What's In Blue

Haiti: Briefing and Consultations

This afternoon (22 April), 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 in the country and the Secretary-General’s latest report on BINUH, which was issued on 16 April and covers developments since 15 January. UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell and UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Ghada Fathi Waly are also expected to brief.

Salvador is likely to update the Council on the recent escalation of the country’s intertwined political and security crises. The Secretary-General’s report describes a “profound shift” in gang dynamics starting in late February, when an apparent alliance among the main gangs in the capital Port-au-Prince enabled a series of coordinated attacks that targeted state institutions and critical infrastructure, including police stations, prisons, government buildings, and transportation and health care facilities. Gang leaders said that their goal was to instigate a “civil war” in order to force the resignation of interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who had travelled to Kenya to sign a bilateral agreement facilitating the deployment of a multinational security support (MSS) mission. The Council had authorised the mission under Kenya’s leadership through resolution 2699 of 2 October 2023 to help Haiti combat gang activity and restore security.

The surge in violence was widespread and extremely destructive. Gang members repeatedly tried to seize the city’s seaport and main international airport, disrupting shipping and air travel, and launched attacks against key government buildings, including the Presidential Palace, the Interior Ministry, and the regional police headquarters. On 2 March, gunmen raided two penitentiaries, freeing 4,600 inmates, after which Haitian authorities announced a state of emergency and national curfew that remain in effect. The Secretary-General’s report says that both state infrastructure and private property have been the target of looting and vandalism, and it describes the Haitian National Police (HNP)—which continue to protect critical sites under sustained attack—as the “last visible institution standing against gang violence”.

The upheaval has also taken a heavy toll on the civilian population. According to the Secretary-General’s report, 1,660 persons were killed and 845 were injured by gang violence between 1 January and 31 March, representing a 53 percent increase compared to the previous reporting period and making the first three months of 2024 the most violent period since BINUH established its human rights monitoring mechanism in early 2022. The majority of victims were struck by bullets during gang clashes or in targeted attacks launched by gangs against civilians to create panic and subdue the population.

In response to the crisis, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) convened a high-level meeting on 11 March in Kingston, Jamaica that was attended by Haitian stakeholders as well as Brazil, Canada, France, Mexico, the US, and the UN. The meeting resulted in an outcome declaration announcing two key commitments: the parties agreed to establish a transitional presidential council that would facilitate a peaceful transition of power by organising free and fair elections, and Henry committed to stepping down upon the formation of the council and the appointment of a new interim prime minister. The council would comprise seven voting members representing political groups and the private sector, as well as two non-voting observers drawn from civil society and the religious community. The outcome declaration also specified several executive powers to be conferred on the transitional council, including the selection of the interim prime minister and with the prime minister, the appointment of a new cabinet, the establishment of a provisional electoral council and national security council, and collaboration with the international community to accelerate the deployment of the MSS mission.

Negotiations to implement the deal’s provisions have subsequently stalled, however. Numerous factors have caused delay, including political opposition from certain parties who had been invited to join the transitional council, internal disagreement about its modalities, concerns about the security of its representatives, and uncertainty about its constitutional legal standing. After several weeks of negotiations, the government issued a statement on 1 April announcing that Henry had received a letter from CARICOM officially transmitting the names of the nine representatives that the Haitian stakeholder groups had nominated to the council. On 4 April, the stakeholder groups signed a political agreement on key tenets of the transition, emphasising security, constitutional reform, and elections as their main priorities and outlining a 22-month transitional period leading to the swearing-in of a new president in February 2026. On 12 April, the country’s official gazette published a decree formally establishing the transitional council, but it had yet to be sworn in at the time of writing.

At today’s briefing, Salvador may also brief Council members on ongoing preparations for the deployment of the MSS mission. Although the mission will not be a UN operation, the organisation is providing logistical and advisory support. According to the Secretary-General’s report, BINUH has continued to work with the HNP, humanitarian actors, and international partners to ensure effective coordination for the mission’s anticipated deployment. On 12 and 13 February, HNP officials and the Haitian Minister of Justice and Public Security participated in a planning conference in Washington, DC to finalise MSS planning documents. On the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) ministerial meeting in Rio de Janeiro on 22 February, several countries pledged new financial contributions to support the future deployment of the mission, while Benin announced plans to contribute at least 1,500 personnel—a significant addition to the 1,000 policers officers that Kenya has pledged, and the smaller contributions announced by several Caribbean countries. Following Henry’s stated intention to resign, however, Kenya temporarily put on hold preparations for the deployment of the mission pending the appointment of a new Haitian government. Kenyan officials have also cited a lack of available funding for the mission as another impediment to deployment, as promised contributions from the US—the mission’s main financial backer—have been held up in the US Congress.

Russell will address the Council both in her capacity as UNICEF Executive Director and as the designated Principal Advocate on Haiti for the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), the UN’s high-level humanitarian coordination platform. In her briefing, Russell is expected to update the Council on the country’s deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situations. According to the Secretary-General’s report, school closures in Haiti have denied children their right to an education and have made it more difficult for them to access other services, such as school meals. The World Food Program (WFP) reported that over 310,000 children who were supposed to receive school meals in January and February were unable to receive them at some point during that period due to school closures or the WFP’s inability to visit these schools because of the security situation. In a 26 March press release, UNICEF reported an Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis that found a 19 percent increase in the number of children estimated to suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) so far this year, constituting a “health and nutrition crisis that could cost the lives of countless children.”

Additionally, citing numbers from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Secretary-General’s report says that 50,000 people were displaced in the first quarter of 2024 due to increased gang activity, raising the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country to more than 360,000—a record number that represents a 15 percent increase from 2023. The report describes “appalling” living conditions at IDP sites in Port-au-Prince, characterised by a lack of food, hygiene, and sanitation.

The Secretary-General’s report also notes that gangs have continued to perpetrate sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) to spread fear and subjugate the civilian population. At least 5,587 SGBV incidents were reported to service providers in 2023, representing a 49 percent increase compared to the previous year. Impunity still prevails in the vast majority of gang-related SGBV cases, while restricted access to gang-controlled areas impedes the ability of humanitarian actors to provide services to survivors.

Waly is expected to brief the Council on UNODC’s latest quarterly report on sources and routes of illicit arms and financial flows in Haiti and on relevant UN activities and recommendations. Resolution 2692 of 14 July 2023, which most recently renewed BINUH’s mandate, requested UNODC to report to the Council on these issues concurrently with BINUH’s reporting cycle. The office’s two previous reports (S/2023/780 and S/2024/79) described the main smuggling routes for firearms trafficking into Haiti, considered the regional dynamics of the illicit trade, and reviewed the domestic characteristics of arms within Haiti, with a particular focus on how Haitian criminal networks procure and distribute firearms between and within gangs.

At today’s briefing, Council members may reiterate the positions that they conveyed in their 11 March and 18 March press statements on Haiti, which expressed deep concern about the country’s deteriorating security and humanitarian situations and stressed the importance of swiftly deploying the MSS mission. The 18 March statement also took note of the CARICOM-facilitated agreement on transitional governance arrangements and expressed Council members’ support for a Haitian-led political process leading to elections. In their statements today, some members may further emphasise the importance of quickly implementing the agreement’s provisions to consolidate the political consensus, facilitate the deployment of the MSS mission, and initiate the transitional period toward elections that are required to address the root causes of the country’s instability. Members might also reiterate the need to adequately resource the MSS mission and urge the international community to provide sufficient support in this regard.

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