Expected Council Action
In July, the Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH). The current mandate expires on 15 July.
In addition, Special Representative and head of BINUH María Isabel Salvador will brief the Council on recent developments in the country and the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on BINUH. The chair of the 2653 Haiti Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon), and a civil society representative are also expected to brief.
Key Recent Developments
Haiti’s protracted political impasse remains a key concern and a driver of the country’s deteriorating security and humanitarian situations. Following the assassination of Prime Minister Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, opposing factions have been unable to agree on modalities for holding elections to restore constitutional order. In December 2022, Prime Minister Ariel Henry—who assumed office in an interim capacity after Moïse’s assassination—signed a document titled “The National Consensus for an Inclusive Transition and Transparent Elections”, along with representatives of some political parties, civil society organisations, and members of the private sector. The document outlines steps for holding general elections in the country, stipulating a 14-month transition period, with elections to be held by the end of 2023 and a new elected government to enter office in February 2024. To facilitate this process, the document calls for the establishment of a “High Transitional Council” (HTC) to promote dialogue among various factions on the political and security conditions required for elections to take place. On 6 February, Henry formally installed the HTC, comprising three members from the country’s political, business, and civil sectors.
The national consensus document remains contentious, however. In a 30 January statement, eight political organisations and the Montana Group—a civil society coalition that had previously put forward a separate transition plan seeking a transitional government under different interim leadership—conveyed their disagreement with the process surrounding the document, calling for Henry’s departure and fresh negotiations for a more inclusive accord. These divisions continue to complicate efforts to organise elections with buy-in from all stakeholders.
To foster a broader agreement, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) convened a meeting of Haitian political leaders and civil society activists in Kingston, Jamaica, from 11 to 13 June. Discussions were facilitated by CARICOM’s “eminent persons group” on Haiti, comprising three former prime ministers in the region: Perry Christie of the Bahamas, Bruce Golding of Jamaica, and Kenny Anthony of St. Lucia. In a 15 June statement summarising the meeting, CARICOM said that Henry had agreed to work with stakeholders to put in place a government of national unity and to enlarge the HTC beyond the current three members in order to include representatives of a wider group of stakeholders. The statement also announced an upcoming visit to Haiti by the eminent persons group to continue its good offices.
While Haiti’s political gridlock persists, the country’s security situation continues to deteriorate amidst rampant gang violence. According to BINUH’s latest quarterly human rights report, dated 9 May, the first quarter of 2023 saw a 28 percent increase in the number of people killed, injured, or kidnapped compared with the previous quarter, with a total of 1,634 cases reported. The Secretary-General’s most recent annual report on children in armed conflict, dated 5 June, lists Haiti for the first time as a “situation of concern”. In response to the escalating violence—which the Haitian National Police (HNP) does not have sufficient resources to contain—a vigilante movement known as “bwa kwale” has emerged, reportedly resulting in the death of nearly 200 suspected gang members since April. While the movement has led to a decrease in gang-related crime, human rights activists and legal experts have expressed concern at the extrajudicial attacks.
The country’s humanitarian situation also remains dire. The most recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification survey—conducted by a group of humanitarian organisations and inter-governmental institutions—projected that approximately five million people (nearly half of the Haitian population) would experience acute food insecurity between March and June. Reflecting these worsening conditions, the most recent biannual report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) on acute food insecurity, forecasting trends from June to November, classified Haiti for the first time as a “hunger hotspot of the highest concern”. Additionally, Haiti was included as one of three countries (with Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo) in OCHA’s most recent “white note” on acute risks of conflict-induced famine, submitted to the Security Council per resolution 2417. Meanwhile, more than 165,000 people are internally displaced in Haiti because of gang violence, according to the International Office for Migration (IOM). Severe flooding following heavy rains and a 4.9 Richter scale earthquake on 6 June have further exacerbated this situation.
On 16 June, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) convened a high-level special emergency meeting to address Haiti’s humanitarian and development needs. At the meeting, ECOSOC president Lachezara Stoeva (Bulgaria) noted that the UN’s 2023 humanitarian response plan for Haiti—which calls for $720 million, more than double last year’s amount and the highest since the 2010 earthquake—was only 22.6 percent funded. From 18 to 20 June, WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain and UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell visited Haiti to assess the country’s needs and UN-provided support.
In light of the country’s deepening crisis, the Secretary-General’s most recent report on Haiti, dated 14 April, reiterated “the urgent need for the deployment of an international specialized armed force”, as originally requested by the Haitian government in October 2022 and subsequently recommended by the Secretary-General’s special report to the Council outlining options to enhance security support for Haiti. The Secretary-General’s April report said that such a force “remains crucial to the efforts of national authorities to stem the violence and human rights abuses committed against the Haitian people, restore the rule of law and create conditions conducive to credible elections”. Salvador repeated this call during her Council briefing on 26 April.
