Expected Council Action
This month the Security Council is due to extend the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) before the current mandate expires on 15 October. Ahead of the renewal, the Council is expected to convene a meeting with troop-contributing countries (TCCs) and hold a debate with a briefing by Special Representative Sandra Honoré, who will present the Secretary-General’s 31 August MINUSTAH report. The debate is likely to take place after elections in Haiti, currently scheduled for 9 October.
Key Recent Developments
Following Honoré’s last briefing on 17 March, Council members issued a press statement on 18 March expressing “deep concern regarding the continued suspension of electoral rounds in Haiti”, and calling for the completion of the electoral cycle without further delay. In particular, they urged all political actors to adhere to the 5 February political accord and its agreed timelines. The accord, which aimed to safeguard “constitutional continuity” following the failure to elect a new president before the end of former President Michel Martelly’s term on 7 February, contained provisions for parliament to appoint an interim president to serve for a maximum period of 120 days, with elections preliminarily scheduled for 24 April.
Despite the appeals of the international community, elections were not held within the agreed timeframe. Political divisions continued to hamper implementation of the 5 February agreement, and there were renewed calls for the annulment of the 25 October 2015 first round of the presidential elections. On 27 April, interim President Jocelerme Privert announced the establishment of a new independent electoral evaluation and verification commission with a mandate to assess the 2015 elections. (An evaluation had already been carried out by a commission created by Martelly in December 2015.) The commission recommended in its 30 May final report that the first round of the presidential elections should be repeated.
Meanwhile, on 12 May, at the request of the US, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed Council members on the electoral crisis in consultations. In a 13 May press statement, they expressed “deep disappointment” that Haitian leaders had failed to meet the election deadlines and called on them to ensure “the prompt return to constitutional order”.
On 6 June, the new provisional electoral council issued a revised calendar based on the recommendations of the electoral commission. A repeat of the first round of the presidential elections will be held on 9 October, along with a partial re-run of the legislative elections and first-round elections for one-third of the Senate, with a second round scheduled for 8 January 2017, including presidential and senatorial run-offs, if required, and single-run local elections. Final results of the presidential elections will be announced by 30 January 2017, with installation of a new president expected to take place on 7 February 2017.
In response, the international core group on Haiti (Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, the US, the EU, the Organisation of American States [OAS] and the UN) said in a 6 June statement that it remained “deeply concerned” about the decision to re-run the elections and urged all relevant actors “to scrupulously respect” the electoral calendar. The core group issued further statements on 15 June and 22 July, expressing concern that no measures had been taken to ensure constitutional continuity at the end of the 120-day interim period, and calling on parliament to take action to avoid a constitutional vacuum and decide on provisional governance arrangements.
During a visit to Haiti from 30 June to 3 July, Ladsous said Haiti’s political crisis was generating increasing impatience within the international community and stressed that it was up to Haitians to overcome the political stalemate. At the request of the US, Ladsous briefed Council members in consultations upon his return to New York, on 7 July.
Confirming Ladsous’ assertion, the EU on 8 June announced the withdrawal of its electoral observer mission from Haiti, while the US said on 7 July that it would not provide any additional election funding. (The cost is estimated at $55 million.) However, the OAS announced on 2 August that it would observe the 9 October elections.
In his latest report, the Secretary-General noted that Ladsous had concluded after his visit to Haiti that MINUSTAH’s presence was required until the end of the electoral cycle, underlining the crucial importance of the mission’s deterrent effect in the context of continuing political uncertainty and a fragile security situation. The Secretary-General therefore recommended the renewal of MINUSTAH’s mandate for another six months in its current configuration. He proposed to carry out a strategic assessment and present recommendations to the Council on the future presence and role of the UN in Haiti ahead of the next mandate renewal. Provided the new electoral calendar is maintained, the assessment would be carried out after the installation of a new president on 7 February.
On 19 August, the UN spokesman said the Secretary-General regretted the suffering the Haitian people had endured as a result of the cholera epidemic and that the UN had “a moral responsibility to the victims” without explicitly attributing the epidemic to UN peacekeepers. He announced that the UN was working closely with member states to develop a support package to families most directly affected by cholera. The Secretary-General made similar remarks in his opening speech to the General Assembly on 20 September. In a related development, a US federal appellate court on 19 August upheld an earlier ruling dismissing a lawsuit brought against the UN by representatives of cholera victims requesting compensation.
A key issue for the Council in October is the renewal of MINUSTAH’s mandate and whether to endorse the Secretary-General’s recommendations.
Another issue is whether and how the Council should express any views on the preferred timelines for the deployment of the strategic assessment mission, the resumption of the withdrawal of the military contingent and the reconfiguration of the UN presence.
A further issue is the continued risk of instability and violence associated with the electoral process and possible further delays if any of the candidates again refuses to accept the results.
The main option for the Council is to extend MINUSTAH for six months with the same authorised strength, as recommended by the Secretary-General, and call for the completion of the electoral process without further delays.
In addition, the Council could either request the Secretary-General to deploy a strategic assessment mission by a specific date, independently of the outcome of the elections, or ask that the mission be deployed only after the successful conclusion of the elections. It could also signal its intention to authorise a complete drawdown of the military contingent by a specific date, depending on developments on the ground.
Council members are clearly frustrated by the general lack of progress in Haiti and the inability of its leaders to make the compromises and decisions necessary for the country to move forward. While they welcome the new electoral calendar, there seems to be some concern about the risk of further disruptions if the results of the first round are contested.
With regard to MINUSTAH, at press time negotiations on the mandate renewal had only just begun in the Group of Friends of Haiti, which comprises Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Guatemala, Peru, the US, Uruguay and Venezuela. According to established practice, the US, as the penholder on MINUSTAH, will prepare a draft resolution for the Council on the basis of the discussions in the Group of Friends.
At the Council level, most members seem ready to endorse the Secretary-General’s recommendations, but there are still important differences in their positions. Some members, including France, the UK and Uruguay, have said very clearly that election delays should not prevent discussions on the reconfiguration of MINUSTAH from moving forward. (It seems that Uruguay, which is MINUSTAH’s third-largest TCC with a military contingent of 248, earlier this year indicated its intention to withdraw all of its troops by year’s end, although it has recently signalled that the troops may remain until April.) Other members, as well as some TCCs, remain cautious about decoupling the reconfiguration of MINUSTAH from the electoral process, warning against a premature drawdown and stressing the importance of having a legitimate government in place as an interlocutor for the strategic assessment mission.
UN Documents on Haiti
|Security Council Resolution|
|14 October 2015 S/RES/2243||This was a resolution that renewed MINUSTAH’s mandate until 15 October 2016.|
|31 August 2016 S/2016/753||This was the most recent report on MINUSTAH.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|17 March 2016 S/PV.7651||This was the Council’s last debate on Haiti.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|13 May 2016 SC/12364||This was a press statement that expressed “deep disappointment” that Haitian leaders had failed to meet election deadlines.|
|18 March 2016 SC/12290||This was a press statement that expressed concern regarding the continued suspension of electoral rounds in Haiti and called for the completion of the electoral cycle without further delay.|