posted on Wed 12 Oct 2016 6:36 PM
Mandate Renewal of UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti

Tomorrow (13 October), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for six months while maintaining its authorised troop strength at 2,370 military personnel and 2,601 police, as recommended by the Secretary-General in his 31 August report (S/2016/753). The adoption takes place as Haiti struggles to recover from the impact of Hurricane Matthew, which struck the island on 4 October and led to the postponement of the elections scheduled for 9 October.

The draft resolution was put under silence procedure yesterday by the US, the penholder, and passed through it this morning. It is now in blue. Negotiations among Council members were not difficult and only minor, technical adjustments were made to the text received from the Group of Friends of Haiti. (The Group of Friends comprises Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Guatemala, Peru, the US, Uruguay and Venezuela. According to established practice, the US, as the penholder on MINUSTAH, prepared a draft resolution for the Council on the basis of the discussions in the Group of Friends.) It appears that members largely deferred to the decisions made in the Group of Friends.

Negotiations were considerably more difficult in the Group of Friends. At the outset, there was general support for the Secretary-General’s recommendation that MINUSTAH’s mandate should be renewed for six months. However, there were disagreements on the timing of the strategic assessment mission, which the Secretary-General in his report proposed should be deployed ahead of MINUSTAH’s next mandate renewal with a view to making recommendations to the Council on the future presence and role of the UN in Haiti, and which is expected to consider a timetable for its downsizing and eventual withdrawal.

It seems divisions were similar to those seen during the discussions on the mandate renewal last year, when France proposed that the Council should ask the Secretary-General to deploy the assessment mission by a certain date, regardless of what happened with the elections, while others insisted that the timing should be dependent on the installation of a new government. This led to the compromise in last year’s resolution (S/RES/2243), which requested the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic mission and present recommendations on the future presence and role of the UN in Haiti “preferably by 90 days after the inauguration of the new President and ideally after the formation of a new government”.

This year it seems that Brazil, supported by other Latin American members of the Group of Friends, with the notable exception of Uruguay, the chair, again maintained that the deployment of the strategic assessment mission should be linked to the installation of a new government, while France insisted that the timing should be delinked from the electoral process due to the risk of further delays. The resulting compromise was a formulation requesting that the strategic assessment mission be deployed by the end of
the mandate, preferably after the inauguration of a new president.

The differences of view on this issue were reflected in yesterday’s debate on Haiti, with France stating that the “mission’s reconfiguration [should] not be pushed back due to political stalemate,” while Brazil expressed its expectation that the strategic assessment should take place after the new government is formed. In the end, negotiations in the Group of Friends had to be moved up to the Permanent Representative/Deputy Permanent Representative level to resolve this issue.

There was also disagreement in the Group of Friends over whether to retain and update agreed language from last year’s resolution which expressed the Council’s intention “to consider the possible withdrawal of MINUSTAH and transition to a future United Nations presence beginning no sooner than 15 October 2016, to continue to assist the Government of Haiti to consolidate peace, including support to the Haitian National Police.” It seems that Brazil argued against retaining this paragraph, asserting that it would prejudge the outcome of the assessment mission, and proposed alternative language suggesting that a withdrawal would be only one of several options. In the end, however, it appears that Brazil’s suggestion was not taken on board, with the text in blue retaining the language from last year, updated to call for the transition to a future UN presence to begin no sooner than 15 April 2017, the date by which the MINUSTAH mandate will expire.

Another sticking point centered on whether to include new language from resolution 2272, adopted in March this year, on sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers. It seems Brazil had some reservations in this regard. As a compromise, the agreed draft only includes a reference to resolution 2272 without restating any specific language.

The humanitarian impact of the hurricane and the postponement of the elections were among the main issues discussed during yesterday’s Council debate on Haiti. Special Representative and Head of MINUSTAH Sandra Honoré, who briefed via VTC, described the impact and the recovery efforts that were being undertaken by the UN and other actors. She expressed concern about the contamination of water, noting that as a result there were hundreds of suspected cases of cholera and that some people had already died from the disease. She called on member states to contribute to the flash humanitarian appeal of $120 million announced by the Secretary-General on 10 October; several member states reiterated the importance of supporting the appeal and highlighted how their respective governments were assisting the recovery efforts. With respect to the elections, Honoré said that the elections have been delayed pending an assessment of the impact of the hurricane by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council, as many voting centres have been affected by the hurricane.

Moving forward, Council members will closely follow the timing of the elections in relation to the strategic review. If the elections are delayed beyond MINUSTAH’s mandate period and the strategic assessment takes place without a new government in place, concerns might be raised by some of the Latin America members of the Group of Friends about the assessment not being conducted in collaboration with the appropriate national authorities.