posted on Fri 23 Jan 2015 12:22 PM
Dispatches from the Field: The Security Council Arrives in Haiti

23 January. Port-au-Prince: The Security Council has just landed in Haiti for a three day visiting mission. The mission will be co-led by Ambassadors Cristián Barros Melet (Chile) and Samantha Power (US). (The Council last visited Haiti in February 2012.) The visit will begin with a working lunch with Special Representative of the Secretary-General Sandra Honoré and other UN senior officials.

The trip is taking place in the midst of an acute political crisis in Haiti resulting from the failure to reach agreement on the holding of long overdue municipal and parliamentary elections. On 12 January, in the absence of parliamentary elections, the mandates of all members of the chamber of deputies and another third of the 30-member senate expired, leading to the dissolution of parliament and Haitian president Michel Martelly’s ruling by decree. While Martelly announced the formation of a consensus government on 19 January that included some members of the opposition, demonstrations calling for his resignation have continued and the way forward remains unclear. Earlier this week demonstrators had announced plans to greet the Security Council delegation upon their arrival.

According to the mission’s terms of reference, key objectives of the trip will be to confirm the Council’s support for the government and people of Haiti, to “underscore the importance of inclusiveness and constructiveness” to political stability and development and to “urge Haiti’s political actors to work cooperatively and without further delays to ensure the holding of free, fair, inclusive, and transparent legislative, partial senatorial, municipal and local elections” in accordance with the constitution of Haiti.

The mission also aims to assess ongoing efforts to strengthen the Haitian National Police and the authorities’ capacity to maintain stability and security throughout the country, as well as to assess the implementation of resolution 2180, adopted on 14 October 2014. (This resolution, which extended the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti [MINUSTAH] for another year, authorised a more than 50 per cent reduction in the mission’s military strength. However, Council members were sharply divided over the downsizing, resulting in the inclusion of a compromise provision requesting that the reduction not start until after the publication of the next Secretary-General’s report on MINUSTAH, due in March.) While the recent demonstrations have largely been peaceful, Council members are likely to be keen on getting an assessment from MINUSTAH’s force commander and other actors on the ground of current security risks and whether there is a need to reconsider the timeline for the reduction in the mission’s authorised strength.
An additional objective of the trip is to demonstrate the Council’s strong support for MINUSTAH and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Sandra Honoré, while highlighting issues such as democracy, sustainable development and the protection of human rights. In assessing the situation, Council members will likely be mindful of the fact that 12 January marked the five year anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

After the working lunch today, the Council delegation will first have meetings with the UN country team and with the commanders of MINUSTAH’s contingents. Later in the day, there will be a meeting with Martelly and other Haitian government officials followed by a dinner hosted by the Government of Haiti.

Tomorrow the Council will travel to Cap Haïtien in the north of the country, among other things to visit a Chilean peacekeeping contingent deployed there (Chile currently has some 400 peacekeepers in Haiti) as well as some quick impact projects. The day’s programme will also include a prison visit and meetings with political parties and civil society and human rights groups. On Sunday, there will be a separate meeting with women’s groups. (There is no specific reference to women, peace and security in the terms of reference, but women’s issues are a priority for both Chile and the US, the two co-leads.) Also on Sunday, the Council will visit the Haitian National Police school in Port-au-Prince.

Haiti’s Political Situation
Since the Council last considered the situation in Haiti, repeated attempts at overcoming the political deadlock between Martelly and a small number of opposition groups have all failed. Despite the urging of the international community, Haitian political actors have been unable to put aside their differences and make the necessary compromises for elections to take place. Council members are likely keen to gain a better understanding of the current dynamics at play and how the international community might best contribute to resolving the crisis.

On 28 November, in response to the continued deadlock over the adoption of an amended electoral law required for the organisation of elections to move forward, Martelly announced the creation of an eleven-member “consultative commission”, the Commission consultative presidentielle (CCP), tasked with presenting within eight days recommendations for the holding of the elections. (The adoption of the electoral law had been blocked by six opposition senators on constitutional grounds.) In its report submitted on 9 December, the CCP proposed a number of changes and specific measures, including the resignation of the prime minister and the formation of a new electoral council. (The composition of the electoral council has been a major area of dispute.) It also recommended the formation of a new consensus government and the convening of an extraordinary session of parliament to vote on the electoral law.

Following the publication of the report, Martelly on 12 December said he fully supported its recommendations. On 14 December Laurent Lamothe announced his resignation as prime minister and on 18 December the members of the provisional electoral council also resigned. In a 23 December press statement, Honoré and the members of the so-called core group on Haiti (Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, the US, the EU and the Organisation of American States) welcomed Martelly’s efforts to implement the recommendations of the CCP and called on all actors “to support efforts to build confidence and identify a comprehensive solution to the political crisis.”

Further efforts to resolve the crisis have been blocked, however, by a small group of opposition leaders who have consistently refused to engage in the process. In a final attempt to avoid the dissolution of parliament, Martelly on 11 January said he had reached a deal with several opposition parties to extend the terms of the members of the chamber of deputies until 24 April and the senators until 9 September, subject to approval by the parliament and adoption of the amended electoral law in an extraordinary session. However, in the absence of a quorum the parliament failed to hold a meeting before the terms of the deputies and senators expired on 12 January.

On 13 January, the core group issued another press statement deploring that the parliament had failed to meet and expressing its support for Martelly “in the exercise of his constitutional duty to ensure the regular functioning of institutions and the continuity of the state.” It also welcomed the 11 January political accord and encouraged all parties to join the accord and continue negotiations to reach agreement on a consensus government. Subsequently, Martelly on 16 January announced the installation of Paul Evans, a long-term moderate opposition leader and former Port-au-Prince mayor, as his prime minister, and on 19 January a new cabinet comprising 36 ministers was sworn in. It was presented as a consensus government and included some members representing the opposition. Even so, it was criticised not only by opposition hard-liners, but also by parties described as pro-government as not being inclusive enough, with most ministers seen as allies of Martelly. At press time, there were calls for a reshuffling of the cabinet to include more members from the opposition amid continuing demands for Martelly’s resignation. Also at press time, the members of the new provisional electoral council had just been announced, but it was not clear whether they would be acceptable to the opposition.

It remains to be seen if the Council’s visit will contribute to resolving the political crisis. So far, the Council has largely left it to other stakeholders to play a more active role and has been careful to not be seen as taking sides, with Council members arguing that outside interference will only be counter-productive. The only recent Council pronouncement specifically on the political situation was a 28 January 2013 press statement (SC/10901) that called for elections to be held by the end of that year. It is possible, however, that there will be a Council outcome as a follow-up to the trip, depending on Council members’ assessment of the situation.

The customary Council briefing by the two co-leads of the mission is currently scheduled for 29 January. There will also likely be a written report at a later stage. (The report from the Council’s 13-16 February 2012 trip to Haiti [S/2012/534] was published on 11 July 2012.)