Haiti: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow morning (24 January), 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 report on BINUH, dated 17 January. Canada, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti are expected to participate under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.
The Council last held a meeting on Haiti on 21 December 2022, which was requested by Russia outside of the Council’s regular meeting cycle on Haiti. (For background, see our 21 December 2022 What’s in Blue story.)
La Lime is expected to update the Council on recent political efforts aimed at finding a Haitian-led solution to the multidimensional crisis in the country. On 21 December 2022, Prime Minister Ariel Henry signed a document titled “The National Consensus for an Inclusive Transition and Transparent Elections”, together with representatives of political parties, civil society organisations and members of the private sector. The document, which was published in Haiti’s official newspaper Le Moniteur on 3 January, outlines the necessary steps for holding elections in the country. It stipulates a 14-month transition period which will encompass general elections to be held in 2023 and subsequently the entry into office of a new elected government on 7 February 2024. Furthermore, it envisions the establishment of a “High Transitional Council” and a “Control Body for Government Action”, which will be responsible for promoting a political dialogue among various factions and ensuring the proper functioning of public institutions during the transition period, respectively. Under its Article 3, the signatories to the document have expressed their support for the immediate deployment of international security assistance, as requested by Henry on 7 October 2022.
The Secretary-General’s most recent BINUH report, which covers developments since 13 October 2022, took note of the 21 December 2022 consensus document and reported that a series of multi-stakeholder discussions among signatories and non-signatories have been launched by the government, aimed at developing “a detailed road map for the transition”.
Some members of the “Montana Accord Group”—a coalition of civil society organisations that have previously put forward a transition plan seeking a two-year transitional government under different interim leadership—reportedly signed the document. However, the Secretary-General’s report states that the Montana Group leadership rejected the national consensus document, labelling it a “manoeuvre designed for electioneering purposes”. The document also does not seem to have gained the support of many political opposition groups. According to Haitian local media reports, the ten political parties which secured the most votes during the last presidential election of 2016 have not acceded to the document.
In an 11 January tweet, BINUH welcomed the publication of the consensus document and encouraged stakeholders to “continue this inclusive dialogue that should lead to the restoration of democratic institutions”. The EU delegation to Haiti, in a 13 January press communiqué, “welcomed with interest” the publication of the consensus document and called for timely implementation of the commitments contained therein, especially the appointment of a Provisional Electoral Committee (PEC). In a 5 January tweet, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the US Department of State, Brian A. Nichols, said that he is “encouraged” by the 21 December 2022 political accord and called for “broader consensus and greater flexibility among leaders from all sectors” to advance reform and democracy, and improve security in Haiti.
Efforts to reach a political consensus in Haiti have been ongoing since the assassination of former President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. In September 2021, Henry and 20 political parties signed an agreement to establish a transitional government, which called for holding elections no later than the end of 2022 and the inauguration of the new authorities in early 2023. However, this agreement was not implemented and political instability continued to deepen.
At tomorrow’s meeting, several Council members may welcome the signing of the consensus document as a positive development. Others might take a more cautious approach; these members are likely to acknowledge the 21 December 2022 consensus document and encourage Haitian actors to pursue efforts toward advancing an inclusive political dialogue. Some members are expected to call on Haitian stakeholders to build a stronger consensus around the document. They may also be interested in learning more about La Lime’s engagement with key stakeholders in Haiti to that end.
The persistent security challenges in the country are another expected focus of tomorrow’s meeting. The Secretary-General’s report notes that gang-related violence has reached “unprecedented levels” and remains a major threat to public security, as “armed gangs expand their influence into neighbourhoods of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area that were considered relatively safe until recently”. It says that the number of reported homicides in 2022 increased by approximately 35 percent compared with 2021, with 2,183 victims reported during the past year (including 163 women and 22 girls).
Gang activity has also continued to exacerbate the humanitarian situation and efforts to alleviate the difficult conditions. On 3 November 2022, the Haitian National Police (HNP) was able to lift the blockade imposed by gangs on the Varreux terminal, Haiti’s largest fuel terminal. However, the HNP continues to struggle to maintain patrols around the ports, and most of the main transport roads linking the capital, Port-au-Prince, with the country’s northern and southern departments remain under the control of gangs, according to the Secretary-General’s report.
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. A 27 November 2022 UN press release noted that at least 30 percent of Haitian women between the ages of 15 and 30 years old have been victims of sexual abuse or violence. Some members are also expected to express concern about the impact of violence on children in Haiti, including regarding instances of child recruitment and sexual violence.
La Lime and several Council members are likely to express deep concern about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions, the rising food insecurity, and the worsening health situation in the country. According to the Secretary-General’s report, in the period from September 2022 to February 2023, 19,200 people are projected to live under famine-like conditions. The re-emergence of cholera has further compounded vulnerabilities in Haiti. As at 14 January, the Haitian Ministry of Health reported that a total of 24,232 suspected cholera cases had been recorded across the country’s ten departments, including 1,742 confirmed cases and 483 deaths attributed to the disease.
Several Council members may call for the effective implementation of resolution 2653 of 21 October 2022, which established a sanctions regime on Haiti. They might welcome the appointment of the four-person Panel of Experts, which was announced by the Secretary-General in a 30 December 2022 letter to the Council. Some members are expected to encourage the Council to authorise the Office of the Ombudsperson to receive and examine petitions in the framework of the Haiti sanctions regime.
Some Council members may comment at tomorrow’s meeting on the possibility of deploying an international security assistance mission to Haiti. The Council has yet to respond to the Haitian government’s 7 October 2022 request for international security assistance and to the Secretary-General’s 8 October 2022 report, which recommended the deployment of a multinational force to Haiti. (For more information, see our 21 Dec 2022 What’s in Blue story.) In his most recent BINUH report, the Secretary-General said that notwithstanding the lifting of the siege on the Varreux terminal, there is still an “urgent need for the deployment of an international specialised armed force”, noting that it is vital for major roads to remain unobstructed to enable the state to function.
To date, no member state has volunteered to lead or participate in such a mission. Instead, several Council members and other member states have expressed willingness to support the Haitian authorities in enhancing the HNP’s capacities, including through bilateral support or multilateral assistance such as the UNDP-managed “Basket Fund” programme. Council members also seem to have differing views on the idea of deploying a multinational force. In the 21 December 2022 Council briefing, Russia expressed doubt that the option of sending an international military force “could fundamentally change the situation”. Other members advocated a cautious and thorough analysis of the option.
Tomorrow’s meeting will be the first on Haiti for the five new elected members (Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, and Switzerland). Ecuador, which has replaced former member Mexico in the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) seat, is expected to announce that it will serve as co-penholder on Haiti along with US, replacing Mexico in this role.