Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (S/2016/753)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016
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Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (S/2016/753)

Topic: Pursuant to Resolution 2243 (2015), this report covers major developments in Haiti and the implementation of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) mandate during the reporting period between 8 March and 31 August 2016, and an update on the consolidation plan of the Mission is provided in Annex I to the present report.

Women, Peace and Security Introduction

Haiti remained in a state of political uncertainty during the reporting period, complicating and compounding the “relatively stable but fragile” security and humanitarian situation. Meanwhile, Haitian women’s civil society and government ministries remained active during the reporting period, holding events calling for increased political participation and improved women’s protection. Yet, women remain underrepresented in the Haitian National Police (HNP), Haitian politics, and MINUSTAH personnel, and more rapes are being reported. There are eighteen WPS references in this report, with ten to participation and eight to protection, including two Annexes of sex disaggregated data, representing an overall increase since the last report (from twelve to nineteen). It is also worth noting that the Special Representative of the Secretary General, Sandra Honoré, is a woman and that a section in this report containing one paragraph is titled “Gender Equality.”

Protection of civilians, including refugees and IDPs

Between June 2015 and 11 August 2016, 133,251 individuals returning to Haiti from the Dominican Republic were registered by the International Organization for Migration, 34.7 percent of them were women and, of the 27,263 official deportations since August 2015, 6.1 percent of them were women. The Secretary-General reported that it is “critical” that both governments develop a migration policy that regulates the movement of persons across their borders. It is also critical that the policy be developed with a gender lens and specific provisions for women's protection, human rights and participation concerns; the Secretary-General could have improved this reference by including that clause or language from WPS Resolutions, particularly Resolution 2122 (2013). No other sex disaggregated data is provided in context of the precarious humanitarian situation, characterized by over a third of the population being food insecure, 61,302 people remaining internally displaced since the 2010 earthquake and cholera cases and deaths increasing since the last reporting period. Alarmingly, there are no indications of measures protecting civilians, particularly women, ahead of hurricane season, which has disrupted the scheduled 9 October presidential elections once more, and will compound the complicated humanitarian situation in Haiti.

Support to police

MINUSTAH supported training on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) for 200 police personnel, supported training 69 medical personnel on using new health reporting forms, and supported primary health care screenings for women. The latter was conducted at the request of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Women’s Rights on the International Day of Action for Women’s Health and included basic screenings and treatment of acute conditions for 104 female inmates (34 percent of 304 total) at the women’s prison in Pétionville, Port-au-Prince, and a report of chronic cases was provided to authorities for follow-up.

To strengthen these references, the report should have included information about women’s involvement in providing training on SGBV and conducting health screenings, and whether or not the new health forms adequately addressed women’s health concerns, or if they were designed in consultation with women medical health professionals. Member States in post-conflict situations should consult with women’s civil society to ensure gender considerations and women’s rights are taken into account, specifying in detail women’s and girls’ needs and priorities and designing concrete strategies to address them--including access to health services, particularly sexual and reproductive health, reproductive rights, mental health, and gender-responsive law enforcement, as per WPS Resolution 1888 (2009) and Resolution 2242 (2015).

Security sector reform (SSR)

This mandate component contains no WPS related activities. WPS references include sex-disaggregated data for Haitian National Police (HNP) personnel on several accounts, including Annex II and Annex III which contain sex-disaggregated data and country for MINUSTAH police, which is 28 percent women, and military staff and contingents, which are a combined 4 percent women. During the reporting period, the largest HNP class graduated with 13 percent women, while the twenty-seventh class that is 9 percent women began training, therefore the overall percentage of women in the HNP will remain at 9 percent, below the 11 percent target. Considering that the number of women police officers has been on a steady decline for at least two years and the projected police-to-population ratio remains lower than the international standard (1.3 per 1,000 inhabitants compared to 2.2), the statistical references to women HNP could have been improved by including analysis of the situation for women police officers, such as a discussion of obstacles to participation, and specific plans or steps to be taken, which should be led by women, to increase women’s participation.

Humanitarian support

MINUSTAH and other “relevant partners” supported the Ministry of Health in developing the HIV/AIDS national strategic plan, which includes elimination of mother-child transmission, prevention and testing for “vulnerable sectors” of the population and patient treatment. Aside from the mention of mothers, this initiative is entirely gender blind, despite the fact that there is a disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDS on women and girls as a persistent obstacle to gender equality. The report includes how a humanitarian response plan of $193.8 million was launched to meet the needs 1.3 million people, and focuses only on cholera responses but it should have, at minimum, divulged the dollar allocations for projects targeting women, designed by women, or otherwise enhancing women’s participation or protection, particularly in terms of preparation and responses to natural disasters, given that Haiti has yet to fully recover from the 2010 earthquake and that natural disasters will inevitably exacerbate humanitarian needs. Gender programming is extremely important in humanitarian responses and relevant actors should ensure women and women’s groups participate meaningfully in the programming and provision processes, and that aid for women be protected and funding be tracked, as urged in Resolutions 1889 (2009), 2122 (2013), and 2242 (2015)

