Dispatches from the Field: Days 2 and 3 of Council Visit to Haiti
Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Today (24 June), the Security Council completed its three-day visit to Haiti. During the visit, Council members sought to reaffirm their support for the government and people of Haiti and to review the implementation of resolution 2350, focusing on the closure of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the progressive drawdown of the military peacekeeping presence, and the smooth transition to its successor mission, the UN Mission for Justice and Support (MINUJUSTH). Identifying the necessary requirements for the successful implementation of MINUJUSTH’s mandate was a further key objective of the visiting mission.
Yesterday, the Council had a packed agenda of meetings. The first meeting of the day was at the National Police Academy, where members met with several Haitian officials. Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant delivered opening remarks. The Council then heard a presentation by the Director General of the Haitian National Police (HNP), Michel-Ange Gédéon, on the security situation, focusing on challenges to public security in Haiti and prospects for the development of the HNP in the context of a gradual withdrawal of MINUSTAH and within the framework of MINUJUSTH. MINUSTAH Police Commissioner Pierre Monchotte briefed on strategies for implementing the priorities set out in the HNP Strategic Development Plan for 2017-2021. The Plan, designed by the HNP, is expected to be adopted in the coming weeks by the Superior Council of the National Police. It has identified long-term HNP institution-building objectives in order to build an effective response capacity to the security threats in Haiti.
The Haitian officials at the meeting conveyed the view that Haiti is prepared for the withdrawal of MINUSTAH’s military component, but that MINUJUSTH would have an important role in supporting the development of the HNP. One of the main themes discussed was the need to increase and strengthen the presence of HNP throughout the country. The force currently has an overall strength of 14,000, of which 9 percent are women, and this total will increase to 15,000 by the end of the year.
Nonetheless, critical gaps remain. One such gap discussed is the insufficient presence of HNP forces on the border with neighbouring Dominican Republic; at present there are 404 crossing points between the countries, with the HNP present at only four of these. Haitian officials also suggested that MINUJUSTH prioritise the training of senior management and the upper echelons of the HNP. Another issue raised was the high incidence of prolonged pre-trial detention. It was noted that this could in part be remedied by the modernisation of systems used to monitor detainees. Severe overpopulation of prisons and cruel and inhuman detention conditions remain key human rights concerns.
The Council then met with select members of both chambers of Parliament. They shared their legislative agenda, which includes tackling corruption, promoting the rule of law and encouraging investment.
Towards the closing of the session, the parliamentarians raised some difficult issues with the Council. They challenged the Council on what the UN was going to do to address the legacy of MINUSTAH with regard to cholera and the needs of children born as a result of sexual exploitation and abuse. It appears, however, that they did not convey specific recommendations on these issues. Some parliamentarians advocated a controversial proposed initiative to re-constitute the Haitian Army. It appears that some Council members responded by asserting that the creation of an army would distract from support to the HNP as the only security force in the country and that increasing the capacity of the police should be the priority. However, Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorentty Soliz (Bolivia), who led the visiting mission and is Council president this month, said that this was not a unified position of the Council and that this is an issue to be decided by the sovereign Haitian government. Finally, parliamentarians raised another grievance: that the mandate of MINUJUSTH had been established under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. They argued, as some Council members have also done in other forums, that the situation in Haiti does not constitute a threat to international peace and security and that the mandate should properly be under Chapter VI.
From the Parliament, the Council departed for a working lunch with members of civil society. Llorentty outlined three broad themes for discussion: human rights, women’s rights and empowerment, and access to justice and the fight against impunity and corruption. Members of civil society were welcome to raise other issues as well. A human rights lawyer representing victims of cholera, Mario Joseph, attended, along with Astride Edouard, a victim of the cholera epidemic, who shared her story with the Council. The pair advocated that the UN’s New Approach should pursue a system of individual reparations, rather than a community-based approach, a sentiment echoed by many members of Haitian civil society. It appears that a question of re-constituting the Haitian army was raised, and a Council member asked the civil society representatives whether this was desired by the Haitian people. The interlocutors said that the people did not want to see an army due to the abusive nature of the organisation in the past.
