What's In Blue

Posted Fri 21 Mar 2014

Haiti Debate and Briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative

On Monday (24 March), the Security Council will hold its biennial debate on Haiti. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Sandra Honoré, will brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report (S/2014/162) on the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

A key focus of the debate is likely to be the on-going preparations for the holding of elections in Haiti, which is widely seen as a critical issue for the stabilisation of the country. These elections, which may now possibly be held in October, have been delayed several times. (There is talk of 26 October as a possible date for the elections although it has not yet been officially announced.) A 28 January 2013 Council press statement (SC/10901), called for elections, which were initially due in 2011, to be held by the end of 2013. As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, important progress has been made since the Council last met on 10 October with the promulgation by the government of a new electoral law on 12 December and the launch on 24 January 2014 of an inter-Haitian political dialogue to resolve outstanding issues involving the executive, the parliament and representatives of political parties.

There has been further progress since the Secretary-General’s report was issued. It seems a preliminary agreement was reached by the parties engaged in the national dialogue to organise combined elections in 2014 (as opposed to two separate elections) for the Chamber of Deputies and two thirds of the Senate in addition to local and municipal elections. It was also agreed that the transitional electoral council (Collége transitoire du conseil électoral permanent) should be replaced by a provisional electoral council; the cabinet should be reshuffled to include opposition leaders and the constitution should be amended. However, it seems the agreement has yet to be signed by all parties.

Council members will likely be interested in hearing Honoré’s assessment of the situation, the UN’s role and the remaining steps needed for elections to be held this year. While Council members welcome recent progress, they remain concerned that the process is moving too slowly and are likely to use the debate to once again stress the urgency of the situation.

The debate is also likely to focus on the activities of MINUSTAH and the future of the mission. The Secretary-General’s latest report, as requested in resolution 2119 adopted on 10 October, provides a list of options for the most appropriate UN configuration following the expected completion in 2016 of the current consolidation process. It also notes that the mission is on track to reduce its mandated strength by 15 per cent to 5,021 by the end of June. The report outlines five possible options:

  1. 1. ending the UN peacekeeping mandate and appointing a UN Special Envoy for Haiti who would focus on providing good offices to support a Haitian-led political process;
  2. 2. ending the UN peacekeeping mandate and establishing instead a UN special political mission with a focus on political facilitation, promotion and oversight of rule of law and human rights activities and continued support for police development;
  3. 3. ending MINUSTAH’s mandate and establishing a new, much smaller peacekeeping mission with a mainly political role and no military component, just police;
  4. 4. same as option three, but with the addition of a military strategic reserve force of one battalion for an initial period of one year;or
  5. 5. maintaining MINUSTAH with a revised mandate and continuing to draw down the military component while initially keeping the police deployment unchanged.

The report notes that “a full-scale, UN-wide, strategic assessment will be carried out to provide an updated, in-depth assessment of conditions on the ground as they relate to the five possible configurations”. The findings of this assessment will be included in a later report to the Council with a recommendation on the most appropriate option.
Council members already had an opportunity to consider these and other issues related to MINUSTAH at a Council meeting with troop-and -police–contributing countries (TCCs/PCCs) on 14 March featuring a briefing by the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti, Carl Alexandre (USA). The meeting provided an opportunity to hear from the outgoing force commander for the mission, Lieutenant General Edson Leal Pujol (Brazil), whose assignment ended on 15 March. (The new force commander is Lieutenant General José Luiz Jaborandy Jr. [Brazil].) MINUSTAH’s police commissioner, Luis Miguel Carrilho (Portugal), was also present to answer questions. It seems Pujol stressed that MINUSTAH continues to play a critical role for the maintenance of security in Haiti and also underlined the importance of maintaining the mission’s capacity to ensure security in connection with the upcoming elections, including the presidential elections scheduled for January 2015.

With regard to the options outlined in the Secretary-General’s report, Council members are unlikely to express any firm views at this stage. Initial reactions seem to suggest that Council members and TCCs/PCCs want more information and are looking forward to the findings of the strategic review. During Monday’s debate Council members may choose to share their initial views on the review process and voice any specific concerns related to the security situation as well as their priorities for the future UN presence in Haiti. While some members are keen to move away from peacekeeping (as reflected by the UK in its explanation of vote when MINUSTAH was last renewed), other members, in particular those from Latin America, seem to have a preference for a continued peacekeeping presence in Haiti after the end of the current consolidation phase.

Additionally, other issues such as the still precarious humanitarian situation in Haiti and the slow progress with regard to rule of law capacity-building are also likely to be addressed in the debate. The Secretary-General noted in his report that “Haiti has made progress on the humanitarian front”, but also highlighted several remaining challenges, including the fact that Haiti still has the highest number of cholera cases in the world. He specifically called on member states to fund UN support of the national plan for the elimination of cholera. The cholera epidemic remains a sensitive issue, however, due to the ongoing lawsuits against the UN initiated by cholera victims, and Council members are likely to be somewhat cautious in addressing it.

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