Haiti Presidential Statement*
Tomorrow (24 March), the Security Council president for this month (the US) is expected to announce the adoption of a presidential statement on Haiti. This will be the first presidential statement on Haiti since October 2017, when Council members recognised the contributions of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in restoring security and stability in the country on the occasion of its closure and welcomed its successor mission, the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).
The negotiations took place against a backdrop of political upheaval in Haiti. Following the postponement of legislative elections that were initially scheduled for October 2019 and caused Parliament to cease functioning, President Jovenel Moïse has been ruling the country by decree, amidst disputes surrounding his term in office. The opposition claims the President’s five-year tenure started with the holding of elections in 2016 and should have ended in February 2021, while the President asserts his time in office is due to end in February 2022. The end-date of Moïse’s term is disputed because his inauguration on 7 February 2017 was preceded by the one-year term of a provisional president. Continued strikes of judicial staff, a wave of public protests and some 4.4 million persons in need of humanitarian assistance add strains during a time when the country is faced with preparations for a constitutional referendum and for presidential and parliamentary elections.
A first draft of the statement was circulated on 23 February, one day after the Security Council held a videoconference (VTC) meeting on Haiti. Reportedly some Council members suggested press elements, but the US, the penholder on Haiti, opted to pursue a presidential statement instead. Following a first round of negotiations, a second draft was placed under silence on 3 March. The text was amended based on input from members, including strengthening language on the rule of law, references to the reported arrest and detention of protesters and the use of force against them, noting efforts to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and recognising the role of neighbouring counties and regional organisations.
The text appears to echo views expressed by Council members during the Security Council VTC: a call for legislative elections to be conducted and for presidential elections to be held in 2021. It also seems to call for increased accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses, along with a call directed at the Haitian government to end impunity in this regard. In the text, it appears that the Council will emphasise the need for the Haitian government to address the deteriorating security situation and refer to the importance of an independent judiciary. The text is also expected to voice the Council’s concerns over the humanitarian situation, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the lengthy negotiations, disagreement seemed to have arisen over suggested language on the future of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) and the cooperation between the Haitian government and UN entities on the ground. One Council member suggested adding a reference to possible mission draw-down, while another opposed any language implying a reduction of the UN presence in the country. Over the next two weeks, the penholder engaged bilaterally to bring about consensus, so as not to jeopardise the presidential statement as a whole, since all Council members appeared to support the need for the Council to pronounce itself. As a compromise, a subsequent iteration of the text, placed under silence, appears to have encouraged close collaboration between the UN in Haiti and the government, while also referencing the need for Haiti to take responsibility for its long-term stability, economic self-reliance and development.
However, after the text was put under silence, a Council member reportedly requested the penholder to change the terminology “gender-based violence” to “violence against women”. A compromise was reached when the penholder replaced the language in question with a reference to a paragraph from resolution 2476 of 2019, which mandates BINUH to “assist the Government of Haiti with its efforts to …[r]einforce the capacity of the Haitian National Police (HNP), including through training on human rights and crowd control, to respond to gang violence and sexual and gender-based violence, and to maintain public order”.
Following the inclusion of this text, the draft was put under silence again until 9:00 am this morning, which it cleared.
*Post-script: On 24 March, the Council issued a presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/7) where it expressed its deep concern regarding the protracted political, constitutional, humanitarian, and security crises in Haiti, and emphasised the primary responsibility of the government of Haiti to address underlying drivers of instability.