United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2018/1059)
- The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2410 (2018), by which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) until 15 April 2019 and requested me to report to the Council every 90 days on the implementation of the resolution. It covers major developments that have occurred since the issuance of my most recent report, on 30 August (S/2018/795), progress on the benchmarked exit strategy and an update on timelines for the transfer of tasks and responsibilities for handover to the Government, in coordination with the United Nations country team.
II. Major developments
A. Political developments
This reporting period was marked by incidents of volatility and tension, including calls for President Jovenel Moïse to step down. The two Senate commission reports of 2016 and 2017 on the mismanagement of the PetroCaribe Fund, which I detailed in my report of 20 March (S/2018/241), gave rise to widespread yet predominantly peaceful civil society demonstrations nationwide to demand greater transparency and accountability from the Government. As these protests unfolded, a civil society movement known as PetroCaribe Challenge emerged on social media in August, intensifying calls for a credible investigation and for the authorities to exert due diligence. While the movement was initially not politically affiliated, in September, the more extreme opposition parties joined the demonstrations. Online and on the streets, the rhetoric intensified and incidents of violence occurred in the capital, Port-au-Prince. The pressure continued to mount ahead of the 17 October commemoration of the assassination of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a leader of the Haitian Revolution and the first ruler of an independent Haiti in 1804.
On 17 October, protesters took to the streets in considerable numbers in 31 locations across the country, with the biggest gathering occurring in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince (West region). As the day progressed, the initially peaceful demonstrations grew more tense and, in some instances, became violent, with widespread use of roadblocks and burning tyres. The violence was successfully contained by the national police and damage to property was limited. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Haitians marched that day, the largest public demonstration in recent history. Most demands focused on the PetroCaribe Fund, and there were also calls for improved delivery of social services and for President Moïse to step down.
The national police reported that 2 civilians were killed and 24 injured, in addition to 19 national police officers. In addition, 46 people were arrested nationwide. Local media and politicians unanimously viewed the 17 October demonstrations as a success due to their relatively peaceful nature. International actors highlighted the professionalism of the police and the improved communications between the Government and police leadership.
The situation remained tense throughout the religious holiday weekend of 1 and 2 November. On 31 October, a combined funeral for six individuals, alleged to have died under various circumstances on 17 October in the Delmas 2 and Bel-Air neighbourhoods (Delmas, West region) was disrupted by shootings and road blocks, with many disturbances reported across the city. Later that day, 11 people were wounded by gunshots in the Village de Dieu area of Port-au-Prince, and a girl of 11 years of age was killed.
The 18 November commemorations of the 215th anniversary of the battle of Vertières (Cap-Haïtien, North region) were also marked by nationwide anti-corruption protests. In the country’s main cities, demonstrations brought together relatively large crowds of people, albeit in smaller numbers than on 17 October. The protestors were notably different from the 17 October crowds, most of them being political militants echoing the calls of the opposition, with far fewer women present. Barricades of rocks and burning tyres erected by protesters were quickly cleared by the national police, and a small number of incidents were recorded. Authorities reported 6 people killed, 5 injured and 35 arrested. The leaders of the radical opposition party Secteur démocratique et populaire reported 11 people killed, 45 wounded and 75 arrested. The demonstrations were followed by a well-observed two-day general strike on 19 and 20 November.
President Moïse responded to the people’s demands by asking that the Prime Minister provide all necessary support to the relevant institutions, specifically the justice system as it investigates the allegations regarding the mismanagement of the PetroCaribe funds. The President further emphasized that private companies found to have defrauded the State would be prosecuted, and he requested that all State officials involved in the management of the PetroCaribe funds make themselves available to the ongoing investigation.
On 22 October, amid growing allegations of mismanagement, President Moïse dismissed 18 close associates and advisers, including his chief of staff, who previously served as Economy and Finance Minister, citing the importance of government accountability. On the same day, Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant announced the creation of an independent commission comprising national experts to oversee the PetroCaribe investigation and guarantee its political neutrality. However, since the announcement, national media associations, members of the PetroCaribe Challenge movement, human rights organizations and other entities mentioned by the Prime Minister as possible members of the commission publicly declined to participate.
Activity in Parliament was characterized by limited legislative activity in both chambers due to their failure to hold regular weekly plenary sessions. On 4 September, Parliament adopted the amended 2017–2018 budget, revised after fuel subsidies were reintroduced following violent unrest against the measure from 6 to 8 July. The revised budget forecasts a 10 per cent increase in spending, or approximately $150 million, together with a drop in fuel revenues of approximately $100 million. The draft law on the creation, organization and functioning of the National Council on Legal Aid, promulgated on 26 October, sets the legal framework for access to legal advice for Haitians regardless of their social status. This long overdue piece of legislation represents an important milestone in the effort to reduce pretrial detention rates. The second ordinary session of the legislative year closed on 10 September, with 8 draft laws voted and transmitted to the executive for promulgation, bringing the year’s total to 19. Following his appointment as Prime Minister on 5 August, Jean Henry Céant’s cabinet received a vote of confidence in an extraordinary session of the National Assembly on 15 and 16 September.
