What's In Blue

Posted Thu 16 Jun 2022

Haiti: Briefing and Consultations

This afternoon (16 June), the Security Council is expected to convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH). Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti and head of BINUH Helen La Lime will brief on recent developments and the Secretary-General’s latest 120-day report (S/2022/481) on the mission, dated 13 June. A civil society representative will also brief in the open chamber. Haiti’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Religion Jean Victor Généus will represent his country at the meeting.

The Secretary-General’s report, covering developments in Haiti since his 15 February report, paints a stark picture of the many inter-connected challenges facing the country. Throughout the reporting period, the civilian population continued to bear the brunt of endemic gang violence and ongoing political stalemate, both of which have hindered efforts to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation.

At today’s meeting, La Lime and Council members are expected to express grave concern regarding the pervasive gang violence in Haiti, which reached unprecedented levels during the reporting period, especially in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. Between 1 January and 31 May, the Haitian National Police recorded 540 kidnappings and 782 intentional homicides—which represent an increase of 36.4 percent and 17 percent, respectively, compared with the last five months of 2021. The Secretary-General’s report notes that 198 kidnappings and 201 homicides were recorded in May alone. Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric said on 3 June that approximately 17,000 people have been displaced from Port-au-Prince since 24 April due to insecurity.

Some members may highlight the targeting of journalists, human rights defenders and justice actors, which is “a sign of the continued shrinking of civic space in the country”, according to the Secretary-General’s report. The report expresses concern about the lack of accountability in such cases. In this regard, members may underscore the importance of addressing the overall impunity in the country. The Secretary-General’s report notes that “the Haitian judicial system remains plagued by corruption, insufficient resources and a lack of political will that contribute to procedural deadlock”.

Several members—including Ireland, Mexico, Norway, and perhaps others—are likely to express concern regarding the high incidence of sexual and gender-based violence in the country. The Secretary-General’s report says that women, girls and LGBTI persons are particularly exposed to sexual violence, including rape and sexual slavery, while men and boys are also affected by such violence. Although there is a lack of comprehensive data, partial information collected by BINUH paints an alarming picture, indicating an average of 98 victims of sexual violence per month between January and March in Port-au-Prince, mainly in gang-controlled areas such as Croix-des-Bouquets, Bel-Air, La Saline and Cité Soleil. Members may emphasise the need to bolster police and judicial responses to such crimes, ensure accountability, and facilitate victims’ access to medical and psychological services.

Another expected focus of the meeting is the ongoing political deadlock in the country. Two main political factions are competing for power and have charted opposing plans to lead Haiti out of its political crisis: a group supporting Prime Minister Ariel Henry and his plan to hold a constitutional referendum followed by elections by the end of 2022, with Henry leading the country until then; and members of the “Montana Group”, for whom the constitutional referendum is not a priority and who seek a two-year transitional government under different interim leadership, with elections to be held in 2023. During the reporting period, Henry held a series of direct talks with leaders of the “Montana Group”, who proposed new modalities for the relaunching of formal negotiations. However, the Secretary-General’s report notes that “numerous challenges remain, and it is too early to tell whether those bilateral talks will bear fruit”.

Council members are likely to urge Haitian political stakeholders to engage earnestly in dialogue to pave the way towards elections and constitutional reform. Some may note with concern the continued delays in arranging elections. Among other issues, Henry has yet to appoint a new Provisional Electoral Council. This body, which was disbanded in September 2021, is responsible for organising Haiti’s long-overdue elections and overseeing a constitutional referendum (a project initiated by late President Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated on 7 July 2021). Haitian officials also stress that addressing the insecurity in the country is an essential condition for holding elections. The Secretary-General’s report says that elections are unlikely to take place by the end of 2022 because of the ongoing political stalemate.

The dire humanitarian situation in the country is also expected to be raised at today’s meeting. Deteriorating socio-economic conditions, persistent insecurity, governance instability and natural events (such as flash floods and droughts) continue to drive humanitarian needs in the country. The Secretary-General’s report notes that the 14 August 2021 earthquake, which affected 800,000 people, has been the principal driver of an increase in humanitarian needs. The precarious security conditions have also hindered humanitarian responses, limiting post-earthquake reconstruction and driving food insecurity rates to unprecedented levels. At today’s meeting, members such as Mexico and Norway may highlight the adverse effects of climate change and environmental degradation on the humanitarian situation in Haiti.

Several members may call for sustained donor funding for humanitarian assistance in Haiti. Approximately 4.9 million people, or 43 percent of the total population, are in need of humanitarian aid. Haiti’s Humanitarian Response Plan seeks $373 million, of which $73 million had been received as at 3 June.

In the near future, Council members will begin negotiating the renewal of BINUH’s mandate, which expires on 15 July. Negotiations on the mission’s mandate in recent years have been difficult, as members have expressed divergent views on the future of the UN presence in the country. Although united in the view that Haiti faces grave political, economic, security, and humanitarian challenges, Council members hold different opinions on how these should be addressed. China has argued that the UN system has provided large amounts of funding without the desired effect and that synergies with the UN agencies’ funds and programmes or regional organisations should be explored. Other members are of the view that BINUH’s mandate should be strengthened to better position the mission to address the many political, socio-economic, security, humanitarian and human rights challenges facing the country.

During the most recent negotiations on BINUH’s mandate, which took place in October 2021, China advocated a six-month mandate renewal and requested a strategic review with a view to identifying a strategy for the mission’s drawdown, placing emphasis on the government’s primary responsibility for addressing the country’s difficulties. However, other members opposed China’s suggestions, preferring instead the customary one-year mandate renewal. As a result of the contentious negotiations, which included the tabling of a competing draft by China, resolution 2600 of 15 October 2021 renewed BINUH’s mandate for nine months, shorter than the usual period. The resolution also requested an assessment of BINUH’s mandate, which the Secretary-General presented to the Council on 29 April.

Several members might use the opportunity of today’s meeting to express their views on BINUH’s role in the country and its mandated tasks. Some members may argue that the mission’s mandate should be renewed for 12 months, as recommended by the Secretary-General’s most recent BINUH report, to allow the mission predictability in its operations. A number of members may express support for recommendations contained in BINUH’s assessment, such as the need to provide the mission with adequate resources to allow it to enhance its advisory support to the Haitian police to curb gang violence.

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