posted on Mon 14 Oct 2019 5:35 PM
Haiti Debate and MINUJUSTH Closure

Tomorrow (October 15) the Security Council will hold its last debate on the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) before it transitions to the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), a special political mission (SPM), on 16 October. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to brief on the Secretary-General’s final 90-day report on MINUJUSTH. Additionally, Norway has been invited to brief in its capacity as President of ECOSOC about the work of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti.

The situation on the ground in Haiti in the run-up to the UN’s transition has continued to deteriorate. Protests have increased in intensity in the last few weeks. Seventeen people have been reported dead and over 200 injured in these most recent demonstrations. Last year, demonstrations were located in the capital of Port-au-Prince and some other large Haitian cities, but more recently they have spread throughout Haiti, with greater impact on the population. On 11 October, demonstrations became riots as protestors fought with police and attempted to break a barricade near the presidential residence. Several opposition groups that led the protests have said that they will not stop until President Jovenel Moïse is out of office. Moïse has avoided public appearances.

On 8 October Moïse released a list of people that he suggested could lead discussions to address the crisis, but this was rejected by opposition leader Andre Michel as lacking credibility. In its 30 June report, UNICEF reported that 2.6 million people in Haiti were food insecure, and food shortages have increased in recent weeks.

Council members met under “any other business” on 3 October to discuss the political unrest. At that meeting, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MINUJUSTH Helen La Lime briefed on Haiti’s political and economic challenges. La Lime cited the public’s frustrations with fuel shortages, the closure of businesses and schools, and corruption.

Parliamentary elections in Haiti were due to be held in October but have been postponed indefinitely because of the continued absence of electoral law. Without fresh elections, in January the terms of one-third of the Senate, the entire lower chamber, and all locally elected officials will expire. At the 3 October meeting, La Lime shared with Council members her view that inclusive dialogue is needed before elections can take place.

Council members were relatively united during the meeting, encouraging the government to engage in inclusive dialogue to calm the situation. Some Council members noted that the Council’s own credibility is at risk, as this political crisis occurs during the transition to an SPM. All members expressed their concern about the humanitarian situation.

The Council adopted resolution 2476 on 25 June, which established BINUH for an initial period of 12 months from tomorrow and changed the reporting period from 90 to 120 days. BINUH’s mandate will include advising the government on issues related to promoting and strengthening political stability and good governance, the rule of law, an inclusive inter-Haitian national dialogue, and protecting and promoting human rights.

The resolution also requested that the Secretary-General provide strategic benchmarks for BINUH to achieve its tasks, which were outlined in the Secretary-General’s report of 9 October (S/2019/805). The six benchmarks and 37 indicators intended to guide BINUH’s efforts in Haiti are likely to be discussed as part of tomorrow’s debate.

In tomorrow’s meeting, members may spend some time reflecting on the gains made in Haiti after 15 years of a UN peacekeeping presence (the previous mission, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti or MINUSTAH, was established in 2004). They are likely to acknowledge the challenges that remain, and some may express concern about the lack of effective governance in Haiti. Some Council members may take the view that the transition was too rushed, given Haiti’s ongoing instability; they may refer to increased criminality, deteriorating economic conditions, and continued protests.

Since the briefing under “any other business”, there have been discussions about a product on the situation in Haiti.  Following the 3 October meeting, the US, as penholder on Haiti, circulated a draft press statement. The draft press statement essentially urged all stakeholders to refrain from violence, engage in inclusive dialogue, and for the government of Haiti to address root causes of instability and inequality. However, one member was reluctant for members to pronounce themselves at this time, and given that press statements require unanimity, the statement was not agreed.

Additionally, Council members have briefly discussed adopting a separate presidential statement marking the UN’s transition in Haiti. At press time, this remained uncertain. Similar outcomes were adopted with previous transitions and closures of peacekeeping missions, such as Sierra Leone in 2005, Côte d’Ivoire in 2017 and Liberia in 2018.