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UN: New ‘dynamic consensus’ in place for Haiti, elections coming this year


Overview:

A National Consensus Agreement for Haiti, timeline to install an elected government by February 2024 and steps for fiscal reforms are among the outcomes of closed-room meetings the United Nations has supported since October 2022, BINUH’s leader reported.

A government consensus agreement is in place for the country’s future, the United Nations leader in Haiti said Jan. 24. This, against a backdrop of rising kidnappings, deaths and displacements in parts of Haiti, no elected government officials and a slew of sanctions against high-level Haitian politicians. 

During an update to the Security Council Tuesday, Helen La Lime, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Haiti, detailed several closed-room diplomatic meetings that took place in late 2022, culminating in the new National Consensus Agreement announced Dec. 21. The agreement, signed by political figures, religious authorities, trade unions and private industry, according to La Lime, includes a calendar for installing an elected government for Haiti by February 2024. It also lists steps for fiscal reforms required to increase state taxes and restore public services. 

“The agreement, whose adherents are growing every day is, indeed, the most promising sign to emerge from dialogue efforts until now,” said La Lime, who leads the mandate for the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH). 

The new agreement and elections calendar highlight the extent to which the UN has been working with Prime Minister Ariel Henry and others in Haiti to pull the country from its political vacuum. The new developments also signal a willingness by the international community to move past the Montana Accord. BINUH’s written report said talks between Henry and the Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis (known as the Montana Group) ultimately “didn’t make tangible headway.”  

In her verbal report, streamed virtually, La Lime described BINUH’s part in encouraging political blocs and key stakeholders to achieve a ‘Haitian-led agreement.’

“We are heartened by positive reactions from major political leaders and international partners alike,” La Lime said, referring to the consensus.

The Montana Group, a coalition that had been central to discussions, overall did not agree with the consensus. Some of its accord’s signatories support the new agreement, according to the BINUH report. However, its main leaders have called it an “electioneering maneuver.”

Lack of elected officials raises consensus concerns

The BINUH report, dated Jan. 17, detailed the informal meetings and negotiations held throughout the country in October and November 2022 to build support for the National Consensus Agreement, which La Lime said was, “by no means a done deal.” The High Transitional Council has been established. It will work with government to make nominations to the Court of Cassation, the country’s highest court, form a new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), and implement a constitutional review process to restore democratically elected institutions within 18 months.

A series of roundtables will take place to establish an inclusive electoral roadmap and a national security plan. This is to provide opportunities for those interested, who have yet to commit.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Ronaldo Costa Filho of Brazil expressed his concern that Haiti’s lack of elected government officials as of January 9 may trigger an even-deeper crisis if left unaddressed. 

La Lime described the situation differently. 

“This institutional vacuum presents an opportunity for Haiti to take stock, look at the root causes of the dysfunction and set the country on a course to address them,” she said.

International military force request still on table

Violence remains the top concern for people everywhere, as its ongoing proliferation has triggered a humanitarian crisis.

“Gang related violence has reached levels not seen in decades,” said La Lime. “[It touches] near all segments of society, including a former presidential candidate and the director of the National Police Academy.”

Murders and kidnappings increased for a fourth consecutive year. In 2022, officials recorded 1,359 kidnappings — more than double the recorded number in 2021 and averaging three to four per day. A total of 2,183 homicides were reported in 2022, up by a third since the previous year. 

La Lime gave support to the international sanctions approved by the U.N. and acted on by the Canadian and American governments. 

The Haitian National Police (PNH) remains a priority for the Haitian government, she said, citing an almost 50% increase in the budget to $162 million in 2023. The challenge is maintaining and consolidating gains after operations, she said. 

As for the international military force Henry requested last September, the report acknowledged there was much disagreement within Haiti’s government, religious and civil society leadership over it.

“The reality is that without this international deployment, operating in an integrated way with the [PNH], the very positive effects of the political process and the sanctions so far, will remain fragile and vulnerable to being reversed,” La Lime said. 

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