posted on Fri 23 Jun 2017 9:21 AM
Dispatches from the Field: Day 1 of Council Visit to Haiti

Port-au-Prince, Haiti: The Security Council landed in Haiti yesterday morning (22 June) beginning its three-day visiting mission to the country, where the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is currently drawing down. In October, a smaller successor mission, the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), will replace MINUSTAH. The new mission is projected to draw down in turn in two years, ending a peacekeeping presence in Haiti that began in 2004. As the Council landed in Port-au-Prince yesterday, around 1,000 demonstrators were protesting the UN’s handling of the cholera epidemic outside MINUSTAH’s logistics base.

The visiting mission commenced with a meeting with the senior leadership of MINUSTAH. Council president and mission lead Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorentty Soliz (Bolivia) began the meeting by stating that the ongoing transition between MINUSTAH and MINUJUSTH necessitated a visiting mission so that the Council could gather information from the field to enable it to shape the successor mission accordingly. Llorentty requested the interlocutors to share how they see the situation in Haiti and to address the main challenges facing the mission. Special Representative and head of MINUSTAH Sandra Honoré gave an update on the overall transitional planning.

Deputy Special Representative El-Mostafa Benlamlih addressed various rule of law issues as well as the challenges in building the capacity of the Haitian National Police (HNP) and entry points for supporting this effort. MINUJUSTH will be mandated to assist the government of Haiti in strengthening the rule of law institutions, as well as in helping to develop the HNP, among other tasks. Benlamlih briefed on key elements of the joint MINUSTAH/UN Country Team transition plan. MINUSTAH Police Commissioner Georges-Pierre Monchotte spoke about police development and transformation and the role of the UN Police (UNPOL) in support of the HNP. MINUSTAH Force Commander Ajax Porto Pinheiro discussed drawdown planning.

It appears that the mission leaders gave the Council an introductory overview of the transitional plans, including details about the drawdown. Council members had the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with the mission leadership. It seems that members were interested in hearing the candid assessment of MINUSTAH’s leadership on the feasibility of the plan for the UN peacekeeping presence to exit Haiti completely in the two years following the establishment of MINUJUSTH, as projected. It appears the mission leaders expressed some optimism on this point and stressed the desire of Haitians to take back ownership of their own security.

The Council then met with Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and select Cabinet members, including the ministers of justice, defense, foreign affairs and others. It appears that President Moïse, who was elected on 20 November 2016, spoke at length about his vision for Haiti. He addressed a wide range of issues affecting the country, including climate change, agriculture, development, investment, corruption and the rule of law. Council members engaged in dialogue over these issues and asked questions on investment, gender equality, detention conditions, and other issues.

President Moïse raised two contentious issues concerning the UN presence in Haiti: firstly, he said that something needs to be done to remedy the situation of fatherless Haitian children born as a result of the sexual misconduct of MINUSTAH peacekeepers; and secondly, he addressed at length the cholera epidemic and the UN’s new approach. It appears that most Council members spoke, expressing concern over the epidemic.

A press stakeout was held following the meeting. Llorentty and Haiti’s acting foreign minister addressed the press. The acting foreign minister addressed the issue of cholera and said that $40 million unspent by MINUSTAH should be used to fund the new approach, as suggested by the UN Secretary-General, who called on contributors to voluntarily reallocate the funds to the cholera initiative. In his remarks, Llorentty described a “fruitful meeting” in which the Council learned about President Moise’s vision and reaffirmed its support to the government and people of Haiti. He reiterated that the goal of this visiting mission is to review the implementation of resolution 2350, which renewed MINUSTAH for a final six months and established MINUJUSTH, and that the Council hoped to identify the necessary requirements for a successful implementation of MINUJUSTH’s mandate. He further noted the myriad of issues discussed and stressed the Council’s support for the government. Llorentty said that the “collateral outcomes” of MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti had been raised, particularly cholera, and that the Council and the government had a common understanding of the Secretary-General’s new approach to this issue.

The floor was then opened up to journalists. Responding to a question about cholera, Llorentty reiterated the Council’s commitment to face the problems in Haiti and to solve them.

The Council then met with members of the UN Country Team. Many UN entities were represented at the meeting, which was abbreviated due to delays in the itinerary. The UN Population Fund, UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, the IOM and OCHA were among the entities in attendance. Cholera and water, sanitation and hygiene were discussed, as well as the plight of displaced returning or deported migrants from the neighbouring Dominican Republic. (According to a 22 May IOM situation report, a total of 193,799 individuals–33.1% female, 66.9% male—have crossed the border into Haitian territory since June 2015.) The Council ended the first day of its visiting mission with a reception with the diplomatic corps based in Port-au-Prince, who shared their experiences in Haiti with members.

While much of the subject matter covered in the first day of the visit pertained to the suffering of Haitians due to cholera, poverty and insecurity, Council members felt that the overall messaging from the interlocutors was positive. Several members noted that there is currently a window of opportunity for advances on several fronts and conveyed optimism following their meetings, which they considered productive.