posted on Mon 13 Oct 2014 8:09 PM
Resolution Renewing the Mandate of UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti

Tomorrow morning (14 October) the Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). At press time, the US, the penholder on Haiti, had put a draft resolution in blue authorising a further drawdown of MINUSTAH’s military strength as recommended by the Secretary-General in his latest report (S/2014/617) and extending the mission’s mandate for a further 12 months until 15 October 2015. However, with some Council members continuing to have reservations about the proposed drawdown plan, it was still unclear whether the resolution would be adopted by consensus.

The draft authorises a reduction in MINUSTAH’s military component by June 2015 from 5,021 personnel to 2,370 while keeping the police contingent unchanged at 2,601. Furthermore, the draft urges Haiti’s political actors to resolve their differences to ensure that fair, just and transparent elections are held without further delay. The remainder of the text is largely built on agreed language from last year’s resolution (S/RES/2119) with necessary updates. However, even though the draft reaffirms earlier language about human rights being an essential component of MINUSTAH’s mandate and the need for particular attention to individual accountability for grave violations under past governments, there is no reference to the recent passing of former Haitian president Jean-Claude Duvalier and the need for continued investigations of serious human rights violations committed while he was in power, as recently called for by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

As was evident in the last Council debate on Haiti held on 11 September (S/PV.7262), Council members have been sharply divided over the Secretary-General’s recommended drawdown plan for MINUSTAH. While the majority of Council members support his recommendation, a few, in particular Argentina and Chile, have strong reservations about a further reduction in the mission’s military component at this stage. More specifically, these members have continued to draw attention to the ongoing security risks present in Haiti, such as those relating to the elections and the continuing political stalemate. They also argue that the situation on the ground in Haiti has basically remained unchanged since the Secretary-General presented his March report to the Council (S/2014/162) and that there is therefore nothing that would warrant an acceleration of the mission’s drawdown. Instead, they believe that financial concerns and the need for additional UN peacekeeping resources elsewhere, in particular in Africa, are the main drivers behind the push for a reduced MINUSTAH presence.

While tensions among Council members over the future of MINUSTAH and in particular the pace of its drawdown are not new, the current divisions are unusual. Draft resolutions on MINUSTAH are normally first agreed in the Group of Friends on Haiti before being circulated to Council members. (The Group of Friends comprises Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Guatemala, Peru, the US and Uruguay, which is the chair.) This time, however, and breaking with past practice, the Group of Friends was unable to agree on a draft. While Brazil, Canada, France and the US strongly favoured the Secretary-General’s drawdown proposal, the other Latin American members of the group instead supported a Chilean proposal to extend MINUSTAH’s mandate for a period of six months without any reduction in its authorised strength. As negotiations moved to the Council, this has remained the principal position of Argentina and Chile.

Faced with continuing divisions among Council members, and following consultations among key delegations, the US last Friday presented a chair’s draft that included new compromise language aimed at bridging some of the divisions without changing the main drawdown provision. This draft, which is the one that Council members are expecting to vote on tomorrow, calls on the Secretary-General to ensure that most of the authorised troop level reductions would take place after the submission of his next report to the Council (which is due in March 2015). Furthermore, it contains a provision emphasising that the Council could decide to review MINUSTAH’s mandate at any time in case of any changes in conditions on the ground. Also, there are no references to any future reductions in troop levels beyond the current mandate period. This was apparently an important point for Argentina and Chile who had concerns about any language that could be seen as an endorsement of the two step approach outlined by the Secretary-General in his report, with the second step involving a further reduction in MINUSTAH’s military strength to one battalion following the planned 2015 presidential elections.

Council members met this morning for a final discussion of the draft that was circulated on Friday. It was still unclear, however, whether the text had the support of all Council members as some delegations were still awaiting instructions from capital. It therefore remains to be seen tomorrow if the proposed compromise language will be sufficient to secure a unanimous Council vote.