What's In Blue

Posted Wed 5 Jul 2023

Haiti: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow afternoon (6 July), the Security Council will hold an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on Haiti. 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 1 July. The chair of the 2653 Haiti Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Michel Xavier Biang (Gabon), and a woman civil society representative are also expected to brief.

Salvador is likely to update the Council on recent political activity aimed at finding a Haitian-led solution to the country’s multidimensional crisis. The Secretary-General’s latest report, which covers developments since 14 April, describes continuing efforts to strengthen and further implement the National Consensus Agreement for an Inclusive Transition and Transparent Elections, which Prime Minister Ariel Henry signed along with representatives of several political parties, civil society organisations, and the private sector on 21 December 2022. In April, in line with the accord—also known as the 21 December Agreement—the Haitian government invited various civil society organisations to nominate candidates for the Provisional Electoral Council (PEC), which will be tasked with overseeing preparations for elections. The proposed nominees will be reviewed by the High Transitional Council (HTC)—established in February in accordance with the 21 December Agreement—which will subsequently select nine candidates for appointment to the PEC.

The 21 December Agreement remains contentious, however. The Secretary-General’s report notes that some of the domestic actors that did not sign the agreement denounced the government’s steps towards elections and called for more inclusive transitional governance arrangements. In this context, the HTC has continued to lead discussions with various groups of stakeholders to encourage a broader political consensus. On 23 and 24 May, the HTC convened a national political forum in Port-au-Prince, gathering a range of civil society organisations, political parties, and private sector groups—comprising both signatories and non-signatories of the 21 December Agreement—to discuss electoral and constitutional reform, democratic governance, and the socioeconomic and security situations. On 24 May, the forum adopted a declaration requesting the HTC to establish an expert group to review the constitution and to promptly appoint the PEC to prepare the holding of free, transparent, and credible elections.

The Secretary-General’s report also notes that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) convened a meeting of Haitian political leaders and civil society representatives in Kingston, Jamaica, between 11 and 13 June, with a view to fostering broader agreement on transitional governance arrangements. Discussions were facilitated by CARICOM’s “Eminent Persons Group” on Haiti, comprising three former prime ministers from the region: Perry Christie of the Bahamas, Bruce Golding of Jamaica, and Kenny Anthony of Saint Lucia. In a 15 June statement summarising the meeting, CARICOM said that Henry had agreed to work with stakeholders to establish a government of national unity; to continue working towards the appointment of the PEC; and to enlarge the HTC beyond the current three members in order to include representatives of a wider group of stakeholders. In addition, the statement announced an upcoming visit to Haiti by the Eminent Persons Group to continue CARICOM’s good offices.

At tomorrow’s briefing, Salvador is also expected to update the Council on the country’s security situation, which has further deteriorated. According to the Secretary-General’s report, gang-related violence has continued to escalate and spread, subjecting residents in affected neighbourhoods—primarily in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area and the Artibonite department—to “extreme violence”, including killing, injury, burning, kidnapping, and disappearance, as well as the “pervasive” rape of women and girls. Between January and June, homicides increased by 67.5 percent compared with the second half of 2022, corresponding to 2,094 homicides.

In response to the escalating violence—which the Haitian National Police (HNP) does not have sufficient resources to contain—a vigilante movement known as “Bwa Kalé” has emerged. According to Secretary-General’s report, between 24 April and 29 June, “within the context of the movement”, at least 200 suspected gang members were killed by civilians and/or vigilante groups. Gang members have retaliated by forming their own movement, called “Zam Pale”. The Secretary-General’s report says that the emergence of the two movements has “sparked a new and alarming cycle of violence which, if not urgently addressed, is likely to escalate through further mobilization, arming, and recruitment, especially of youth”. Notably, the Secretary-General’s most recent annual report on children in armed conflict, published on 27 June, added Haiti as a “situation of concern with immediate effect”, citing the gravity and number of violations reported and, where possible, verified in Haiti between September 2022 and March. (For more information, see the children and armed conflict brief in our July Forecast.)

The country’s increasingly dire humanitarian situation is another expected focus of tomorrow’s meeting. The most recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) survey—conducted by a group of humanitarian organisations and inter-governmental institutions—projected that approximately five million people (nearly half of the Haitian population) would experience acute food insecurity between March and June. Reflecting these worsening conditions, the most recent biannual report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) on acute food insecurity, forecasting trends from June to November, classified Haiti for the first time as a “hunger hotspot of the highest concern”. Additionally, Haiti was included as one of three countries, together with Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in OCHA’s most recent “white note” on acute risks of conflict-induced famine, submitted to the Security Council on 7 June per resolution 2417. Meanwhile, more than 165,000 people are internally displaced in Haiti because of gang violence, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Severe flooding following heavy rains and a 4.9 magnitude earthquake on 6 June have further exacerbated the situation.

In light of the country’s deepening crisis, the Secretary-General’s report reiterates the call for the deployment of an international specialised armed force, as requested by the Haitian government in letters dated 7 October 2022 and 7 June and recommended by the Secretary-General’s 8 October 2022 special report to the Council outlining options to enhance security support for Haiti. The Secretary-General’s 1 July report warns that the situation in Haiti is “unravelling” and says that the “deployment of a non-UN force remains indispensable to supporting police efforts and creating an environment conducive to the holding of future elections”. Salvador may repeat this call at tomorrow’s briefing.

Biang will brief on his 12-16 June visit to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which he undertook in his capacity as Chair of the 2653 Haiti Sanctions Committee. Biang briefed the committee on the visit in a closed meeting held on 30 June.

The civil society representative is expected to brief on the widespread gender-based violence targeting Haitian women and girls. According to the Secretary-General’s report, “[s]exual violence, including collective rape and mutilation, continued to be used by gangs to terrorize and inflict pain on populations under the control of rival gangs”. The report refers to a study of the incidence of gender-based violence in the neighbourhood of Cité Soleil in Port-au-Prince, published on 10 May by UN Women and the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, which found that 80 percent of those surveyed (591 women and girls) had been victims of one or more forms of gender-based violence. The research identified a lack of adequate services for victims, including judicial, medical, and psycho-social support.

Tomorrow’s briefing will take place following a series of high-profile international meetings and visits concerning Haiti. On 16 June, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) convened a high-level special emergency meeting to discuss ways to address Haiti’s humanitarian and development needs. Between 18 and 20 June, WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain and UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell visited Haiti to assess the country’s needs and UN-provided support. Between 19 and 29 June,  William O’Neill, the newly appointed UN human rights expert on Haiti, visited the country, where he met with political leaders, government entities, human rights organisations, and civil society representatives. On 1 July, Secretary-General António Guterres also visited the country, meeting with Henry and delivering a statement in which he warned that “instability and violence will have a lasting impact on generations of Haitians” and reiterated his call for the deployment of an international force.

Council members are currently negotiating the renewal of BINUH’s mandate, which expires on 15 July. At the time of writing, it seems that the co-penholders on Haiti (Ecuador and the US) are suggesting only limited changes to the mission’s mandate in the expectation that the Council will address the deployment of an international force at a later date. (For more information on the mandate renewal, see the Haiti brief in our July Forecast.)

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