This afternoon (21 December), the Security Council will convene for a briefing on Haiti. The anticipated briefers are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti and head of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) Helen La Lime, and writer at the publication Haïti Liberté, Kim Ives. Ambassador Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon) is also expected to brief for the first time in his capacity as Chair of the 2653 Haiti Sanctions Committee. Canada, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti are expected to participate under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.
Russia requested the briefing, which is being held outside of the Council’s regular meeting cycle on Haiti. The most recent quarterly meeting took place on 17 October, and the next regular meeting is scheduled to take place in January 2023. When the Council last met to discuss Haiti, the country was contending with fallout from widespread popular unrest and the blocking by gangs of critical infrastructure such as the Varreux Terminal, the country’s main fuel terminal. (For more information, see our 17 October What’s in Blue story.)
This will be the first meeting on the country since the Council established a sanctions regime on Haiti through resolution 2653 of 21 October. Resolution 2653 designated one person under the regime: Jimmy Chérizier (also known as “Barbeque”), who heads an alliance of Haitian gangs known as the “G9 Family and Allies”, which had laid siege to the Varreux Terminal. (For more information, see our 21 October What’s in Blue story.) In his briefing on the 2653 Haiti Sanctions Committee, Biang may inform the Council that the committee approved on 19 December the appointment of four experts to serve on its Panel of Experts, who specialise in the areas of finance, humanitarian affairs, armed groups and criminal networks, and arms.
Since the establishment of the 2653 Haiti sanctions regime, member states have also introduced new bilateral sanctions against individuals who are fuelling violence in Haiti. To date, Canada has imposed sanctions against 11 individuals characterised as members of the economic or political elite for providing illicit financial and operational support to armed gangs, while the US has imposed sanctions on four Haitian nationals, including politicians accused of providing support to drug trafficking activities. On 28 November, the EU for the first time imposed restrictive measures against gang leaders in Haiti; at the time of writing, only Chérizier has been designated under this legislation.
At today’s meeting, Mohammed and La Lime may report that despite some progress on the ground since the Council’s last meeting, the situation in Haiti remains dire, as the country is gripped by political instability, endemic gang violence and a deteriorating humanitarian situation. In calling for the meeting, Russia only requested a briefing from La Lime and a civil society representative. Mexico (which finishes its term at the end of 2022) and the US, the co-penholders on Haiti, apparently then asked Mohammed to also brief, in order to highlight the humanitarian aspects of the multidimensional crisis.
On 4 November 2022, the Haitian National Police (HNP) announced that the blockade imposed by Chérizier on the Varreux Terminal had been lifted. The briefers may note today that, despite this development, the delivery of goods and movement of people remains challenging, as gangs continue blocking supply routes across the country. Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric said on 2 December that the lifting of the blockade had “led to an improvement in the availability of fuel and other supplies”, while adding that “accessing and transport remains a problem for our humanitarian partners”.
The briefers and Council members are expected to express deep concern about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions, the rising food insecurity, and the worsening health situation owing to the spread of cholera. As at 12 December, the UN reported that more than 14,000 suspected cholera cases had been recorded in Haiti. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 283 deaths from the disease had been documented as at 6 December. In a 23 November statement, UNICEF noted that approximately 40 percent of the reported cases are among children. On 18 December, UNICEF launched a vaccination campaign in the country, aiming to immunize over 1.64 million people against cholera this month. On 15 November, the UN launched a flash appeal to address the outbreak of cholera, amounting to $145.6 million. As at 8 December, only 16 percent of the total amount had been provided by the donors.
The persistent security challenges in the country are an expected focus of today’s meeting. Council members are likely to condemn the ongoing gang violence, and many members are expected to express their concern about the high incidence of sexual and gender-based violence. Several members are likely to emphasise the need for a holistic approach to addressing the situation, involving simultaneous efforts to promote a solution to the political deadlock, the security threats, and the humanitarian crisis. In this regard, many members are expected to urge political leaders to return to dialogue with the aim of paving a way forward for a political solution. Following the adoption of resolution 2653, several members—including Ireland (which finishes its term at the end of 2022), Russia, and the United Arab Emirates—said that measures to address the security situation (such as sanctions) alone will not solve all of Haiti’s problems and have emphasised the need to promote a Haitian-led political solution.
At today’s meeting, some members may comment on the possibility of deploying an international security assistance mission to Haiti. During the 17 October Council meeting, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (US) indicated that Mexico and the US were working on a resolution that would “authorize a non-UN international security assistance mission to help improve the security situation”. This followed a 7 October appeal by the Haitian government for the immediate deployment of an “international specialised force” to temporarily reinforce the efforts of the HNP to combat gangs and an 8 October report by the Secretary-General suggesting that member states could deploy a “rapid action force” to support the HNP. To date, no member state had indicated its willingness to lead or to participate in such a mission, and the penholders have yet to circulate a draft Security Council resolution on the matter.
In an 8 December press briefing, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti Ulrika Richardson, noted that Council members were still discussing the idea of the international force, especially the potential leadership and composition of such a force. She added that in the meanwhile, the UN along with member states, is providing support bilaterally to improve the capacity of the HNP to address gang violence. US State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a 14 December briefing that “there is a broad international consensus regarding the need to promote improved security conditions in Haiti”. He added that “negotiations continue with partners and other [C]ouncil members to set defined and specific parameters for a mission and find the most effective means to support, enable, and resource it”.
It seems that member states hesitate to commit to such a force for several reasons, including concerns about the safety of their deployed personnel and the objections raised to foreign interventions by Haitian actors, including opposition groups. During the 17 October meeting, Russia called for taking into account the opinions of such actors and “considering all possible implications of bringing foreign international and regional contingents to the island”. In requesting today’s meeting, Russia may have sought to prompt discussion on the matter and provide a platform for perspectives such as those of Ives, who has authored articles criticising the possibility of a foreign intervention in Haiti.
Some members may emphasise that any response by the Council to the Haitian government’s request requires careful consideration and analysis. During the 17 October meeting, Mexico said that the Council should respond “with a great sense of responsibility and diligence”, so that its response “is consistent with the Haitian Government’s request— an effective response that does not repeat past mistakes”.