The new Cabinet consists of 25 ministers, secretaries of state and delegate ministers, including 6 women. Women thus account for only 24 per cent of the Cabinet, which is lower than the 30 per cent minimum quota prescribed in the Constitution. The female ministers have been appointed to ministries traditionally occupied by women: Tourism, Haitians Living Abroad, Social Affairs and Labour, Public Health and Population, Women’s Affairs and Women’s Rights, and Human Rights and the Fight against Extreme Poverty, which seldom play a role in strategic government decision-making. The new Government includes six ministers and three state secretaries from the previous Government.
Despite the reappointment of the Minister of Justice and Public Security, relationships between the judiciary and the executive branches remained tense, resulting in delays in the appointment of judges. A total of 66 judges were appointed by the President during the period under review. Nonetheless, according to the Superior Council of the Judiciary, at least 70 more judges should be appointed to ensure that all courts are functioning normally. In parallel, since 11 October, the lawyers of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association launched a strike demanding the recall of the Port-auPrince Public Prosecutor and the arrest of the West region director of the national police and other police officers accused of police brutality against lawyers.
B. Economic situation
- Macroeconomic indicators continued to deteriorate during the reporting period. Failure to reform the fuel price subsidies weakened an already low domestic revenue mobilization, inducing a serious budget deficit as expenditures rose. By the end of August, fuel subsidies and transfers to the state electricity utility amounted to 2.2 per cent and 1.5 per cent of the gross domestic product, respectively, while spending on education and health combined represented 2.4 per cent. As a result, the budget deficit is now expected to reach 4 per cent of the gross domestic product. Inflation reached 14.1 per cent at the end August. The Haitian gourde’s depreciation against the United States dollar continued, closing at a commercial exchange rate of 1 dollar to 73 gourdes by 22 October, a 10.4 per cent devaluation since October 2017.
C. Humanitarian situation 13. On 6 October 2018, an earthquake of 5.9 magnitude struck the northern part of Haiti, with the epicentre located about 20 kilometres north of Port-de-Paix (NorthWest region). According to the Directorate of Civil Protection, the earthquake caused 18 deaths, 548 wounded, destroyed 1,417 houses, damaged 9,717 houses and affected 11,134 families in the North-West, North and Artibonite regions. The affected population required shelter, kitchen, water, sanitation and hygiene kits. The Government mobilized its resources to assist the population.
In the immediate aftermath, the United Nations humanitarian agencies, jointly, and in support of the Directorate of Civil Protection, visited some of the affected areas to assess the damage and identify areas of potential support to national authorities.
MINUJUSTH assisted national rescue efforts by supporting the national police in the affected areas and through the deployment of its drone unit. In the wake of the earthquake, the Government announced the intention to create a permanent multisectoral crisis management mechanism under the leadership of the Prime Minister’s office to improve coordination, including of humanitarian aid, in line with the Government’s interest in a new paradigm for international assistance. The international community reiterated its long-standing support and continued commitment to investing in the strengthening of the Directorate of Civil Protection.
The United Nations continued to support the Haitian authorities’ response to combat cholera under the umbrella of the national plan for the elimination of cholera. In a promising development, the number of cases did not increase significantly during the rainy season. Although suspected cholera cases continue to be reported throughout the country, new suspected cases nationwide dropped to an average of 46 cases weekly in September and the first week of October, compared to 301 weekly suspected cases during the same period in 2017. The suspected weekly caseload at the peak of the outbreak in 2010 was over 18,500.
Despite this progress, it is critical that the intensified cholera control efforts are maintained to continue saving lives and reducing the transmission of cholera in line with the targets set in the national plan. The rapid response teams from the Ministry of Public Health and Population, supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), have been instrumental to the successes in fighting the disease. An early reduction in the number of response teams poses a risk that cholera might spread again. Under track 2 of the new United Nations approach to cholera, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is concluding local consultations in Mirebalais to provide material assistance to those most directly affected by the disease. UNDP and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), supported by the Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti, UNICEF and MINUJUSTH, are preparing a follow-up to the pilot phase, to provide other severely affected communities with similar support.
Special attention continued to be given to reinforcing local capacities for emergency preparedness. On 6 October, with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 30 health and protection experts from the final 3 of the 10 regions in the country completed the certification on the Minimum Initial Service Package for Reproductive Health in emergencies, bringing the total to 100 experts trained across the 10 regions.
According to the partial results of the Integrated Food Security Phas e Classification conducted in October 2018 in drought-affected areas, 5 per cent of the population analysed (145,078 people) are in an emergency phase, and 25 per cent (629,082 people) are in a crisis phase, representing approximately 30 per cent of the population analysed. Projections of the situation indicate that from October 2018 to February 2019, 774,159 people will be food insecure and in need of assistance.
The 2018 humanitarian response plan, which is aimed at reaching 2.2 million Haitians with humanitarian and protection assistance and requires $252.2 million, was only 11.2 per cent funded as at 23 November 2018.
On 20 September, the evaluation phase of the long overdue population and housing census in Haiti was finalized, marking the transition to the main phase. After more than 15 years, with the support of UNFPA, the census will provide a much needed update of the national database on demographics, socioeconomics, gender and housing conditions. These are essential for the country and the international community to establish new baselines for more effective and sustainable policies that save lives and ensure a more informed approach to helping Haiti eradicate extreme poverty and embrace the challenge of reaching the sustainable development goals.