United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2021/828)

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I. Introduction

  1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2547 (2020), by which the Council extended to 15 October 2021 the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), in accordance with Council resolution 2476 (2019), by which it established BINUH and requested me to report on the implementation of the resolution every 120 days. The report includes significant developments that have occurred since my previous report (S/2021/559) and provides an update on the implementation of the BINUH mandate.

II. Political issues and good governance (benchmark 1)

  1. The reporting period was marked by two watershed events: the assassination of the President, Jovenel Moïse on 7 July, and an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 that struck south-western Haiti on 14 August, killing more than 2,240 people and injuring some 12,700 others. Both events contributed to further heightening uncertainties over the country’s stability and political trajectory and caused additional delays in the overdue polls. On 19 August, my Deputy Secretary-General, accompanied by the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme made a two-day visit to express the solidarity and support of the United Nations to Haiti. They visited affected communities and held discussions with the Government, the Civil Protection Directorate and civil society leaders.

  2. In the early hours of 7 July, the country awoke to the shocking news that President Moïse had been assassinated in an attack on his private residence in Pétionville (West Department) in which the First Lady was gravely injured. In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, the caretaker Cabinet, headed by the interim Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, invoked article 149 of the amended Constitution to decree a series of security measures, including a 15-day state of emergency which conferred on the Government the authority to mobilize the Haitian National Police and the Armed Forces of Haiti to conduct home searches and arrests, and to restrict access in and out of the country – including by conducting security checks on the roads and ordering the temporary closure of international airports. The population of Port-au-Prince largely sheltered in place in the ensuing 48 hours and the overall security situation in the country remained calm. However, during the State funeral on 23 July in Cap-Haïtien (North Department), protesters demanding justice for the late President blocked several main roads and looted private businesses as the police worked to restore public order.

  3. To date, 44 suspects, including 20 Haitian police officers and several fore ign nationals, have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the assassination, as other individuals are wanted for questioning. Even though several investigations were promptly launched, and assistance from international partners was provided, the circumstances of President Moïse’s violent death remain unclear, and progress is further complicated by the alleged transnational dimension of the crime. As a result, speculation abounds over who financed and masterminded the assassination.

  4. The assassination further aggravated the institutional vacuum in Haiti as – following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-related death of the President of the Court of Cassation in June – the country’s three branches of power are now dysfunctional. Nevertheless, the uncertainty as to the executive leadership caused by the initial differences between the interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph and the Prime Minister-designate Ariel Henry, whom the President had appointed some 24 hours before his death but not yet installed, rapidly abated. Prime Minister Henry and his 18-member Cabinet took office on 20 July, with Mr. Joseph retaining his post as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Religion. In this context, my Special Representative and her team, in coordination with the Organization of American States and other national and international actors, have continued to engage political parties and civil society leaders to encourage dialogue among key stakeholders in order that differences be set aside and the necessary consensus on the way forward be forged.

  5. Since taking office, Prime Minister Henry has expressed his desire to reach a political agreement, using an inclusive and consensual approach to create conditions for holding national elections. On 11 September, over 150 political parties and civil society organizations, including former opposition and ruling coalition groups, reached an agreement with the Prime Minister on the governance arrangements for the period leading up to elections, to be organized no later than the end of 2022. The agreement provides for a Prime Minister-led executive branch, a reconstituted Cabinet and a new Provisional Electoral Council, as well as a Constituent Assembly to finalize a draft constitution to be submitted to referendum for “ratification” . Notably, a 33-member oversight body, inclusive of the 10 remaining senators, would be given authority to block government decrees with a two-thirds majority. The agreement also identifies priority areas for Government action with a focus on security, justice and the economy.

  6. At the same time, some national stakeholders, including the Civil Society Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis, reiterated their preference for a provisional president and a Prime Minister to lead the Executive and call ed for a longer political transition during which extensive governance and security reforms would be undertaken.

  7. The Prime Minister has continued to pursue intense outreach efforts to broaden adhesion to the agreement, including by engaging with the Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis. These discussions are taking place amid a political rupture between the Prime Minister and some senior officials from the late President’s administration, who have been critical of the assassination investigation.

  8. Given that the political process had yet to fully ripen, Prime Minister Henry dismissed as untenable the revised electoral calendars published by the Provisional Electoral Council during the summer. Likewise, upon receiving on 8 September a third version of the draft constitution from the Independent Consultative Committee created by President Moïse, the Prime Minister indicated that a proposed Constituent Assembly would review the document and produce a final text.

  9. Meanwhile, a new electoral decree was published on 5 July. While most of the provisions of the 2015 decree, which governed the organization of the 2015–2017 electoral cycle, have been retained, some aspects – such as strengthening women’s participation through binding measures and financial incentives to increase the number of female candidates – have been improved.

  10. The lack of consensus around the referendum, the earthquake, the Electoral Council’s contested legitimacy and the intention of Government to change the electoral council once a political agreement is reached, continued to hamper progress in preparing for the polls. In mid-June, anti-referendum protests disrupted electoral officer training sessions in Fort Liberté (North-East Department) and Jacmel (SouthEast Department). In addition, the electoral council has not yet completed the recruitment of poll workers. In the aftermath of the 14 August earthquake, the Council suspended electoral activities pending an evaluation of infrastructural and material damage in the affected areas. Initial assessments indicate serious damage to some commune-level electoral offices and scores of public buildings which the Council intended to use as voting centres.

  11. In the light of the likely additional delays in the electoral calendar, the registration window is expected to be reopened. As at 30 August, more than 5 million Haitians of voting age had registered for the new identity card, which also serves as a voter card, with women making up 52.7 per cent of the new voter registry. The trend of higher female registration is consistent across the 10 Departments and within the United States of America-based diaspora. Lastly, on 19 July, the Government disbursed an additional $6.5 million to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-managed basket fund for elections, bringing its total contribution to $39.8 million, of which $12.4 million has been disbursed to facilitate the organization of the earlier-planned constitutional referendum.

  12. Despite the uncertainty over when elections will be held, the joint electoral security cell coordinated by the National Police continued to hold weekly meetings with the electoral council, the United Nations and other national and international partners. Owing to the expected delays stemming from the changes likely in the electoral council and post-earthquake adjustments, the integrated national election security plan and the cell’s election security budget will be further revised.

  13. In parallel, international partners are supporting the police in upgrading its risk assessment of the 1,534 polling centres and the logistics hubs where electoral materials and assets are stored. Moreover, as part of a $1.5 million Peacebuilding Fund project, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and UNDP helped bring together representatives from civil society organizations, political parties and the Provisional Electoral Council to develop an electoral violence prevention and deterrence strategy. Lastly, the recruitment and training of the 7,000 temporary election security officers has been postponed pending a confirmed election date.