This meeting was followed by a meeting with members of the private sector. Topics discussed included socio-economic challenges, the investment climate in Haiti, the government roadmap and key priorities for reform, and the fight against corruption— issues which were recurring themes in various discussions about development and political reform.
The Council then moved to the Cours de Cassation, Haiti’s supreme court, for back-to-back meetings. The first meeting was with the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSPJ), an independent organ in charge of administering, overseeing and managing the Judiciary. It has a mandate to monitor and discipline judges. During the discussion, issues including reform of the justice and human rights sector, the overcrowding of prisons, the conditions of detainees, and corruption were addressed. One member of the CSPJ asserted that, in all its years, MINUSTAH had done nothing for the justice system in Haiti. Special Representative and Head of MINUSTAH Sandra Honoré was in attendance and replied that MINUSTAH had pressed for the very law that created the CPSJ in 2007.
Yesterday’s final meeting was held with the National Accountability Institutions. Jean Ariel Joseph, the President of Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Disputes, and Jean-Francois Sonel, the Director General of the Central Financial Intelligence Unit (UCREF), briefed the Council, followed by discussion. It seems that, as in the previous meeting, the interlocutors stressed that while the necessary institutions were in place, they functioned in a resource-poor environment that hindered their work.
This morning, the Council travelled to Jaborandy Camp for a meeting with a Formed Police Unit (FPU) from India. Police Commissioner Pierre Monchotte and the FPU’s commander gave presentations on the history, structure, training and tasks of the unit, which include maintaining public order, protecting UN personnel and property, and supporting UN Police (UNPOL) and the HNP in the maintenance of law and order. The discussion focused on how the nature of the unit’s work has changed over the seven years of its presence in Haiti and how language barriers affect its work. Afterwards, the Council met with commanders of troop and police contributing countries and had time for informal discussions with various officers about their experiences with the mission in Haiti.
The final stop before heading to the airport was to the MINUSTAH Logistics Base where Llorentty addressed the press. He said that the objectives of the mission had been met, and reaffirmed the Council’s support to the government and people of Haiti. He added that the Council had gained a better understanding of the challenges faced in the new political context, as Haiti has entered a new phase of political stability to embark on the path of reform. The Council had heard the appeals concerning cholera, he said, and it reaffirmed its full support to the Secretary-General’s New Approach. He further noted that the Council understood that peace and stability are intrinsically intertwined with the basic needs of the people—health, education, water and sanitation—being met. He added that MINUJUSTH’s mandate further demonstrates the UN’s long commitment to Haiti. Llorentty stressed that the Council expects stronger national ownership and leadership from the government of Haiti.
The floor was opened up for questions. Three of the four journalists who posed questions asked about cholera, and particularly how the Council would proceed after hearing the appeals of victims to be compensated individually, rather than through community projects, as outlined in the New Approach. Llorentty reiterated support to the New Approach, and spoke of the powerful experience of meeting a victim of the epidemic. He said that the UN and bilateral support on cholera will continue. A question was posed as to what was the Council’s stance on the proposal to reconstitute the Haitian army, and Llorentty replied that it was a matter to be decided by the sovereign country of Haiti. In response to a question about what the UN planned to do to assist the fatherless children resulting from sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by its peacekeepers, Llorentty referred to the Secretary-General’s zero tolerance policy on SEA and noted that the Council would be discussing the issue back in New York. He further underlined the positive outcomes of MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti—including its assistance in disaster recovery and its work with Haitian institutions to ensure the conduct of a successful electoral process. He stressed that the Council’s attention to Haiti will continue, and expressed appreciation for the work being done by the UN Country Team and by Special Representative Honoré.
The Council is scheduled to hold a briefing on the visiting mission on 30 June.