Expected Council Action
In June, the Security Council is expected to receive a briefing from the Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), Helen La Lime, on recent developments and the Secretary-General’s latest report on BINUH, due on 12 June. A civil society representative may also brief. The meeting may be followed by closed consultations.
BINUH’s mandate expires on 15 October 2021.
Key Recent Developments
Since the Council last met to discuss Haiti in February, three core issues have continued to determine the political landscape: the holding of legislative and presidential elections; a constitutional referendum; and controversy surrounding the term of President Jovenel Moïse, who has ruled the country by decree since Parliament ceased to function in January 2020, when the terms of all delegates of the lower chamber and of most senators expired because of a delay in legislative elections.
On 27 June, Haitians are scheduled to vote on a new constitution, intended to replace the current text, which dates to 1987. Amongst other changes, the proposed constitution would allow a president to run for two consecutive five-year terms without the five-year pause stipulated currently. It would also replace the bicameral parliament with a unicameral structure, effectively abolishing the senate, and establish the post of vice president with a direct reporting line to the president, replacing the current position of prime minister.
The Provisional Electoral Council (PEC) is responsible for organising the referendum, and its activities will roll over into electoral preparations. The first round of the presidential and legislative elections has been scheduled for 19 September, with a run-off foreseen for 21 November.
The constitutional referendum and the elections are facing increasing levels of scrutiny from opposition groups and the international community. Although there appears to be a common understanding that the constitution needs revision, some critics of the referendum argue that changing the constitution via popular vote is unconstitutional, referring to a passage in the current version that says, “General elections to amend the Constitution by referendum are strictly forbidden”. Moïse, on the other hand, maintains that the referendum is legitimate since Haitians will vote on a new constitution altogether, not on an amendment to the existing text.
In a 26 April statement, the “Core Group”—composed of Haiti-based representatives of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the US, the UN, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the EU—expressed concern over the lack of inclusivity and transparency of the constitutional review, noting that prior consultations should have taken place with a wide array of Haitian political and societal actors. It further cautioned that the political divisions in the country would hinder the implementation of the electoral calendar and called on Haitian leaders to put differences aside to address the current political crisis and to tackle the prevailing state of insecurity.
Expressing concern about both the referendum and elections, the EU has separately announced that it will not send electoral observers nor provide financial assistance to the referendum. The US has also said it does not support the referendum but continues to call for the swift holding of elections to reinstate the lower house and promote the peaceful transfer of presidential powers. In a 26 April letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a group of members of the US House of Representatives called on the US government not to support the upcoming election because of concerns over the “inclusiveness of elections […], lack of preparedness of electoral institutions […], as well as over the unconstitutional composition of the PEC”.
To create an environment for safe, inclusive, free and fair elections to take place and to overcome the current political impasse, the OAS has decided to deploy a mission to Haiti with the aim of fostering dialogue between Moïse, members of the opposition and civil society. At the time of writing, the modalities and times of deployment of the mission were still under consideration.
Since commencing his rule by decree, Moïse has used his executive powers to establish a new national intelligence agency, issued a decree with a broad definition of terrorism, and replaced three Supreme Court justices. Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe resigned effective 13 April, and his successor, Claude Joseph, who is also the country’s foreign minister, became the sixth prime minister to serve within the past five years. Disputes over Moïse’s legitimacy continue, as the opposition argues that his term should have ended on 7 February, while Moïse maintains that his mandate lasts until February 2022.
These political developments are taking place amid concerns over Haiti’s security situation. During the last Council meeting on Haiti on 22 February, La Lime commended the increasingly professional Haitian National Police (HNP), which has close to 15,000 men and women deployed across the country, but she also noted that the referendum and elections will represent a crucial test. The HNP is already operating in an environment of insecurity, facing gang violence and a rising number of kidnappings.
Additionally, Haiti is challenged by an estimated 4.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, acute levels of food insecurity and development deficits.
Key Issues and Options
The Council referred to a number of key concerns with regard to Haiti in its 26 March presidential statement. In that statement, the Council expressed “deep concern regarding the protracted political, constitutional, humanitarian, and security crises in Haiti”, while also stressing the importance of an independent judiciary and the need to strengthen the rule of law and to protect civic space amidst reported human rights violations. The statement was the first on Haiti since 2017.
The Council may use the upcoming meeting to take stock of progress made by the UN entities on the ground and by the Haitian government in the areas of concern mentioned. Council members may also explore how to guide Haiti towards free, fair, transparent, and credible elections in a safe environment, ending Moïse’s period of ruling by decree and providing space to overcome the prevailing political impasse. Although the presidential statement did not refer to the referendum, Council members may share their views on its circumstances and conduct.
While united in the understanding that elections have to take place, Council members may express nuanced views on how the politically polarised climate will affect the upcoming ballot. With EU Council members expected to echo the EU’s views regarding elections and the referendum, they may further inquire about the role of BINUH in electoral preparations. The future of BINUH in general may be raised by China in particular, especially with respect to cost efficiency and prospects for timely drawdown. However, the US, the penholder on Haiti, rejected any language referencing a reduction of the UN presence during the negotiations of the presidential statement.
UN DOCUMENTS ON HAITI
|Security Council Resolutions|
|15 October 2020S/RES/2547||This resolution renewed BINUH for one year.|
|25 June 2019S/RES/2476||This resolution established BINUH, an SPM that will continue the UN presence in Haiti following the conclusion of MINUJUSTH.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|24 March 2021S/PRST/2021/7||The Council expressed its deep concern regarding the protracted political, constitutional, humanitarian, and security crises in Haiti, and emphasised the primary responsibility of the government of Haiti to address underlying drivers of instability.|
|17 October 2017S/PRST/2017/20||This presidential statement recognised the contribution MINUSTAH has made in restoring security and stability throughout its 13-year tenure, expressing appreciation of the efforts of the UN Country Team, and welcoming the work of the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).|
|6 April 2011S/PRST/2011/7||This presidential statement was adopted at the open debate chaired by Colombia’s president.|
|11 February 2021S/2021/133||This was the Secretary-General’s latest 120-day report on the special political mission.|
|25 September 2020S/2020/944||This was the report examining BINUH’s activities one year after the mission’s establishment.|
|15 June 2020S/2020/537||The Secretary-General’s report covering the activities of BINUH from 13 February to 15 June 2020.|
|Security Council Letters|
|24 February 2021S/2021/174||This letter submitted a collection of statements given by Council members during the Council meeting on BINUH on 22 February 2021.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|15 October 2020S/PV.8768||At this meeting the Council adopted resolution 2547 (2020), renewing BINUH for one year. Two members, China and Russia, abstained.|