October 2020 Monthly Forecast

AMERICAS

Haiti

Expected Council Action

In October, the Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) which expires on 16 October. Prior to the adoption, the Council expects to meet to receive a briefing from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of BINUH, Helen La Lime.

Key Recent Developments

Haiti faces extreme political, economic, and social uncertainty. All crises were initially overshadowed in the spring by the appearance of COVID-19, delaying action on many initiatives. The reported COVID-19 cases are 8,740, with 227 deaths as of 29 September. However, the number of reported cases could be inaccurate given the Haitian population’s widespread fear and distrust of health officials after a devastating cholera outbreak began in October 2010 (and ultimately tied to the presence of UN peacekeepers). People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 reportedly face stigmatisation, especially in rural areas. The most recent Secretary-General’s report, published on 15 June, said that by 31 May there had been 27 confirmed incidents—including attempted lynching, hate speech, attacks against care centres, and denial of treatment—directed against people who had tested positive or were suspected of testing positive for COVID-19. Even unrelated paediatric vaccinations are down as unfounded rumours circulate of Haitians being used as test subjects to find a COVID-19 cure. Additionally, with remittances from abroad making up approximately 36 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product, the sharp downturn of economies around the world may leave many Haitians abroad without money to send home, worsening an already dire economic situation.

In 2019, a series of riots against Haitian President Jovenel Moïse led to a de facto shutdown of the entire country. Protests largely abated in early 2020 as lockdown measures against COVID-19 went into effect. In recent weeks, however, riots have resumed. Opposition groups continue to call on Moïse to resign and for plans to be made for elections. Moïse has been governing Haiti through executive decree since 13 January when the existing parliament’s mandate expired. A new parliament was not 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 the elections, and there was no political agreement on the new composition of the Provisional Electoral Council.

On 28 August, Monferrier Dorval, an influential lawyer and head of the bar association in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, was shot and killed in his home. While an official investigation is underway, there have been protests calling for his killers to be brought to justice, with many frustrated about the lack of accountability for this and other murders. Recent weeks have also seen a rise in gang-related killings and violence. Such crimes were already extremely high in Haiti, and the increase is making a fragile security situation worse. Protesters say that the gangs are silencing critics of Moïse’s government. In her last public briefing to the Council on 19 June, La Lime said that the increase in gang violence in Port-au-Prince may be tied to an attempt to influence the results of any future election. Many Haitians are frustrated with what they see as Moïse’s unconstitutional use of power, especially since elections remain unscheduled.

Disagreements persist over how to proceed with constitutional and structural reforms and establishing an electoral calendar.  While Haitian officials, supported by BINUH’s good offices, have held exploratory meetings about how to proceed with elections, there has been little progress, which has increased the frustration felt by Haitians. In early September, Moïse took some concrete steps, issuing a statement that elections will take place in 2021 and that he would soon establish an electoral council. Given the inability of Haiti’s political factions to compromise, however, it seems unlikely that they will easily reach consensus.

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. Despite the limitations on in-person actions because of COVID-19 safety protocols, BINUH has been able to make some progress with certain benchmarks, including continued good offices by Special Representative La Lime and the development by an advisory unit of an inclusive approach to a community violence reduction national strategy, as laid out in resolution 2476.

The Council last met to discuss BINUH on 19 June, when it held an open videoconference (VTC) meeting, followed by a closed VTC session. La Lime and Jacques Letang, current president of the Haitian Bar Federation (FBH) and a founding member of the Human Rights Office in Haiti (BDHH), briefed Council members.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 29 July, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement that former Haitian paramilitary leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant must be held accountable for the “horrendous human rights violations” committed during the 1990s, particularly for his involvement in the 1994 Raboteau massacre, a politically-motivated mass killing that took place in the Raboteau, a slum on the outskirts of Gonaïves. In a landmark moment for justice in Haiti, Constant was convicted in absentia in November 2000, having fled to the US in 1994. He was deported from the US in June 2020 and arrested upon his arrival in Port-au-Prince. On 10 July, the judiciary announced that the file related to his detention could not be located, raising concerns as to the legal basis for Constant’s detention. “Impunity destroys the social fabric of societies and perpetuates mistrust among communities or towards the State”, said Bachelet. She emphasised that perpetrators of such “egregious acts” as Constant “must not be allowed to escape justice”.

Key Issues and Options

While COVID-19 has not affected Haiti as severely as some had feared, it has laid bare the overall fragility of the country. Council members remain particularly frustrated by the lack of progress on constitutional reform and preparations for elections. Members may want to hear La Lime’s views on what can be done to generate an improved environment for negotiations. Council members are also likely to want more information about the increase in gang-perpetrated violence, ongoing training and activities of the Haitian National Police, and the decades-long problem of prison overcrowding.

As they mark one year since the establishment of BINUH, members may seek updates on how well the transition has gone from a long-standing peacekeeping presence to a smaller special political mission. The last time the Council members held a closed VTC on Haiti, they issued press elements afterwards. They may choose to adopt a presidential or press statement to mark the first anniversary of BINUH and call on Haitian stakeholders to do more to create an environment conducive to elections.

Given the challenges of COVID-19 and the related uncertainties, members may not want to adjust BINUH’s tasks. There is a recognition that it has been challenging for BINUH to implement all of its mandated tasks with COVID-19 protocols in place—for example, trying to support community engagement when staying socially distanced from the community. An option for the Council could be largely to roll over BINUH’s mandate in a new resolution, perhaps with added language calling on BINUH to use its good offices to contribute to a conducive environment to address the increasingly fraught political space.

It is also possible that some member states may want to strengthen BINUH’s capacities. For example, some may want to increase BINUH’s ability to help the Haitian National Police remain independent and credible, especially ahead of what is expected to be a tense environment once elections are scheduled. BINUH could be mandated to provide additional means to strengthen the police with new tools and capacities. 

Council Dynamics

Council members in general supported the establishment of BINUH instead of a traditional peacekeeping mission, with the Dominican Republic (Haiti’s neighbour on the island of Hispaniola) being the sole voice advocating a return to traditional peacekeeping. Several Council members believe that the problems Haiti is experiencing are not of the type that are best addressed by peacekeeping but are political in nature and better handled by a political mission and Haitians themselves. In contrast, the Dominican Republic and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (which is also likely to speak on behalf of the three African Council members) may reiterate their concerns about the influx of illicit small arms and light weapons into Haiti, fuelling an increase in gang-related violence that damages Haiti’s ability to provide a safe electoral environment. In the past, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has also, uniquely, brought up the issue of reparations for the descendants of former enslaved Haitians.

Resolution 2476, which established BINUH, was adopted with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and the Dominican Republic). During the negotiations in June 2019, China wanted a mandate that was less UN-led and more informed by Haiti’s own priorities. China felt its position was not reflected in the resolution, and so abstained. Explaining its abstention on the resolution, the Dominican Republic stated that it felt the mandate of the new mission was not robust enough and that an approach based primarily on public security was inadequate. It also regretted that the resolution did not establish a firm electoral timetable. Such concerns may come up again in October.

Council members remain divided over the best way to support elections in Haiti. Moïse has pledged to begin constitutional reform, but the process has been slow. Some members worry that the constitutional reform process could be used to delay elections. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic may preclude holding elections in the near future. Members may reiterate their past calls for Haitians to hold a national dialogue to resolve their differences.

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.
Secretary-General’s Reports
15 June 2020S/2020/537 The Secretary-General’s report covering the activities of BINUH from 13 February to 15 June 2020.
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.