What's In Blue

Posted Tue 25 Apr 2023

Haiti: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (26 April), the Security Council will hold an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on Haiti. Newly appointed Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) María Isabel Salvador is expected to brief on recent developments and the Secretary-General’s latest report on BINUH, dated 14 April. Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Ghada Fathi Waly is also expected to brief. Canada (on behalf of the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti), the Dominican Republic, and Haiti are expected to participate under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.

Salvador is likely to update the Council on recent political efforts aimed at finding a Haitian-led solution to the multidimensional crisis in the country. The Secretary-General’s latest report highlighted two notable developments in this regard: the installation of the High Transitional Council and the appointment of judges to the Court of Cassation. The report described these measures as “important steps in the path to restoring the country’s democratic institutions” but noted that the “expanding influence of armed gangs on security … remained at the forefront of the national debate”.

The agreement known as the National Consensus for an Inclusive Transition and Transparent Elections—which Prime Minister Ariel Henry, representatives of political parties, civil society organisations, and members of the private sector signed on 21 December 2022—called for the establishment of a High Transitional Council to promote dialogue among various factions on the political and security conditions required to hold general elections in 2023. On 7 February, Henry formally installed the Council, comprising three members from the country’s political, business, and civil sectors. The Secretary-General’s report noted that some signatories to the National Consensus document welcomed this development, while other stakeholders “were more cautious”. On 30 January, eight political organisations and the Montana Group—a civil society coalition that had previously put forward a separate transition plan seeking transitional government under different interim leadership—issued a statement in which they conveyed their disagreement with the process surrounding the National Consensus document, calling for Henry’s departure and fresh negotiations for a more inclusive accord.

On 26 February, Henry appointed eight judges to the Court of Cassation—the highest court in Haiti’s legal system—filling vacancies that had left the court inoperative due to a lack of quorum. The Secretary-General’s report notes that this step received a similarly mixed reaction: while many judicial stakeholders welcomed the appointment “as a necessary measure to facilitate the administration of justice”, some political figures claimed the ad-hoc procedure violated the country’s constitution, which gives the president authority to appoint judges from a list of candidates submitted by the Senate.

Salvador is also expected to update the Council on the country’s security situation, which continues to deteriorate. According to the Secretary-General’s report, gangs continued to compete to expand their territorial control throughout the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, creating insecurity that has “reached levels comparable to countries in armed conflict”. The report describes the human rights situation of those living in gang-controlled areas—which some analysts estimate now comprise up to 90 percent of the capital—as “appallingly poor”. These areas continue to experience widespread homicides, kidnappings, and sexual and gender-based violence, with a particularly “catastrophic impact on the human rights of children”. According to a 23 April press release issued by OCHA, between 14 and 19 April, gang clashes led to the deaths of nearly 70 people in the neighbourhood of Cité Soleil alone. Nationally, 815 homicides and 637 kidnappings were reported in the first quarter of 2023, representing an increase of 21 percent and 63 percent, respectively, compared with the last quarter of 2022.

On 4 April, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a resolution calling for the appointment of an independent human rights expert on Haiti, after which UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk appointed human rights lawyer William O’Neill, a US national, to the position.

The country’s increasingly dire humanitarian situation is another expected focus of tomorrow’s meeting. According to the most recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification survey—conducted by a group of humanitarian organisations and inter-governmental institutions—approximately five million people (nearly half of the Haitian population) are projected to experience acute food insecurity between March and June 2023. Additionally, there are an estimated 130,000 internally displaced persons in the country, 38 percent of whom live in makeshift shelters lacking basic services, according to the Secretary-General’s report. These trends are being exacerbated by the resurgence of cholera in the country; 35,000 suspected cases have been reported since the first reported case in October 2022. Reflecting the country’s worsening conditions, the UN’s 2023 humanitarian appeal for Haiti calls for $720 million, more than double last year’s amount and the highest since the 2010 earthquake. The appeal, which was launched on 19 April, coincided with an announcement that the UN and the Haitian government have signed a Cooperation Framework for Sustainable Government, which provides a joint strategy for UN support to the country for the period 2023-2027.

In light of the country’s deepening crisis, the Secretary-General’s report reiterates “the urgent need for the deployment of an international specialized armed force”, as originally requested by the Haitian government in October 2022 and subsequently recommended by the Secretary-General’s special report to the Council outlining options to enhance security support for Haiti. The Secretary-General’s latest report says that such a force “remains crucial to the efforts of national authorities to stem the violence and human rights abuses committed against the Haitian people, restore the rule of law and create conditions conducive to credible elections”. At tomorrow’s briefing, Salvador may repeat this call.

Waly is likely to brief the Council on the capacity-building support that UNODC provides Haitian customs authorities in border management to combat illicit trafficking and transnational organised crime, as described in the Secretary-General’s report. She may also present the findings of a UNODC report, issued on 3 March, which sheds light on illicit arms and drug trafficking networks that enable gangs and other criminal networks to fuel violence in Haiti.

Council members are expected to welcome the incremental progress toward holding national elections, while encouraging Haitian authorities to expand the political consensus on the National Consensus document. Members are likely to express alarm at the further deterioration of the country’s security, human rights, and humanitarian situations and condemn the increasing violence and human rights abuses committed by gangs. Some members might stress the importance of holding the perpetrators of these crimes accountable, as well as emphasise the need to ensure minimum security standards to enable the holding of elections. Council members may consider issuing a press statement on these issues.

Several members might join the Secretary-General in reiterating the call for the deployment of an international specialised force authorised by the Council to assist Haitian authorities in stemming the multidimensional crisis. However, currently these deliberations seem to have reached an impasse in the continued absence of a country willing to lead such an operation. Another measure some members may propose is a re-configuration of BINUH’s mandate that would allow the mission to provide more robust security support to Haitian authorities—an option that the US is reportedly considering. In addition, some members may call on the Council to designate additional individuals under the Haiti sanctions regime established by resolution 2653 of 21 October 2022.

Council members are united in their concern about the spiralling situation in Haiti and generally agree on the need for a Haitian-led political solution that addresses both security and socioeconomic challenges. Views diverge on appropriate Council responses, however. Previously, Ecuador and the US (the co-penholders on the file), as well as members such as Albania, Brazil, and the A3 (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique), have expressed support for the deployment of an international force, but other members such as China and Russia have cautioned against such a measure, pointing to opposition from some domestic political groups and the difficult history of past international interventions in the country. Additionally, deliberations on the file may be further complicated by the reported US assessment—contained in the recent leak of classified national intelligence materials—that the private Russian military company, the Wagner Group, has considered offering security assistance to Haitian authorities.

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