What's In Blue

Posted Fri 15 Jul 2022

Haiti: UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) Mandate Renewal*

This afternoon (15 July) at 5:00 pm EST, the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) for another year, until 15 July 2023.

The negotiations were difficult, similarly to previous Council negotiations on BINUH’s mandate. They took place against the backdrop of continued political deadlock in the country and escalating gang violence, both of which have hindered efforts to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation and have had deleterious effects on the civilian population. Divisions emerged between Council members on appropriate ways to address the situation. It seems that China proposed the inclusion of far-reaching measures in the draft resolution, including the establishment of an arms embargo, the imposition of targeted sanctions and the establishment of a multinational force to support Haiti’s efforts to fight gang violence. Other members, however, felt that more time was needed to discuss such suggestions. The compromise contained in the draft text in blue indicates the possibility of the Council considering such measures in the near future.

Background

BINUH’s mandate has been contentious since the mission’s inception in June 2019. Although united in the view that Haiti faces grave challenges, Council members hold different opinions on how these should be addressed. China had argued in the past few years 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 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 renewed BINUH’s mandate for nine months, shorter than the usual period. Resolution 2600 also requested the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic assessment of BINUH aimed at determining whether and how the mandate could be adjusted to address Haiti’s challenges and to increase the mission’s effectiveness.

The Secretary-General’s strategic assessment, which Council members received on 29 April, warned that gangs could “develop an almost insurgent capability” if left unchecked, while outlining the many challenges that the Haitian National Police (HNP) faces, including difficulties in recruiting and vetting police officers, and endemic corruption. In this regard, it advised that BINUH should “receive adequate resources to scale up its advisory support to strengthen the capacity of the national police to fight gangs, reopen police commissariats in areas affected by gang violence and stem illicit financial flows”. Subsequently, the Secretary-General recommended in his latest periodic report on Haiti, which was issued on 13 June, that BINUH’s ceiling of authorised police advisers be increased from 30 to 42.

During the Council’s latest open meeting on Haiti, which took place on 16 June, many Council members indicated their positions regarding BINUH’s mandate renewal. Albania, Brazil, Mexico, Ireland, and the A3 members (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) called for the strengthening of BINUH’s mandate to ensure that the mission is fit to address the multidimensional challenges plaguing Haiti. Among other things, these members advocated the strengthening of the mission’s human rights component, including by deploying additional personnel specialising in sexual and gender-based violence to address the rising incidence of such crimes in the country. Brazil expressed concern about the effects of insecurity on BINUH’s ability to move freely in its area of operations. It added that BINUH should be given a mandate to support the Haitian authorities in controlling illicit financial flows.

China noted that the Council should use the opportunity of the mission’s mandate renewal to “explore more effective ways for BINUH to provide Haiti with support”. It expressed concern regarding the spillover effects of the situation in Haiti on regional security and stability. In this regard, it called on regional countries and organisations to help Haiti promote political dialogue and to enhance coordination and cooperation in combating drug trafficking, arms smuggling and illegal financial flows. China also emphasised the importance of cutting off funding and weapons supply to gang leaders and said that the Security Council should take measures against gang leaders and politicians who collude with gangs.

On 8 July, as members were negotiating BINUH’s mandate renewal, violence erupted in the Cité Soleil commune in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, as gangs reportedly clashed over territorial control. According to media reports, the fighting—which is ongoing at the time of writing—has resulted in the deaths of at least 89 people, approximately half of whom are thought to be civilians who were caught in the crossfire. In addition, the violence has resulted in a humanitarian crisis, as it has blocked residents’ access to medical care, food and water. Council members met to discuss these developments in closed consultations on Wednesday (13 July), at the request of China. Special Representative and head of BINUH Helen La Lime briefed at the meeting.

Negotiations

The penholders on Haiti, Mexico and the US, circulated an initial draft of the resolution on 27 June and convened a first round of negotiations on 29 June. Council members submitted comments and the penholders then circulated a revised draft text on 7 July and convened a second round of negotiations on Monday (11 July). On Wednesday (13 July), Mexico and the US placed a second revised draft text under silence, until Thursday (14 July). China broke silence, and was joined by Russia, following which Brazil and France submitted comments. On Thursday evening, the penholders put in blue a third amended draft resolution, which will be voted on this afternoon.

