Haiti: Meeting under “Any Other Business”
Tomorrow (17 May), following the closed consultations on Yemen, Security Council members will discuss the situation in Haiti under “any other business”. The meeting—which was requested by Mexico and the US, the co-penholders on Haiti—is expected to focus on the current insecurity in the country. The A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya), Brazil and China have reportedly supported the request made by Mexico and the US for the meeting. Special Representative for Haiti and head of the UN Integrated Office for Haiti (BINUH) Helen La Lime is expected to brief.
The meeting will provide an opportunity for Council members to discuss with La Lime the recent spike in gang violence in Haiti and potential actions that could be pursued to help alleviate the situation. There has been a resurgence of gang violence in the country since 24 April, when fighting erupted between two rival gangs, “Chen Mechan” and “400 Mawazo”, in several communes of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince: Coix-des Bouquets, Tabarre, and Cité Soleil.
On 4 May, OCHA reported that the gangs had extended the fighting across additional communes of the capital, including Bas-Delmas and Martissant. An estimated 9,000 persons have been displaced as a result of the fighting that began on 24 April, adding to the roughly 19,000 internally displaced persons due to similar gang activities in Martissant in June 2021.
On 6 May, BINUH issued a press statement saying that an estimated 75 persons had died and 68 had been wounded as a result of the violence that began on 24 April. The statement described how clashes between gangs have impeded the ability of Haitians to meet their daily needs and access basic services, as hospitals and schools have been forced to close and the distribution of vital goods and services (including the movement of NGO staff across the country) has been disrupted due to blockages of Haiti’s main roads. The statement also reported the deliberate use of sexual violence by the gangs against people living in areas under the control of rival gangs.
Council members will be interested in an update on the security situation from La Lime, as well as information on the response by the government and the UN system. La Lime may report that the Haitian National Police have launched anti-gang operations in the affected areas. In a 14 May tweet, the Haitian National Police called the dismantling of gangs in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area one of its main priorities.
Gang violence has been a long-standing challenge in Haiti. The current BINUH mandate, which was outlined in resolution 2476 of 25 June 2019, requested the mission to “reinforce the capacity of the Haitian National Police, 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”. It further requested BINUH to “develop an inclusive approach with all sectors of society to reduce community violence, and in particular gang violence”.
Even before late April, there had been signs that gang violence was once again on the rise. The most recent Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Haiti, published on 15 February and covering the period between 21 September 2021 and 15 February, noted an increase in gang activity, reflected in a rise in homicides and kidnappings. In response, the police bolstered its anti-gang operations, albeit with limited results, according to the report. The report described ongoing difficulties with recruiting, training and equipping police officers to adequately address Haiti’s multiple security problems.
Several UN member states, including the US, have provided bilateral support to Haiti’s police force, including financial and material assistance and specialised police advisors. On 21 April, France convened a virtual meeting on Haiti (the third in a series of similar meetings) with senior officials from several countries and regional organisations to affirm international support for the country. The first two such meetings were organised by the US and Canada on 17 December 2021 and 21 January, respectively.
La Lime is likely to report to Council members on difficulties facing the humanitarian community in delivering vital services. A February report, titled “Haiti Protection Analysis Update” and published jointly by several UN entities and non-governmental organisations in Haiti, details access challenges in gang-controlled areas, including that of negotiating access with the opaque and changing leadership structures of individual gangs. Another difficulty, according to the report, is understanding the precise protection and humanitarian needs of the population, which are vastly under-reported.
Council members may request information from La Lime regarding the impact of the security situation on the mission’s ability to implement its mandate, and on the capacity of humanitarian actors to respond to the population’s wide array of needs. Her response may influence the upcoming mandate negotiations. The current BINUH mandate expires on 15 July.
La Lime is expected to comment on the political situation. The country’s significant political tensions have been exacerbated by the assassination of Prime Minister Jovenel Moïse on 7 July 2021 and rampant insecurity, while its long-delayed presidential and parliamentary elections have yet to be scheduled.
Council dynamics on BINUH have been difficult. During the negotiations on the mandate in October 2021, various views were expressed. Co-penholders Mexico and the US suggested a one-year renewal without substantive changes. China apparently called for a six-month renewal of the mission’s mandate (in line with its position during the 2020 BINUH negotiations) and requested an assessment of the mission with the aim of identifying a drawdown strategy. The “A3 plus one” (then comprised of Kenya, Niger, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) apparently held the view that BINUH’s mandate should be reviewed and strengthened to better position the mission to help address the many political, socio-economic, security, humanitarian and human rights challenges facing the country.
Ultimately the mandate was renewed for nine months through resolution 2600 of 15 October 2021. In the resolution, the Secretary-General was requested to undertake an assessment of the mission by 15 April. There was no mention of a drawdown of BINUH, however. Council members are currently considering the results of this assessment.
In tomorrow’s meeting, several Council members may also raise concerns about the reported use of sexual violence by gangs. Among current Council members, Ireland and Norway highlighted their concern about sexual violence in Haiti when the Council discussed BINUH in October 2021.
In addition, difficulties in accessing food and water in Haiti may be discussed in the meeting—a theme likely to be reflected in the open debate on conflict and hunger the US will host on 19 May as a signature event of its presidency this month. The US is part of a 12-member Group of Friends of Action on Conflict and Hunger, along with current Council members France, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, and the UK.