Expected Council Action
In October, the Security Council is expected to receive a briefing from Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) Helen La Lime on recent developments and the Secretary-General’s regular quarterly report on BINUH. The Council also expects to receive a report from the Secretary-General on options to support the Haitian National Police (HNP) in its fight against gang violence, in accordance with resolution 2645 of 15 July, which most recently renewed BINUH’s mandate for one year. Both reports are due by 15 October.
BINUH’s mandate expires on 15 July 2023.
Key Recent Developments
Haiti remains plagued by instability, with political deadlock, gang violence and natural disasters exacerbating humanitarian needs and complicating efforts to alleviate the dire situation. Council members grappled with how best to support Haitian authorities in addressing the country’s multidimensional crisis when they negotiated resolution 2645. During the negotiations, China apparently advocated several far-reaching measures, including the establishment of an arms embargo, the imposition of targeted sanctions and the establishment of a multinational force to support Haiti’s efforts to fight gang violence. Other members felt that more time was needed to discuss such suggestions. In an apparent compromise, the resolution indicates the possibility of the Council considering such measures in the near future.
Resolution 2645 demands an immediate cessation of gang violence and criminal activities and expresses the Council’s readiness to take appropriate measures (such as imposing a travel ban or assets freeze) against those engaged in such activities and in human rights abuses within 90 days of the adoption of the resolution (that is, by 15 October). It requests the Secretary-General to consult with the Haitian government, relevant countries and regional organisations regarding “possible options for enhanced security support” for the HNP to combat gang violence, and to submit a report to the Security Council by 15 October. In addition, resolution 2645 calls on all Haitian stakeholders to urgently reach agreement on a framework for a political process with the aim of organising elections. It requests the Haitian government to provide the Council with an update on progress in this regard by 17 October. (For background, see our 15 July What’s in Blue story.)
On 7 July, as Council members were negotiating BINUH’s mandate renewal, violence erupted in the Cité Soleil commune in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, with gangs clashing over territorial control. La Lime briefed Council members about these developments in closed consultations on 13 July, at the request of China. The violence continued throughout July and August, severely affecting the area’s residents. Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric reported on 19 August that hundreds of people had been killed in the clashes and many others had been trapped in the area of fighting without access to medical care, food and water. According to OCHA estimates, nearly 280,000 people were affected by the violence.
It seems that the HNP has since been able to regain access to Cité Soleil and that the violence has dissipated. The threat posed by gangs remains a major concern, however, with gang-related violence surging in particular locations from time to time; prior to the recent outbreak, clashes between gangs had also erupted in the Cité Soleil commune in late April, as well as in the communes of Croix-des Bouquets and Tabarre. UN officials have warned that gangs have been systematically perpetrating gender-based violence, including as a tool to control certain segments of the population.
On 11 September, the Haitian government announced that it would cease providing subsidies for gasoline, diesel and kerosene—thus doubling their price for consumers. Starting on 12 September, citizens took to the streets in Port-au-Prince and other cities across the country to protest the difficult living conditions. Many protestors voiced grievances about the ongoing political stalemate and the government’s handling of the security and economic crises.
Some demonstrations turned violent, and there have been reports of civilian casualties, but exact numbers had not been confirmed at the time of writing. There have also been reports of looting of businesses and humanitarian warehouses—including the looting and torching of a World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse in Gonaïves on Haiti’s west coast—as well as attacks on banks and on the homes of pro-government politicians and the wealthy elite. Criminal gangs have exacerbated the situation, including through statements encouraging looting and inciting violence against politicians and international organisations. (For more information, see our 25 September What’s in Blue story.)
On 26 September, the Security Council held an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, to discuss the recent violent unrest in the country, at the request of China. The Council was briefed by La Lime, WFP Executive Director Valerie Guarnieri and Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Ghada Fathi Waly. At the meeting, Mexico and the US—the co-penholders on Haiti—announced that they were working on a draft resolution “proposing specific measures to enable the Security Council to address the many challenges facing the people of Haiti”. According to media reports, the proposed resolution will seek to establish travel and financial sanctions on gang leaders and those who facilitate their activities. At the time of writing, the co-penholders have yet to circulate the draft text.
