- 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, requested me to report to the Council every 90 days on the implementation of the resolution, and requested me to conduct a strategic assessment mission to Haiti and present to the Council recommendations on the future United Nations role, including any recommendations for drawdown and exit. The report covers significant developments that have occurred since the issuance of my previous report (S/2018/1059), progress on the benchmarked exit strategy, an update on the transfer of tasks and responsibilities to the Government, and the recommendations of the strategic assessment mission.
II. Significant developments
A. Political situation and related security developments
The reporting period was marked by an initial return to relative calm. Simmering political tensions grew as worsening economic conditions and demands for the Government to address corruption continued to feature prominently in the public arena. Fuel shortages and further depreciation of the Haitian gourde caused no major demonstrations in December and January and gang activity subsided ahead of the holiday season. However, early in February the population responded to calls from the opposition to march in the streets to demand better governance and to call for the President to resign.
In an effort to lower tensions, three days after the demonstrations of 18 November 2018, President Jovenel Moïse invited all sectors of society to participate in an inclusive national dialogue led by the Prime Minister, Jean-Henry Céant. A forum to review a proposed national pact of governability, suggesting a series of possible reforms in areas such as governance, development, the rule of law and security, was held in Port-au-Prince on 22 January 2019. The document also included a proposal for increasing participation by opposition parties and civil society in government and purported to serve as a basis for resolving the current political crisis. However, it was criticized for lack of inclusiveness and transparency in its development and failed to garner buy-in from interlocutors across the political spectrum.
On 14 January, the National Assembly opened the first regular session of the legislative year against a backdrop of citizen protests against parliamentary performance during the 2018 legislative year, during which fewer than half of scheduled sessions were held and only seven laws were adopted. In his annual state of the nation address, President Moïse focused on the political, economic, social and security challenges that lay ahead. He committed to promoting fair, credible, democratic and transparent elections and urged lawmakers to adopt the electoral law and the 2018/19 budget, to allow for elections.
Popular demand for accountability in the alleged mismanagement of PetroCaribe funds continued unabated. From 20 to 22 December 2018, and on 31 December 2018 and 1 January 2019, small demonstrations were organized in front of the Superior Court of Audits and Administrative Disputes. In January 2019, citizens who had filed private criminal complaints against government officials and private companies awarded contracts under the PetroCaribe fund demonstrated against the lack of progress in the investigation. In an attempt to recover a portion of allegedly embezzled funds, the Government announced that it was preparing civil complaints against those suspected of mismanagement. As a result of the publication on 31 January of the report of the Court, which sheds light on the misuse of funds and the abuse of processes, government officials indicated that criminal charges may be filed against those suspected of mismanagement. A final report of the Court is expected in April, while criminal complaints investigated by judges may take several years to be completed, potentially stoking popular frustration.
Following the declaration by the Government of a state of economic emergency on 5 February, large-scale demonstrations were held in major cities across the country starting on 7 February, coinciding with the second anniversary of President Moïse’s tenure and the thirty-third year since the ouster of former President Jean Claude Duvalier; they resulted in the postponement of the formal launch of the national dialogue by President Moïse. Protesters across the country’s urban centres, expressing their discontent over the increased cost of living, called for the President’s resignation, vandalized public and private property, used firearms, erected roadblocks and disrupted economic activity in the country’s major urban centres. The disturbances affected trade and markets, and had a severe impact in the income-generation activities of the population, in particular women-headed households that depend on market-based jobs. By 19 February, MINUJUSTH was able to confirm that 34 people had been killed, including one minor and three women, 102 were injured, including 23 officers of the Haitian national police, and 82 people had been arrested in relation to the unrest. The national police maintained a visible and continuous presence throughout the protest, patrolling, controlling crowds and removing barricades to keep main access roads open. The perpetuation of the situation prompted the Core Group to call for an inclusive and comprehensive dialogue to be held, while effective economic reforms are carried out, in order for Haiti to emerge from the crisis. In addition, the Caribbean Community, the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Bishop Conference of the Catholic Church called for calm and urged all actors to find a solution to prevent a further deterioration of the situation. By 17 February, the intensity of the demonstration had receded, although major roads remained blocked and calls for new demonstrations continued to circulate.
On the eighth day of the demonstrations, President Moïse delivered a speech to the nation expressing understanding for the Haitian people’s grievances, assessing that the situation in the country had worsened since the first protests in July and condemning the violence and the resulting loss of life. The President announced that specific measures to address the economic crisis would be presented by the Prime Minister. On 16 February, the Prime Minister, deploring the negative impact the violent demonstrations were having on the economy and the provision of services to the population, identified corruption, economic inequality and bad governance as serious challenges facing the country. Stressing that dialogue was the only way out of the crisis, he promised to tackle corruption, act on the PetroCaribe case, reduce government expenditure, and promote a number of economic measures to provide relief to a population facing serious economic hardship.