Expected Council Action
In June, the Security Council is expected to hold an open videoconference (VTC) on the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH). Special Representative Helen La Lime is expected to brief, and a civil society briefer may also participate.
BINUH’s mandate expires on 16 October 2020.
Key Recent Developments
Haitian President Jovenel Moïse has been governing Haiti through executive decree since 13 January. The existing parliament’s mandate expired on that day with no new parliament in place because legislative and local elections had not been held in October 2019, as constitutionally mandated. In 2019, Parliament failed to pass an electoral law and approve an election budget that would have been the first steps for organising these elections; nor was there political agreement on the new composition of the Provisional Electoral Council. Moïse continues to lack popular support and has been the subject of months of protests, some violent and deadly. Opposition groups continue to call for Moïse’s resignation.
The political crisis has been overshadowed by the appearance of COVID-19 in Haiti, a country with a weak and overburdened health care system. Government officials responded quickly to the threat of COVID-19. Since late March, all gatherings of more than ten people have been banned, there has been a curfew, and schools, airports and some factories have been closed. At the time of writing, the number of cases appeared relatively low, with 1,320 reported cases and 67 deaths as of 292 May, but several factors raise concerns that numbers could rise. At least 27,000 Haitians have returned home from jobs in the neighbouring Dominican Republic since 17 March, and the US has deported over 100 Haitians during the shutdown. The Dominican Republic has reported over 16,000 cases, and the US has more than 1.6 million reported cases. Local reports indicate that markets and transportation remain as busy as they were before the pandemic. Amongst the population there is also widespread fear and distrust of health officials, especially those from outside Haiti, which makes reporting and testing difficult (access to testing is limited in any case, with two laboratories in the country able to perform the test). Congested neighbourhoods, poor sanitation, overcrowded prisons and the weak healthcare system could also exacerbate disease spread.
Estimates of how widely the epidemic could spread range from 35 to 85 percent of the population, illustrating how much remains unknown. The impact of a wider spread of COVID-19 throughout Haiti could be devastating, however. According to the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, six million of Haiti’s 11 million people live below the poverty line, 300,000 children are going without meals because schools are closed, and at least one million Haitians suffered from severe hunger before the pandemic.
Moïse said he would urge Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe to set up an economic unit to address the impact of COVID-19 and has also begun discussions for a plan regarding the food supply with the ministry of agriculture. With remittances making up approximately 36 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product, the shutdown of many countries’ economies may leave many Haitians abroad without money to send home. Moïse has also created a presidential commission to coordinate the fight against COVID-19. The commission is led by Dr. Jean William Pape, a widely respected doctor who runs a large AIDS and tuberculosis clinic in Port-au-Prince. To assist, the International Monetary Fund has announced a pledge of $111 million, and the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development have committed a total of $13.2 million. The World Bank and the EU have also made significant pledges.
BINUH’s mandate, established through resolution 2476, includes advising the government on issues related to promoting and strengthening political stability and good governance, the rule of law, an inclusive inter-Haitian national dialogue, and protecting and promoting human rights. According to diplomatic sources, BINUH is fully established and is working with the UN’s agencies, funds, and programmes on the ground.
The first Council meeting on BINUH was held on 13 February. Special Representative La Lime and Marie Yolène Gilles, executive director of the civil society group Fondasyon Je Klere, briefed.
Key Issues and Options
The closure of the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) in October 2019 followed by the launch of BINUH marked the first time since 2004 with no UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti. Members will likely want further updates on the transition from a long-standing peacekeeping presence to a smaller special political mission. Members may also seek more information about BINUH’s support for the Haitian government’s efforts to stabilise and develop Haiti. Given postponed elections in 2019, members may in addition want to hear about the ongoing constitutional reform process in Haiti and what it could mean for future elections.
Haiti’s preparedness for COVID-19 seems likely to be the main topic of discussion. Members are well aware of the deficiencies in Haiti’s health care infrastructure and may want to know how BINUH and the wider UN are preparing for an increase in cases.
During its term on the Council, the Dominican Republic has repeatedly and strenuously expressed its view that MINUJUSTH, the peacekeeping mission that BINUH replaced, was withdrawn from Haiti too soon. In his statement during the last public meeting on Haiti in February, Ambassador José Singer Weisinger (Dominican Republic) tied the chaos in Haiti to the early withdrawal of MINUJUSTH, indicating that Haiti was not ready for this transition during an election period. While some other members seem sympathetic to that view, especially given the current political impasse, Council members in general support the establishment and strengthening of BINUH and did not oppose its formation as a replacement for MINUJUSTH. Those members believe that the problems Haiti is experiencing now are not of the type to be addressed by peacekeeping; instead they are political and better handled by a political mission and Haitians themselves.
Council members focused much of their attention in the last meeting on the political impasse and the need for all stakeholders to work together. France said that it was ultimately up to the parties to move forward, and this rhetoric will likely be repeated in June. Some members may focus more on the root causes of Haiti’s instability, pointing to a lack of economic development, among other things. All members remain concerned about the continued overcrowding of Haiti’s prisons as well as the ability of the Haitian National Police to handle security responsibilities effectively and to remain neutral.
A potential point of divergence amongst Council members may be the timing of elections. Some members do not want to rush into elections while others believe constitutional reform, a process that many believe should take place swiftly in Haiti, should not be used as a reason to delay elections. Moïse has pledged to begin constitutional reform, but the process has been slow. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, it may not be possible to hold elections in the near future.
The US is the penholder on Haiti.
UN DOCUMENTS ON HAITI
|Security Council Resolutions|
|25 June 2019S/RES/2476||This resolution established BINUH, an SPM that will continue the UN presence in Haiti following the conclusion of MINUJUSTH.|
|13 February 2020S/2020/123||The first Secretary-General’s report covering the activities of BINUH.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|20 February 2020S/PV.8729||The Council held a briefing on BINUH. Special Representative Helen La Lime and Marie Yolène Gilles, the Executive Director of the civil society group Fondasyon Je Klere, briefed via VTC.|
|25 June 2019S/PV.8559||Meeting record of the adoption of resolution 2476 establishing the special political mission BINUH. There were two abstentions: China and the Dominican Republic|