posted on Wed 12 Apr 2017 5:49 PM
Haiti: Renewal of UN Mission’s Mandate for a Final Six-month Period

Tomorrow morning (13 April), the Security Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for a final six-month period and authorising a smaller successor peacekeeping mission, as recommended by the Secretary-General in his latest report to the Council (S/2017/233). At press time, the US, as the penholder, had just put a draft in blue, but it was unclear whether it would achieve consensus.

Leading up to the adoption tomorrow, the Council met last Tuesday (4 April) with the mission’s troop and police contributing countries, and yesterday held a debate with a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of mission Sandra Honoré. As highlighted by Honoré, the outlook for Haiti has significantly improved since the last Council debate in October 2016, ahead of MINUSTAH’s previous mandate renewal. Elections had then just been postponed yet again as a result of the devastating impact of Hurricane Matthew and there was concern about the completion of the electoral process. Yesterday, both Honoré and Council members welcomed the successful holding of elections on 20 November 2016 and 29 January 2017, and noted that the return to constitutional order, with the inauguration of Jovenel Moïse as president on 7 February and the installation on 22 March of a new government headed by Jack Guy Lafontant as prime minister, represented an important milestone for Haiti. The debate also reflected general agreement that the stage is now set for a reconfiguration of the UN presence, while maintaining support from the international community in helping Haiti address remaining challenges, in particular with regard to reform of the justice sector, the rule of law and human rights.
The draft resolution which is now in blue is expected to largely endorse the Secretary-General’s recommendations with regard to MINUSTAH and the future UN presence. It will extend MINUSTAH’s mandate for a final period of six months, involving the gradual drawdown of the military component and closing of the mission on 15 October. It will authorise the establishment of a smaller peacekeeping mission, the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), with a mandate to assist the government of Haiti in strengthening rule of law institutions, further support and develop the Haitian National Police and engage in human rights monitoring, reporting and analysis. The new mission will retain seven of the current 11 formed police units, while the number of individual police will be reduced from 1,001 to 295.
As is established Council practice in the case of Haiti, the draft resolution was first negotiated among the members of the Group of Friends of Haiti, which is chaired by Uruguay. (The other members of the group are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Guatemala, Peru and the US.) On the basis of the discussion in the Group of Friends, the US, as the penholder, circulated a draft resolution to all 15 Council members on 31 March. While in the past, the Council has largely deferred to the consensus reached in the Group of Friends, negotiations among its members this time were more substantive, reflecting the fact that the draft envisages a significant reconfiguration of the UN presence and involves both the closing down of an existing mission and the authorisation of a new peacekeeping operation. Following two rounds of negotiations last week, the US started at the end of the week to conduct bilateral consultations to resolve some of the outstanding issues.

It seems there was general support for the Secretary-General’s recommendations regarding MINUSTAH and the successor mission both among the Group of Friends and Council members, and the negotiations therefore focused on other issues. In the Group of Friends, there were some differences over how much to focus on the humanitarian situation, human rights and peacebuilding and on the Secretary-General’s new approach regarding cholera. It seems that France and the US pushed for a shorter and more streamlined text, and had reservations about including proposed language on cholera, while Brazil and other Latin American countries felt it was important to reflect some of the observations on human rights and humanitarian challenges and the importance of peacebuilding contained in the Secretary-General’s report.

As a result of the discussions in the Group of Friends, the proposed draft therefore contains a number of preambular paragraphs addressing the importance of peacebuilding, the need to support efforts to promote socio-economic development, strengthening the respect for human rights and developing a framework for mutual accountability among the government of Haiti, the UN and the international community.

The draft welcomes the General Assembly resolution on the UN’s new approach to cholera in Haiti (A/RES/71/161), but notes that implementation of this new approach will fall under the responsibility of the UN country team, thus clarifying that the peacekeeping presence will not have any role in this.

In the negotiations among all 15 Council members, it seems discussions focused in particular on a UK proposal to add new language requesting the Secretary-General to develop an exit strategy to be implemented within a two-year timeline, and a Russian proposal to exclude the new mission’s human rights related tasks from its Chapter VII mandate, as is currently the case for MINUSTAH. (Resolution 1542, which established MINUSTAH, makes clear that the Chapter VII provision shall only apply to tasks aimed at ensuring a secure and stable environment.)

While adding a reference to an exit strategy was not in itself controversial, it seems there was some resistance from other Council members to establishing a fixed timeline. As expressed in the debate yesterday, there is concern about jeopardizing the gains made in Haiti so far by pulling UN peacekeepers out too soon, thus repeating the failures of the closing in 2000 of the previous UN operation in Haiti, which was followed by an electoral crisis and large-scale public unrest. It seems that as a compromise, the draft resolution is not expected to request a firm timeline, but instead refers to a “projected” two-year exit plan leading to a non-peacekeeping UN presence that will continue to support the government of Haiti in sustaining peace and peacebuilding.

With regard to the Russian proposal not to place the human rights aspect of the new mission’s mandate under Chapter VII, this seems to have been the most difficult issue, with the US engaging in bilateral negotiations over the last several days to try to resolve it. Because of this issue, Russia broke silence on a draft that was circulated by the US yesterday.

At press time, it appeared that the text in blue would keep the human rights related tasks of the new mission under Chapter VII, but would make clear the authorisation to use all necessary means would only apply to its mandate to support and develop the Haitian National Police and protection of civilians.It seems that the Council wants to monitor the situation in Haiti more closely than in the past. The draft resolution is expected to request the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the resolution within 90 days, as opposed to just ahead of the expiry of MINUSTAH’s mandate. Furthermore, it requests an additional report within 180 days and an assessment report 30 days before the expiration of the new mission’s initial mandate.