Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (S/2017/840)
1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2350 (2017), by which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for a final period of six months, until 15 October 2017 and established the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) for an initial period of six months, from 16 October 2017 to 15 April 2018. It covers major developments that have occurred since the issuance of my previous report, of 12 July 2017 (S/2017/604), and progress made on the closure of MINUSTAH and the establishment of MINUJUSTH. As this is my final report on MINUSTAH, it also presents an overview of the Mission’s achievements, including good practices and lessons learned.
II. Developments on the ground
A. Political situation
2. Eight months after the President of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, assumed office, the country continues to take steps to further consolidate its democracy and stability. Nonetheless, indirect elections to establish the councils and assemblies at the municipal, departmental and interdepartmental levels, as envisaged in the Constitution, remain stalled. On 14 July, the Provisional Electoral Council completed the first of four steps, namely, the designation of members for 140 municipal assemblies. It then submitted the results on 21 July to the Government for publication in the official gazette. Religious and civil society leaders called for the publication of the results in order to allow the process to continue, while at the same time moving forward with a national dialogue on the electoral system. On 25 August, however, in an effort to reduce the potential for institutional conflict between the bodies to be elected and other existing decentralized structures, the executive branch recommended the suspension of the process, pending the revision by Parliament of relevant laws regulating local governance. On 1 September, the Senate confirmed receipt of three presidential decrees from 2006 that had been amended by the Government in order to clarify the functions of the various bodies constituting the local governance structure.
3. During the reporting period, the Government of Haiti took decisive steps towards the remobilization of the Haitian Armed Forces, with a view to creating a force of 3,000 soldiers over the course of President Moïse’s five-year term. On 25 July, the Ministry of Defence confirmed receipt of applications from 2,350 candidates, including 350 women, for the first class of 500 military cadet recruits. The process was carried out against a backdrop of caution and concern, voiced by parliamentarians, party leaders, human rights advocates and security experts. The lack of an agreed framework for the process and the potential for politicization, given the direct recruitment by the Government in the absence of an army Chief and general staff, were the main causes for concern. Concerns were also raised that such efforts would redirect the limited resources available for the country’s development priorities, including the Haitian National Police.
4. On 27 July, President Moïse raised the daily minimum wage for assembly factory workers to 350 Haitian gourdes, slightly higher than the 335 recommended by the Superior Council of Salaries and considerably less than the 800 gourdes demanded by the trade unions. The Government also sought to address a number of major issues facing the country through the establishment of eight presidential commissions, comprising representatives from national sectors, including two new commissions, on health reform and on innovation and the socioprofessional integration of youth. It furthermore intensified its flagship programme, the “Caravan of Change”, designed to enhance the State’s delivery of service and to improve living conditions, particularly in rural areas. The programme has been expanded to half of the country’s 10 Departments and is considered the backbone of the Government’s strategy for achieving economic growth and development through the revitalization of agricultural production and investment in public infrastructure to improve market access and basic social services. The President also announced plans to implement a nationwide solution to the energy shortages facing the country.
5. In Parliament, progress on the joint legislative agenda remained slow, and an increased rate of absenteeism during the months of July and August resulted in the suspension of some sessions. As at 11 September, when the 2017 legislative year was formally closed, only three draft laws had been adopted by both Chambers of Parliament and submitted to the executive branch, bringing the total voted upon and adopted as at the time of reporting to 4 of 51 draft proposals on the joint legislative agenda. Those included laws on working hours, on the national education fund and on civil aviation. In addition, on 12 September, Parliament submitted to the executive branch the draft national budget for the fiscal year 2017/18, as adopted by the two Chambers. The budget drew criticism because of an alleged imbalance in funding among State institutions and new additional direct taxes that stood to affect low-income earners. Moreover, civil society and the private sector complained that they had not been consulted, which had been the practice of previous administrations.
6. On 11 September, initiating steps to constitute the Permanent Electoral Council, the Upper and Lower Chambers established a bicameral commission to select the three representatives of Parliament to be appointed to the nine-member Council. During the reporting period, the Superior Council of the Judiciary also launched a call for candidates to select its three representatives. Similar action by the executive branch is expected in the coming period.
7. During the reporting period, opposition political parties and civil society representatives strengthened calls for a national dialogue to address ongoing socioeconomic grievances on the part of factory workers, teachers, the judiciary and health-care staff. Five centre-left parties, grouped under the umbrella Political Coalition of Active Forces of the Nation, initiated steps to bridge communication between the Government, opposition parties and civil society and to determine the way forward on such a dialogue encompassing, inter alia, constitutional reform, indirect elections and the calendar for the next electoral cycle, due in 2019. On 14 September, at the invitation of President Moïse, a dozen allied and moderate opposition parties met with the executive branch to discuss ways to improve the functioning of political parties. Discussions, however, focused primarily on the contested national budget, to which party leaders requested revisions prior to publication. Six other opposition parties, who declined the President’s invitation, also requested further revisions to the budget prior to meeting with the President. On 18 September, public transport unions launched a nationwide strike, protesting the national budget, which was scheduled to go into effect on 1 October.