Haiti: Briefing and Consultations
This afternoon (17 October), the Security Council will hold an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on Haiti. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti and head of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) Helen La Lime is expected to brief on recent developments and the Secretary-General’s latest regular report on BINUH, dated 13 October (S/2022/761). Belize and the Dominican Republic are expected to participate under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.
Today’s meeting takes place in the context of a major crisis in Haiti, where endemic gang violence and widespread popular unrest have aggravated an already dire humanitarian situation by limiting Haitians’ access to basic services and curtailing humanitarian actors’ ability to respond to growing needs. Mexico and the US, the co-penholders on Haiti, requested to move up the regular Council meeting on Haiti, originally scheduled for 21 October, in light of the severity of the conditions on the ground. This reflects a growing sense of urgency among Council members as they grapple with how best to support Haitian authorities in addressing the situation.
Members are currently considering two potential resolutions: one establishing a Haiti sanctions regime and a second resolution which may welcome the deployment of an international specialised force in the country. They are not expected to vote on these products at this afternoon’s meeting; discussions are ongoing, and the timing of the potential votes has yet to be determined.
The Council last held a meeting on Haiti on 26 September at the request of China, to discuss the protests which erupted in the country after the government announced a fuel price increase on 11 September. (For background, see our 25 September What’s in Blue story.) Since then, the situation has deteriorated rapidly, as unrest persists and criminal gangs continue to control and block access to critical infrastructure such as the Varreux Terminal, the country’s main fuel terminal. According to the Secretary-General’s most recent BINUH report, which covers developments since 13 June, the blocking of the terminal has brought critical services—including water distribution and sanitation, garbage collection, and the operation of health facilities—to “a virtual stand-still”.
The report notes that these conditions have likely contributed to the re-emergence of cholera, as the country reported on 2 October its first cases of the disease, after over three years without a single reported case. As at 11 October, the Haitian authorities reported 32 confirmed cases, including 18 deaths, and 266 total suspected cases. In a 4 October statement, UNICEF warned that cholera could “spread like wildfire” throughout Haiti if citizens continue to experience a lack of or limited access to basic health, water and hygiene services due to insecurity.
Against this backdrop, on 7 October, the Haitian government appealed for the immediate deployment of an “international specialised force” to temporarily reinforce the efforts of the Haitian National Police (HNP) to allow the distribution of fuel and water and to facilitate the free circulation of goods and people, in order to stem the humanitarian crisis across the country. Some Haitian actors have expressed their opposition to the government’s request. According to media reports, protestors in rallies which took place in Port-au-Prince on 10 October decried the possibility of international intervention in Haiti. The “Montana Accord Group”—a coalition of civil society organisations which have put forward a transition plan seeking a two-year transitional government under different interim leadership, with elections to be held in 2023—have also rejected this option.
On 8 October, the Secretary-General submitted to the Security Council a special report (S/2022/747) outlining options for enhanced security support to Haiti, requested by resolution 2645 of 15 July, which most recently renewed BINUH’s mandate for one year. The report was submitted almost a week before the 15 October deadline stipulated in resolution 2645. It recommends that “[o]ne or several Member States, acting bilaterally at the invitation of and in cooperation with the Government of Haiti, could deploy, as a matter of urgency, a rapid action force to support the Haitian National Police.” This force would support the HNP’s efforts to eradicate the threat posed by gangs and provide protection to critical infrastructure and services. The report says that the Security Council could “welcome the force” in response to the Haitian government’s 7 October request, adding that the UN may deploy additional capacities to support a ceasefire or humanitarian arrangements.
The 8 October report articulates several additional follow-on options to the rapid action force in the medium term, as well as actions that can be taken in parallel, such as strengthening BINUH’s capacities to support the HNP and for member states to provide bilateral training and equipment to the HNP. It advocates a holistic approach, calling for simultaneous efforts to address the political deadlock and security threats, to reform the judicial sector and penal facilities, and to advance socioeconomic development. In this regard, the report emphasises that “[u]nless real and sustainable development opportunities are afforded to the population, gangs will continue to exploit systemic weaknesses.” It notes that the Haitian authorities have indicated in past consultations “a preference for support options that fell short of action under Chapter VII” of the UN Charter, adding that “a return to a more robust UN engagement in the form of peacekeeping remains a last resort if no decisive action is urgently taken by the international community”.
At the time of writing, there has yet to be a response from any Member State offering to participate or lead the proposed rapid action force. In a 12 October briefing, senior US administration officials indicated that it is “premature to really start thinking” about whether the US “is going to have a physical presence inside of Haiti”, adding that US efforts in the past years have focused on augmenting the HNP’s capabilities. On the same day, the US announced that its coast guard has deployed one of its major cutters to patrol offshore Port-au-Prince at the request of the Haitian government. On 15 October, Canada and the US delivered security equipment to the HNP, including tactical and armoured vehicles, which were purchased by the Haitian government. In a joint statement, the two countries referred to their work with international partners to “strengthen Haiti’s capacity to train additional police officers and improve law enforcement operations”.
The Security Council has also yet to act in response to the Haitian government’s 7 October request and the Secretary-General’s 8 October report. Mexico and the US apparently intend to propose a resolution on the matter, but a draft text has yet to be circulated to Council members at the time of writing.
Meanwhile, Council members have been negotiating a Mexico-US draft resolution establishing a sanctions regime on Haiti, including targeted measures (assets freeze and travel ban) and an arms embargo. The co-penholders circulated an initial draft text on 5 October and convened two rounds of negotiations, on 7 and 13 October. A revised draft was placed under silence on Friday (14 October), until today at noon. Several Council members broke silence on the draft text, and it is yet unclear when a vote might take place.
At this afternoon’s meeting, several members are expected to express their views about possible Council actions on Haiti. At the 26 September meeting, several members—including Albania, Brazil, China, and the UK—welcomed the co-penholders’ proposal for a resolution establishing a Haiti sanctions regime. Several members, such as Brazil, China and Russia, also emphasised the importance of preventing such sanctions from having harmful effects on civilians.
Members are expected to condemn the violence perpetrated by gangs, with many deploring the high incidence of sexual and gender-based violence. In this regard, some may reference the 14 October report issued jointly by BINUH and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which documents gangs’ use of rape to “instill fear, punish, subjugate, and inflict pain on local populations”. The report calls on Haitian authorities, the UN and civil society to urgently address sexual violence in Haiti. To that end, it identifies key areas of policing and healthcare, along with the creation of a judicial task force to address impunity for such crimes.
Several members are likely to urge Haitian stakeholders to overcome their differences and find a political way forward. During the 26 September meeting, La Lime noted that national stakeholders have begun to re-engage with a renewed sense of urgency. However, it seems that since then, talks between Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the “Montana Accord Group” have collapsed and no concrete progress was made. At today’s meeting, some members may take note of a 14 October letter (S/2022/764) that was submitted by the Haitian government in line with resolution 2645. The resolution called on all Haitian stakeholders to urgently reach agreement on a framework for a political process with the aim of organising elections and requested the Haitian government to provide the Council with an update on progress in this regard by 17 October. In the letter, the Haitian government describes the difficulties in reaching agreement with other political groups in the country, while expressing optimism regarding its engagement with the private sector.