Resolution Renewing Mandate of UN Mission in Haiti
Tomorrow morning (14 October), the Council is expected to adopt a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for one year while maintaining its authorised troop strength at 2,370 military personnel and 2,601 police, as recommended by the Secretary-General in his 31 August report (S/2015/667).
As is established Council practice, the draft was first negotiated in the Group of Friends of Haiti (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Guatemala, Peru, the US, Uruguay, which is the chair, and Venezuela), with consultations starting in early September. There was initially a significant split in the group over the timeline for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal, but after several weeks of discussions a consensus text was circulated to the other Council members by the US, as the penholder, on 5 October. Last week’s negotiations among Council members went smoothly, with only minor adjustments made before the draft was put under silence on Friday and then into blue yesterday.
The text in blue follows closely last year’s mandate renewal in resolution 2180, but contains some updates and important additions. With regard to the electoral process, the draft welcomes the organisation of the first round of the legislative elections on 9 August, acknowledges steps taken to address irregularities and improve the upcoming rounds of elections and stresses the importance of major stakeholders ensuring that these are conducted in a peaceful and democratic manner. The text also expresses concern about the deterioration in the humanitarian situation, including increased food insecurity.
In addition, the draft contains some new provisions on the withdrawal of MINUSTAH and future UN presence that emerged out of the initial divisions in the Group of Friends, and which mirror long-standing differences over MINUSTAH’s future among Council members that also surfaced in last year’s mandate renewal discussions. The differences this time focused in particular on the timeline for resuming the drawdown of the mission, and when to begin the transition away from peacekeeping to a new UN presence.
While there is no disagreement at this stage that MINUSTAH’s current troop levels should be maintained until the completion of elections, some Council members, with France and the UK being the most vocal, believe that the mission’s military contingent should be withdrawn as soon as possible after the expected installation of a new president in February 2016. In keeping with this view, France, alone among the Group of Friends, initially pushed to include elements in the draft resolution that would have indicated the Council’s intention to review MINUSTAH by June 2016, and depending on the situation on the ground authorise a further drawdown of the military contingent. It seems France also wanted the Council to signal that it would not wait until October 2016 to start planning for the expected termination of MINUSTAH and reconfiguration of the UN presence.
The other members of the Group of Friends instead supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations and argued that it was too early for the Council to signal its intentions for the post-election phase or make any references to a further drawdown of MINUSTAH. It seems that as part of the discussions they also raised concerns about the potential security risks linked to the elections, and the potential for delays in the formation of a new government following the installation of a new president. Some members also emphasised the importance of maintaining MINUSTAH’s presence during this period to ensure continued stability in Haiti.
The draft resolution in blue does not accommodate France’s view, which appears to be shared by the UK and a few other Council members, that the Council should consider an earlier resumption of MINUSTAH’s drawdown if conditions on the ground allow, but it does contain some compromise language. In particular, the draft establishes a clear timeline for when the Council will start considering the withdrawal of the mission and transition to a future UN presence, although this is later than France and like-minded members of the Council would have preferred. According to this new provision, the Council will begin considering the possible withdrawal of MINUSTAH no earlier than 15 October 2016.
There is also some compromise language on the strategic assessment mission that the Secretary-General’s report said would be conducted following the installation of a new president. The draft text in blue requests that the recommendations from this mission on the future presence and role of the UN in Haiti be presented to the Council “preferably by 90 days after the inauguration of the new President and ideally after the formation of a new government”. This formulation appears to be a compromise between France’s request for a firm 90-day timeline, and the desire of other members that the views of the new government be taken into account in the formulation of recommendations to the Council about the future UN presence.
MINUSTAH’s mandate renewal was also discussed in the Council’s 8 October debate on MINUSTAH (S/PV.7530), with statements reflecting some of the differences that were apparent in the negotiations of the resolution. The other main focus of the debate was the elections, with Council members welcoming the holding of the first round, but deploring the reported violence and other irregularities and urging all stakeholders involved to ensure that the next round of the elections would be non-violent, inclusive and transparent. Other issues that were addressed included the continued importance of enhancing the capacity of the Haitian National Police; strengthening the rule of law; addressing humanitarian challenges, including the need to support efforts to fight the cholera epidemic; and taking measures aimed at promoting economic development.
Special Representative Sandra Honoré, who presented the Secretary-General’s 31 August report at the debate, said she was encouraged by the ongoing preparations for the remaining two rounds of elections and the actions taken by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to address shortcomings. She highlighted in particular punitive steps taken by the CEP against those involved in violence in the first round, and she urged the judiciary to take appropriate legal action to ensure accountability. Honoré also highlighted the achievements of the Haitian National Police and its important role in maintaining security during the elections, while stressing the need for continued support to strengthen its capacity. Finally, in presenting the Secretary-General’s recommendation for a one-year renewal of MINUSTAH’s mandate, she noted that such an extension would be important for the new Haitian administration in the consolidation of state authority and in ensuring an orderly and durable transition to a new UN presence.