La Lime provided an update on the political situation during the 26 September meeting, noting that national stakeholders have begun to re-engage with a renewed sense of urgency. She said that in recent weeks, representatives of the government, political groups and civil society organisations have “launched new consultations on ways to forge a wider consensus on a path towards elections”. Haiti’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship Jean Victor Généus, who represented his country at the meeting, confirmed that negotiations are underway and expressed hope that a political agreement “can be reached soon”. In his 24 September address during the high-level segment of the 77th session of the General Assembly, Généus said that discussions have begun on the establishment of a body that will oversee the organising of elections, adding that technical support from Haiti’s partners will be appreciated in this process.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 16 July, an Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson expressed deep concern over “the worsening of violence in Port-au-Prince and the rise in human rights abuses committed by heavily armed gangs against the local population”. The spokesperson noted that from January to the end of June, 934 killings, 684 injuries and 680 kidnappings were documented in the capital and that between 8 and 12 July, at least 234 more people were killed or injured in gang-related violence in the Cité Soleil commune.
Key Issues and Options
A key priority for the Council is to prevent a further escalation of the situation in Haiti, which may have destabilising spillover effects in the region. UN officials and other experts advocate a holistic approach to addressing the situation, which calls for simultaneous efforts to promote a solution to the political deadlock, the security threats and the humanitarian crisis. Experts recommend that the UN system and the Council should also support long-term solutions aimed at addressing the root causes of the violence, including through socioeconomic development.
In the short term, Council members appear to be focused on addressing the security threats, which permeate every aspect of the crisis in the country, including by complicating the holding of elections and hindering the delivery of humanitarian aid. Members are apparently awaiting the reports due in October in line with resolution 2645 before deciding on the best course of action in respect of the three options proposed by China (the multinational force, arms embargo and sanctions regime).
To inform Council deliberations on the draft text proposed by Mexico and the US, members may consider holding informal virtual meetings with Haitian actors to hear their views. A similar informal practice has developed in the Council’s work on Colombia.
Members might also wish to seek advice from the UN Secretariat, including through meetings with the subsidiary organs branch of the Security Council Affairs Division (SCAD) and with individuals who have served on Panels of Experts, on the technical aspects of establishing and overseeing a sanctions regime and an arms embargo. (Five years have passed since the Council last established a sanctions regime, for Mali through resolution 2374 in September 2017.)
In light of the rising incidence of violence committed against civilians, including sexual and gender-based violence, members may wish to receive more comprehensive data about human rights violations in the country. An option for the Council would be to consider strengthening BINUH’s human rights monitoring capacities, to receive more frequent information that can help to identify negative trends requiring the Council’s attention. Members may also seek additional information on the effects of the insecurity on children by inviting a UNICEF representative to brief the Council in its next Haiti meeting.
Council members are united in their concern about the situation in Haiti. In recent months, there seems to be a convergence of views regarding the urgency of Council action on the matter. This may be partially attributed to a shift in tone from China, which has long contended that UN involvement in Haiti has been ineffective and failed to achieve its goals. In the past, China called for the Council to curtail its engagement on Haiti, advocating the articulation of a drawdown strategy for BINUH, and for the UN to limit its investment of resources in the country. However, it is now calling for more far-reaching UN involvement. China’s current position on Haiti also departs from its position on arms embargoes and targeted sanctions in several other situations on the Council’s agenda. In this regard, China and Russia have often criticised western Council members for their support of sanctions imposed on African states.
At the 26 September meeting, several members—including Albania, Brazil, China, and the UK—welcomed the co-penholders’ initiative to propose a draft resolution on Haiti. Several members, such as Brazil, China and Russia, emphasised the importance of preventing such sanctions from having harmful effects on civilians. The A3 members (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) advocated increased cooperation between the AU and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to support efforts to address the situation in Haiti.
UN DOCUMENTS ON HAITI
|Security Council Resolutions|
|15 July 2022S/RES/2645||This resolution renewed the mandate of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) for one year, until 15 July 2023.|
|13 June 2022S/2022/481||This was the Secretary-General’s latest 120-day report on Haiti.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|26 September 2022S/PV.9136||This was a meeting on the situation in Haiti requested by China.|