The initial draft text circulated by the penholders contained several new elements, many of which were based on the recommendations of BINUH’s strategic assessment. It authorised up to 42 personnel to serve as police and corrections advisors and decided that BINUH’s human rights unit will include dedicated capacity to address sexual and gender-based violence. It also requested BINUH to work with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to support Haitian authorities in combating illicit financial flows as well as trafficking and diversion of arms and related materiel. It seems that many Council members supported these provisions, and no specific objections were raised by Council members such as China and Russia. These elements are therefore contained in the draft text in blue.

It seems that China made several proposals to the initial draft text that appear to represent a departure from its general position, expressed in other situations on the Council’s agenda, on arms embargoes and sanctions regimes. It suggested language that would establish an arms embargo on all deliveries of weapons to individuals and non-state entities in Haiti under Article 41 of the UN Charter, thus using Chapter VII language that would be binding on member states. Citing the same article of the Charter, it proposed language indicating that the Security Council may impose sanctions (including a travel ban and assets freeze) on individuals that have engaged or aided in gang violence and criminal activities. Finally, China wanted the Council to authorise the establishment of a multinational police unit in Haiti to address the endemic gang violence. It seems that Russia and the A3 members supported China’s suggestions.

Other Council members were apparently not opposed to China’s suggestions in principle but wanted more time to carefully consider such proposals, which require extensive planning. These members apparently also questioned the appropriateness of addressing such matters in a resolution on the mandate of BINUH, a special political mission. They also sought more clarity from China regarding the composition of the multinational force, which was not forthcoming during the negotiations. They expressed concern that such a suggestion may also go against the wishes of Haiti, as Haitian officials have conveyed their opposition to international intervention supplanting the HNP’s work, expressing instead a preference for support to increase the HNP’s capacities.

China’s proposals were not incorporated in the draft that was placed under silence on Wednesday (13 July), leading China to break silence the following day. In an apparent compromise, the draft text in blue calls on member states to prohibit the transfer of small arms and light weapons to non-state actors engaged in or supporting gang violence, criminal activities, or human rights abuses in Haiti, without invoking Chapter VII language. In addition, the draft resolution in blue demands an immediate cessation of gang violence and criminal activities and expresses readiness to take appropriate measures (such as imposing a travel ban or assets freeze), as necessary, against those engaged in such activities and human rights abuses within 90 days from the adoption of the resolution. It also requests the Secretary-General to consult with the Haitian government, relevant countries, and regional organisations regarding “possible options for enhanced security support for the HNP’s efforts to combat high levels of gang violence”, and to submit a report to the Security Council within 90 days (by 15 October).

In addition, it seems that language was added to the draft in blue to address China’s concerns regarding the need for time-bound commitments for promoting progress in the negotiations among Haitian political actors. China apparently requested a provision that would have called on Haitian stakeholders to reach an agreement on a political process within six months. It seems that other members felt uncomfortable about imposing such a timeline. In an apparent compromise, the draft text in blue calls on all Haitian stakeholders to urgently reach an agreement on a framework for a political process with the aim of organising elections through an inclusive inter-Haitian dialogue. It requests the Haitian government to provide an update on progress in this regard to the Council by 17 October.

One area of discussion during the negotiations was the length of BINUH’s mandate. The initial draft text called for a 15-month renewal of BINUH’s mandate (that is, until 15 October 2023). The penholders’ aim was to revert to the mission’s previous mandate cycle, which was altered due to the shorter nine-month mandate renewal stipulated in resolution 2600. It seems that UN Secretariat officials have made clear to Council members that the shorter mandate period has complicated BINUH’s operations, as it created difficulties in recruiting personnel. La Lime apparently reiterated this point during the 13 July closed consultations. The penholders and many other Council members supported a longer mandate renewal to facilitate more predictability for the mission. However, China, supported by Russia, expressed the view that there was no need for a mandate that was longer than a year. These members apparently noted that the Secretary-General in his strategic assessment of BINUH only called for a 12-month renewal of the mission’s mandate.

The draft text in blue also contains new provisions which were added at the request of other members. For example, language calling for enhanced public strategic communication regarding BINUH’s mandate and language emphasising that BINUH requires adequate mobility and security, both inside Port-au-Prince and outside the capital, including through adequate situational awareness and monitoring capacity was added at the request of Brazil.

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*Post-script: On 15 July, the Security Council adopted resolution 2645, unanimously extending the mandate of BINUH until 15 July 2023.

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