On 8 May, Council members issued a press statement expressing deep concern about the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Haiti and condemning the increasing violence, criminal activities, and human rights abuses and violations. The statement said that Council members, “mindful of the need for security support” for the country, reaffirmed their call to all political actors to engage constructively in meaningful negotiations to allow the holding of elections and encouraged efforts to ensure wider participation in the political process. The Council still has not responded to Haiti’s request for an international specialised force, however, as efforts continue to identify a country to lead such a deployment. In a letter dated 7 June addressed to the Secretary-General, Henry reiterated the government’s request for security support.
Human Rights-Related Developments
William O’Neill, UN Expert on Human Rights in Haiti, began an official visit to Haiti on 19 June through 29 June. This is O’Neill’s first official visit to Haiti since his designation as the UN Expert on Human Rights in Haiti, during which he is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Ariel Henry, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti, Maria Isabel Salvador, and representatives of human rights and civil society organisations.
On 10 May, a group of UN experts issued a statement expressing “grave concern” over increasing violence in Haiti, particularly sexual violence and gang exploitation against women and children. Noting that the armed gangs have, according to reports, seized control of urban areas and are engaged in “killings, violence, rape, kidnapping and intimidation in order to expand their influence”, the experts stressed that systematic violence against women and girls is being used as an “instrument of power and as a means of exerting territorial control”. The experts emphasised that it was difficult to quantify the number of victims, with most cases being either ignored or unreported.
On 9 May, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk issued a statement warning against a “never-ending cycle of violence” in Haiti, reiterating his call to the international community to deploy a “specialized and human-rights compliant support force, with a comprehensive action plan to assist Haiti’s institutions”.
Key Issues and Options
The central task for the Security Council remains supporting Haitian authorities in addressing the country’s political impasse and security crisis. In this context, a key issue for the Security Council in July is renewing BINUH’s mandate. Previous reporting had suggested that the US—co-penholder with Ecuador on Haiti—was considering a more robust security posture for the mission as an alternative to the deployment of an international force. While this option apparently remains under consideration, it seems that the co-penholders are currently seeking only limited changes to the mandate, primarily addressing some logistical and security requests that the mission has made.
Meanwhile, Council discussions on the deployment of an international force continue. The UN Secretariat has apparently prepared a “non-paper” outlining possible parameters of such a deployment. The Secretary-General presented the non-paper—described as a discussion tool rather than a planning document—during his monthly lunch with Council ambassadors on 12 June. The document was also the subject of an informal expert-level briefing that the co-penholders convened with Council members, regional countries, and other stakeholders on 14 June. As these discussions proceed, the US is continuing bilateral consultations to identify a country to lead the deployment.
Council members are united in their concern about the spiralling situation in Haiti and generally agree on the need for a multidimensional, Haitian-led political solution that addresses both security and socioeconomic challenges. Views on the appropriate Council response vary, however, and may complicate negotiations to renew BINUH’s mandate.
Last year’s negotiations were challenging. This was in part because China, which had previously argued for scaling down UN support for the country in the absence of desired results on the ground, changed its stance and proposed the establishment of a multinational police force to assist the HNP. Other Council members were not opposed to this suggestion in principle but wanted more time to consider it. As a compromise, resolution 2645 renewing BINUH’s mandate requested the Secretary-General to submit within 90 days of the resolution’s adoption a report to the Security Council regarding “possible options for enhanced security support for the HNP’s efforts to combat high levels of gang violence”. This resulted in the aforementioned special report of 10 October 2022, in which the Secretary-General recommended the deployment of an international specialised force to support the HNP.
As the Council has still not responded to the report, the issue may again influence mandate negotiations. The co-penholders seemingly intend to keep the two tracks separate, making limited changes to the mandate in the expectation that the Council will later authorise the deployment of an international force. This strategy could pave the way for relatively straightforward negotiations over the mandate.
The future deployment of an international force is not guaranteed, however. The continued absence of a lead country remains an obstacle and, even if identified, some Council members may still oppose the deployment. In Russia’s statement at the Council’s April briefing, it criticised what it described as a tradition of “outside political engineering” in Haiti, while China’s statement at the January briefing similarly underscored the importance of “draw[ing] the appropriate lessons from failed external interventions so as to avoid repeating those mistakes”—an indication that it may be reverting to its previous non-interventionist stance on Haiti. Given these uncertainties, some Council members advocating for a more robust international response to Haiti’s crisis may consider BINUH’s mandate renewal the best opportunity to strengthen international support for the country and therefore seek more substantial changes to the mandate.
UN DOCUMENTS ON HAITI
|Security Council Resolutions|
|21 OCTOBER 2022S/RES/2653||This resolution established a sanctions regime on Haiti, including targeted assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo measures.|
|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.|
|14 APRIL 2023S/2023/274||This was the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on Haiti.|
|8 OCTOBER 2022S/2022/747||This letter transmitted the Secretary-General’s report outlining options for enhanced security support to Haiti, which was submitted in line with resolution 2645.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|26 APRIL 2023S/PV.9311||This was the 90-day briefing of the Special Representative and head of BINUH.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|8 MAY 2023SC/15277||This press statement expressed deep concern over the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Haiti.|