for the conclusion of the electoral cycle in “a free, fair, inclusive and transparent contest”. They also urged all political actors to remain calm and refrain from any violence.
Subsequently, Martelly and the leaders of the two chambers of parliament reached an agreement on 5 February to secure “constitutional continuity” at the end of the presidential term. As a first step, Martelly resigned on 7 February as required by the constitution, and then on 14 February parliament elected Jocelerme Privert, an opposition senator and former cabinet member under President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to serve as interim president for a maximum period of 120 days, until the holding of elections. The agreement stipulated that the interim president should nominate a new consensus prime minister to replace Evans Paul and appoint a new electoral council, with elections preliminarily scheduled for 24 April and the inauguration of the new president projected for 14 May. On 25 February, Privert announced the appointment of Fritz Jean, an economist, as the new prime minister. At press time, consultations on the selection of the new members of the CEP were ongoing.
The humanitarian situation seemed to deteriorate even further as Haiti entered its third consecutive year of drought, exacerbated by El Niño. The World Food Programme said on 9 February that the number of people facing severe food insecurity had doubled to 1.5 million since last year and that because of poor harvests the country was facing its worst food crisis since 2011. Also, OCHA reported in January that the number of reported cholera cases had increased by 24 percent from 2014 to 2015, with 36,045 cases and 322 deaths.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The independent expert on the human rights situation in Haiti, Gustavo Gallón, visited the country from 22 February to 1 March to assess the political situation and its implications for human rights as well as prison conditions. The Human Rights Council will consider the report of the independent expert (A/HRC/31/77), during its 31st session in March.
A key issue for the Council is the continued risk of instability and violence associated with the electoral process, as well as the risk of further delays, in particular if disputes continue over the results of the first round of the presidential elections.
On the security side, a key issue is the capacity-building of the Haitian National Police. A further issue is the implications of the electoral crisis for MINUSTAH and the planning process for the anticipated future reconfiguration of the UN presence.
One option for the Council is to simply hold the debate and for Council members to express their views in national statements.
A further option is to adopt a presidential statement to signal that the situation is being closely watched by the Council and reiterate the importance of bringing the electoral process to a conclusion without any further delays, while noting an intention to review the UN presence by 15 October with a view to withdrawing the military contingent. Such a statement would also provide an opportunity for the Council to provide additional guidance to the Secretary-General on the planned strategic assessment of MINUSTAH.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members are united in their frustration and disappointment over the postponement of the second round of the presidential elections. It seems that most members agree with the view expressed by the US, the UN and others that the elections scheduled for 24 January should not have been cancelled, given international electoral observers’ assessment that the irregularities reported in the first round had not altered the final outcome. Donor countries are also concerned about the additional costs caused by the delays.
With regard to the security situation, Council members were pleased to note that Wane in his briefing on 28 January said that the Haitian police had been able to handle the recent election-related protests without any operational assistance from MINUSTAH. While it is understood that there will be no changes in the mission before the end of the current mandate, there is still some frustration that the postponement of the elections will lead to a similar delay in the preparations and planning for the reconfiguration and eventual drawdown foreseen when the Council renewed MINUSTAH’s mandate last October in resolution 2243.
The resolution requested the Secretary-General to dispatch a strategic assessment mission to Haiti, which would present recommendations on the future presence and role of the UN in Haiti “preferably by 90 days after the inauguration of the new President and ideally after the formation of a new government”. On the basis of the new election schedule, this means that the Secretary-General’s recommendations are now due in mid-August instead of early May, which is much later than some Council members had wanted. When MINUSTAH’s mandate was last renewed, France and the UK, which have argued for a while that the mission’s military contingent should be withdrawn as soon as possible, pushed unsuccessfully to include a provision that would have indicated the Council’s intention to review MINUSTAH by June 2016 and, depending on the situation on the ground, authorise a further drawdown. However, the continued uncertainty surrounding the elections schedule seems to have vindicated those Council members who have consistently cautioned against a premature drawdown of the mission.
The US is the penholder on MINUSTAH.
UN Documents on Haiti
|Security Council Resolution|
|14 October 2015 S/RES/2243||This was a resolution extending the mandate of MINUSTAH for one year while maintaining its authorised troop strength at 2,370 military personnel and 2,601 police.|
|31 August 2015 S/2015/667||This was a report on MINUSTAH which recommended an extension of the mission for another 12 months without any changes.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|8 October 2015 S/PV.7530||This was the semi-annual debate on Haiti.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|29 January 2016 SC/12229||This was a press statement that expressed concern about the postponement of the elections.|
|22 December 2015 SC/12183||This was a press statement that stressed the importance of peaceful and credible elections.|