Haiti

United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2022/117)

Attachments

I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2600 (2021), by which the Council extended to 15 July 2022 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/2021/828) and provides an update on the implementation of the BINUH mandate.

II. Political issues and good governance (benchmark 1)

2. Polarization continues to define Haitian politics, as differences over the country’s current governance arrangements persist. Efforts to build greater unity around a common path proved fraught during the reporting period, while complex economic and security factors set off national fuel shortages and strikes by transport unions, which severely disrupted economic and social life across the country throughout most of October and November. Further progress is therefore still needed to enhance consensus on how to resolve the country’s political crisis. Moreover, several stakeholders remain doubtful that the current political and security environments are conducive to the timely holding of elections. In his 1 January address to the nation, Prime Minister Ariel Henry asserted that the challenges the country continued to face were of a security, political and economic nature. He encouraged all Haitian stakeholders, “including those supporting alternative initiatives”, to “enlarge the consensus” on the 11 September political agreement, set aside their differences and chart a common way forward.

3. After disbanding the Provisional Electoral Council on 27 September 2021, the Prime Minister made initial attempts to engage various sectors in forming a new body which did not gain much traction. Citing the continued deterioration in the security situation, several sectors declined to nominate candidates for the nine positions of electoral councillors. Acknowledging the need for the security situation to be addressed, and despite these setbacks, the Prime Minister continued outreach to national stakeholders, including by launching a dialogue with representatives of the Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis (known as the Montana Group) on 27 October and repeatedly engaging other key political groups, trade unions, business sector associations and civil society actors.

4. As a result of these overtures, and in an effort to meet the terms of the 11 September political agreement, the Prime Minister unveiled a partially reshuffled Government on 24 November. The 18-member cabinet – with eight new ministers, including representatives from civil society, former members of the political opposition to late President Jovenel Moïse and technocrats from previous administrations – broadened ownership of the political road map and inclusion in the executive. However, the cabinet’s composition has elicited concerns among observers, as it is perceived as marginalizing more moderate elements of the Haitian polity. During the swearing-in ceremony on 25 November, Prime Minister Henry stated that the new Government’s top priorities would be security, constitutional reform based on a process of “popular consultation” and the holding of national and local elections.

5. As 7 February – the date of the end of President Moïse’s mandate – approached, several signatories of the 11 September political agreement voiced their discontent over the limited progress in its implementation and called upon the Prime Minister to accelerate the establishment of a new electoral council while further enhancing the Government’s inclusivity. Other stakeholders appeared to question the legitimacy of Prime Minister Henry’s executive mandate beyond 7 February and underscored the need for inclusive negotiations to be held in order to articulate a national consensus that would lead to the full restoration of democratic institutions through the holding of elections. Discussions on whether Haiti should maintain a prime minister-led executive to lead the transition, as proposed in the 11 September agreement, or opt for the kind of semi-presidential system enshrined in the 1987 Constitution remained at the forefront of the political debate.

6. In an initiative to advance an alternative governance model outside the scope of the efforts led by the Government, on 12 December, supporters of the Montana Group launched a 46-member national transitional council composed of representatives from the different economic, social and political sectors, including the diaspora, to designate an interim President and a new Prime Minister to lead a 24-month political transition. This act was followed, on 10 January, by the signing of a new agreement between the Montana Group and the signatories of the national memorandum of understanding, which provides for a dual executive, composed of a five-member joint presidency and a Prime Minister to be designated by the national transitional council. The new agreement also calls for the creation of a national conference to decide on a possible constitutional reform and projects that elections will be held in 2024. Six applications – two for the Montana representative in the five-member presidency and four for Prime Minister – were submitted to the national transitional council on 18 January. Prime Minister Henry reiterated his commitment to dialogue with all stakeholders, including the Montana Group, and indicated that the next Head of State would be chosen through democratic elections.

7. During a 21 January ministerial meeting on Haiti hosted virtually by the Government of Canada, the Prime Minister underscored that addressing insecurity and strengthening State authority throughout the national territory were essential conditions for holding elections. While acknowledging the need to further enlarge national consensus around a Haitian-led project aimed at restoring electoral democracy, the Prime Minister also announced that, in line with the 11 September agreement, academia, the private sector, rural community groups, women’s associations and other stakeholders would appoint their respective representatives to the transitional governance bodies. Of note, various participants in the conference indicated that the search for a viable political solution in Haiti should include peaceful and constructive dialogue among all national stakeholders, including civil society representatives.

8. In early January, a debate arose over the duration of the terms of the 10 remaining members of the Senate, the only officials to currently hold elected positions in Haiti. While some stakeholders asserted that the senators’ mandates expired on 10 January 2022, referring to the electoral cycle provided for in the Constitution, others held that their constitutional six-year terms were due to expire in 2023, given that the senators had taken office in 2017. The dispute was peacefully resolved on 10 January, allowing the remaining senators to continue serving their mandates and contributing to partially reducing political tensions. On the same day, the body’s President called on national stakeholders to seize the opportunity to make 2022 “the year of national dialogue and consensus”.

9. The country’s political challenges were further compounded by the disruption of the national fuel supply in mid-October, when criminal gangs surrounded the country’s main fuel terminals in Port-au-Prince (West Department). Gang members kidnapped truck drivers, diverted fuel tankers and drove police off with gunfire. In addition to stoking social and political tensions, the resulting blockade led to countrywide fuel shortages, had a severe impact on economic life and disrupted critical services (including banks, hospitals and ambulances), as well as humanitarian relief operations. Following the Government’s adjustment of its security posture in critical areas and its engagement with key actors in the fuel supply chain, a gradual improvement in the situation was observed by mid-November, when gas stations resumed normal operations.

10. In the aftermath of the fuel crisis, the Prime Minister adopted a series of measures to reverse a decade-long fuel subsidy policy, which drove up the price of diesel, kerosene and gasoline. Proactive outreach to, and consultation with, trade unions and the business community in the preceding weeks mitigated public backlash against the higher prices and led to a more progressive lifting of the subsidies. Another apparent contributing factor was the Government’s pledge to reinvest public resources in social services such as policing, education and health, while providing other incentives to the transportation industry to keep public transport prices affordable.

11. Given the absence of a reconstituted Provisional Electoral Council, and due to pervasive fuel scarcity, electoral preparations slowed. Nevertheless, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and BINUH, National Electoral Council staff continued to work on improving their capacity to better manage data and prevent electoral violence. Registration for national identification cards also slowed during the reporting period. While there had been a progressive decrease in the number of registrations over the previous six months, the disruptions caused by the fuel crisis led to a sharp drop, to a low equalled only during the 2019 peyi lok period of protests. As at 21 January, and following the removal by the National Identification Office of duplicates from the list, the total number of registered citizens was 4,844,213, including 2,542,387 women. As at that same date, 4,154,546 identity cards had been issued. Of note, on 16 December, the Government appointed a new Director-General in charge of the National Identification Office.

12. Despite scant progress on the electoral front, the United Nations continued to support national institutions in increasing women’s leadership and participation in political life. UN-Women helped a Women’s Leadership Academy project complete a training cycle at the end of November, strengthening the capacities of around 80 women aspiring candidates for the next elections. Moreover, under the Peacebuilding Fund framework for the prevention of electoral violence, including violence against women, discussions were held by UN-Women, with BINUH support, on mechanisms to address electoral and political violence against women and ways to mitigate gender-based stereotypes in media. The forums gathered stakeholders from national institutions, civil society organizations and the media, and contributed to enhancing coordination against gender-based violence and stigmatization, while raising awareness about barriers to women participating in public life.