posted on Tue 17 Mar 2015 4:57 PM
Council Debate on the Mission in Haiti

Tomorrow morning (18 March), the Security Council will hold its semi-annual debate on the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Special Representative and head of mission Sandra Honoré will brief on recent developments and present the Secretary-General’s report (S/2015/157). In discussing the situation in Haiti, Council members will likely be influenced by their impressions from the recent visiting mission to Haiti from 23-25 January. (The co-leads of the trip, Chilean Ambassador Cristián Barros and US Ambassador Samantha Power briefed the Council on the visit on 29 January [S/PV.7372].)

A key focus of the debate is likely to be on the preparations for elections. Long overdue, they now finally seem set to happen this year. On 12 March, the provisional electoral council, appointed this past January, formally submitted to President Michel Martelly a proposal for an electoral calendar including both legislative and local elections, some of which have been delayed since 2011, as well as the presidential vote due this year. The proposal provides for elections for the chamber of deputies as well as two-thirds of the senate to be held on 9 August. (The terms of the remaining one-third of the senate do not expire until 2017.) Municipal elections and the first round of the presidential election will be held on 25 October with a second presidential round, if necessary, scheduled for 27 December.

In light of these new developments, Council members are likely to be keen to get an update from Honoré on the political as well as logistical and security challenges of organising the elections. In his report, the Secretary-General noted that political leaders in Haiti appeared to have embarked on a positive path towards a consensus on the elections, highlighting some recent political advances. While some opposition groups were still refusing to engage in discussions with the government, recent anti-government demonstrations have rarely exceeded 1,000 participants according to the report. Still, the Secretary-General characterised the political alliance which allowed for recent progress as fragile and called on all actors to continue to engage in constructive dialogue, exercise restraint and strive to minimise tensions. Indeed, as a reminder of the continuing political challenges, in recent days some opposition groups appear to have rejected the proposed electoral calendar. Council members may want to hear about Honoré’s efforts to encourage all actors to constructively engage in the preparations for the elections.

The role of MINUSTAH in addressing logistical and security challenges related to the elections and coordinating international electoral assistance in cooperation with other key stakeholders, as requested by the Council in resolution 2180, is also likely to be a focus of the debate. The Secretary-General noted in his report that the challenges “will be significant” and that Haitian authorities must take full ownership of organising the elections while also emphasising that the UN will be ready to assist. Council members may want Honoré to provide more details on the planning and coordination of current international electoral assistance. Some members may also want to highlight the need to ensure implementation of the provisions of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security with regard to women’s participation in the electoral process.

A further key issue in the debate is likely to be MINUSTAH’s reconfiguration and future role. The Council’s decision in resolution 2180 of October last year to authorise a 50 percent reduction in the mission’s military contingent was highly controversial at the time, although it was based on the Secretary-General’s recommendation. While most Council members supported the Secretary-General’s proposal for the drawdown to start right away, then-elected member Argentina and Chile initially wanted to keep troop levels unchanged during the current mandate period, hence the compromise provision in the resolution calling for the drawdown not to start until March this year. At this stage, however, Council members seem generally comfortable with the drawdown decision. Nevertheless, it is possible that some Council members may want to reiterate the importance of closely monitoring the situation on the ground and review MINUSTAH’s mandate and force levels if necessary to preserve the progress that has already been made in stabilising Haiti. Some members may want to draw attention to continuing security risks as noted in the Secretary-General’s report, such as gang-related violence and public unrest as well as security concerns related to the elections. Other members are more likely to highlight the Secretary-General’s assessment that the security situation is generally stable and that the Haitian National Police is able to respond to the vast majority of incidents involving public unrest without operational support from MINUSTAH.

Council members may also want to comment on the plans outlined by the Secretary-General for the further consolidation of MINUSTAH. Annexed to the current Secretary-General’s report is an update on progress made towards the four stabilisation benchmarks of MINUSTAH’s consolidation plan. (The benchmarks, which were first presented to the Council in an 8 March 2013 report, relate to police capacity, electoral capacity-building, rule of law and human rights and key governance issues.) The report also notes that MINUSTAH and the UN country team have started discussions on a transition plan for the gradual reconfiguration of the UN presence in Haiti beyond 2016, which is expected to result in the transfer of the mission’s functions to other UN partners. The Secretary-General’s next report will contain an update on this planning process.

In addition, some Council members may highlight recent international efforts to support economic development in Haiti. On 13 March the UN, together with the Haitian government and other partners, launched a transitional appeal in the amount of $401 million for the two-year period 2015 and 2016. Replacing the annual humanitarian appeal for Haiti, the transitional appeal aims to mobilise resources for humanitarian, transitional and development-related activities and as such seems to signal a shift to a new phase for Haiti. Several Council members are likely to contribute to the appeal.

Finally, some members may want to draw attention to the importance of addressing continuing human rights concerns in Haiti in light of the recent visit to the country by the independent expert on the human rights situation in Haiti, Gustavo Gallón, from 22 February to 3 March. In a press conference on 3 March in Port-au-Price, Gallón noted the negative impact on the rule of law of the absence of elections and described as palpable the social dissatisfaction in the streets of Haiti. He also highlighted the need to address prolonged preventive detentions, reparations for past human rights abuses and the living conditions for those still living in camps for internally displaced persons set up after the 2010 earthquake.