Haiti: Briefing and Consultations*
Tomorrow afternoon (17 June), the Security Council is expected to convene in person for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH). Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of BINUH Helen La Lime will brief on recent developments and the Secretary-General’s latest 120-day report (S/2021/559) on the mission, issued on 11 June. A civil society representative may also brief. At the time of writing, Council members were considering a draft press statement which may be issued following the meeting.
Political developments in the country, including the future of a proposed referendum on the Haitian constitution, are likely to be a key focus of tomorrow’s meeting. The proposed constitution would include significant changes to the current one, which dates to 1987. Amongst other changes, it would allow a president to run for two consecutive five-year terms without the five-year pause stipulated currently. It would also replace the bicameral parliament with a unicameral structure, effectively abolishing the senate, and establish the post of vice president with a direct reporting line to the president, replacing the current position of prime minister.
An upsurge in the spread of COVID-19 exacerbated an already complex political and security environment, prompting President Jovenel Moïse to declare a country-wide state of health emergency until 31 May. The country had reportedly received its first allocation of the COVID-10 vaccine via the COVAX programme but concerns over the increasing number of infections caused the Provisional Electoral Council (PEC) to postpone the constitutional referendum, which was initially scheduled for 27 June. At the time of writing, the PEC had not communicated a new date for the referendum but noted that presidential and local elections are still set for 26 September.
The envisioned referendum has been criticised by national and international actors, including by the “Core Group”—composed of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to Haiti, the Ambassadors to Haiti of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the EU, and the US, and the Special Representative of the Organization of American States (OAS). In a 26 April statement, the Core Group expressed concern regarding the lack of inclusivity and transparency of the constitutional review. National voices criticising the process maintained that the constitution cannot be changed by popular vote. The Secretary-General’s 11 June report on Haiti described several demonstrations that took place between 28 and 30 March, in which participants denounced the constitutional referendum. Protesters also demanded Moïse’s resignation and the establishment of a transitional government to pave the way for economic reforms and elections.
The Secretary-General notes in his report that some stakeholders have come forward with several suggestions to bring about political consensus and not to jeopardise the electoral calendar, including the reconfiguration of the PEC and the Independent Consultative Constitutional Committee; the withdrawal of presidential decrees issued since parliament ceased to function in January, when the expiration of mandates of most delegates and senator caused a lack of necessary quorum; appraisal of the citizen identification card production and distribution processes; and the appointment of a government of national unity.
The precarious security situation in the country is another likely topic of discussion at tomorrow’s meeting. The Secretary-General’s report says that 171 kidnappings occurred between January and April. An increase in gang violence and the failure of the Haitian National Police’s 12 March anti-gang operation in the Village-de-Dieu area of Port-au-Prince further challenge the ability of the police to establish order. OCHA reported on 14 June that eight police stations have been attacked and that clashes between gangs caused the displacement of thousands within the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area since the beginning of June. The Secretary-General’s report connected the state of insecurity to a worsening human rights situation, noting that the latter is linked to the inability of the national authorities to protect the Haitian population.
At tomorrow’s meeting, La Lime and several Council members may express concern regarding the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Haiti. The UN estimates that some 40 percent of the population needs humanitarian assistance. The dire sociopolitical environment, challenging security situation, increasing levels of food insecurity, and limited access to health services are among the main drivers of the deteriorating humanitarian situation, according to the Secretary-General’s report. The 2021-2022 Humanitarian Response Plan is seeking $235.6 million to meet the basic needs of 1.5 million people.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are likely to be united in their call for the holding of free, fair, transparent, and credible legislative and presidential elections within the timelines of the current electoral calendar. Some members may have differing views regarding the circumstances in which the elections are taking place and present different evaluations of the Haitian authorities’ preparedness for holding elections. Several Council members may urge Haitian political stakeholders to overcome their differences and cooperate with a view to completing the electoral cycle within the best circumstances possible, reinstating a functional parliament and ending disputes surrounding Moïse’s term limits. Like the referendum, the electoral process has also come under international scrutiny, with several members of the US House of Representatives calling on the US government not to support the upcoming elections due to concerns over inclusivity and operational concerns.
The “A3 plus one” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) may refer in their joint statement to the OAS mission that visited Haiti between 8 and 10 June to facilitate dialogue that would lead towards the holding of elections. The mission was composed of representatives to the OAS of Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the US.
Council members may wish to learn about possible steps to improve the security situation in the country, particularly considering the continued decrease in police force personnel. They might seek more details about progress towards replenishing the ranks of officers and increasing their professional and operational capacity and may urge the Haitian government to step up recruitment, training and retention efforts. Some members are likely to call for increased donor support and for the international community to maintain its focus on Haiti, given the perception of donor fatigue despite the dire humanitarian situation in the country.
*Post-Script: On 1 July, Council members issued a press statement (SC/14571), in which they reiterated their deep concern regarding deteriorating political, security and humanitarian conditions in Haiti and stressed the primary responsibility of Haiti’s government to address the situation.