Human rights, women and peace and security, and children and armed conflict

The Haitian Government, women’s civil society and MINUSTAH conducted several joint activities related to human rights, community stabilization and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA). In terms of human rights, MINUSTAH supported a national consultation workshop to consolidate the Haitian Government report for the Human Rights Council in an “inclusive and participatory manner,” with 57 civil society representatives, including 25 women, and eleven ministerial entities, and MINUSTAH also provided technical assistance to civil society organizations that protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) people and victims of discrimination.  MINUSTAH continued to conduct stabilization initiatives in urban communities, benefiting an estimated 37,501 people including 16,058 women (42 per cent) by addressing risk factors such as high youth unemployment and access to justice, and supported three sensitization and mobilization campaigns for 229,724 beneficiaries, focusing on community policing, cholera reduction, conflict resolution and preventing SGBV. Furthermore, MINUSTAH worked towards ensuring compliance with the zero tolerance policy on SEA by delivering training on standards of conduct, risk assessment exercises aimed at preventing SGBV and expanding its network to strengthen community-based reporting mechanisms committed by Mission personnel.

At minimum, references to MINUSTAH activities should have included a gender lens to detail design and implementation processes, particularly for the LGBTI civil society organizations, in order to compile a complete picture of these activities and the extent of their inclusiveness. When women participate in women’s protection programs, it’s very likely that they will be empowered to enhance their own agency and self-protection. Therefore, deploying women personnel and building capacity of civil society can improve the reception and success of UN activities. Moreover, the presence of women personnel can encourage women in local communities to report acts of sexual violence, and women and children affected by all armed conflict may feel more secure working with women in UN missions, as recognized in Resolutions 1960 (2010) and 1888 (2009). The report missed an opportunity to discuss any of the findings of the Independent Expert at Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), who explained that the rights of Haitian women had to be given priority because they were particularly vulnerable in the country, as part of the effort to reduce the extreme gender inequality in Haiti.

Rule of law (ROL) / Judicial matters

References to the WPS agenda for this mandate component are only statistical, and are both reported as comparisons to the previous reporting period. As of August 2016, 358 of the 10,830 prisoners were women, while 27 were female juveniles, and, between the period of 1 March to 10 August, reported of cases of rape collected by the national police and MINUSTAH totalled 229, an increase compared to the last two reporting periods.  Either more rapes are happening or more are being reported. During the last reporting period the Ministry for the Status of Women and Women’s Rights suggested that there is underreporting in areas where gangs are the main perpetrators, and the reference to rape in this report could have been improved by reflecting on the reasons for increase in numbers of reported rapes, especially because the police remain reportedly ineffective in gang areas. Notably, this is the first time that sex and age disaggregated data have been provided for Haitian prisoners and was long overdue--the Haitian prison system is a major human rights concern and is very ineffective. However, an improvement would be to include details about how this situation is affecting women and girls, and it should be recognized that women and girls experience a differential impact of human rights violations and abuses, as per WPS Resolution 2122 (2013). Omitted from this report is a reference to the school program for minors in conflict with the law that was launched by MINUSTAH during the last reporting period at the women’s prison at Pétionville and the Centre de rééducation des mineurs en conflit avec la loi, as including any details on this program would have helped provide context on the situation for women in prison and a basis for analysis.

Political Process

Women continued to organize and advocate for increased representation in Parliament and participation in politics. The National Federation of Women Mayors was established by elected female mayors, with support from two government ministries and MINUSTAH, and a women’s political platform named Tribin Politik Fanm held a symbolic women’s parliament to call for full implementation of the constitutional provision requiring 30 percent representation of women in public life. This provision was achieved solely at the municipal council level (although only 16 out of 139 three-member councils elected women as Council President), otherwise only 10 of the 118 candidates contending for senatorial seats were women and just 3 women are members of the 16-person Prime Minister’s cabinet, established after a vote of confidence ended protracted negotiations.

A discussion about why women are underrepresented in Haitian political process could have been included in among these references, and particular attention should have been paid to factors contributing to the contrast between municipal, federal and state levels of government reaching the 30 percent quota for women. These references could have been further improved by systematically including sex-disaggregated data, especially given the chronic underrepresentation of women in politics. Doing so would have helped build a more comprehensive frame of women’s participation in Haitian political processes in terms of MINUSTAH’s mandate, which calls on the Government of Haiti and relevant stakeholders to promote women’s political participation in Haiti.

Support to State Institutions

The Ministry of the Interior and Local Government continued to receive support from MINUSTAH, which was focused on training newly elected municipal councils and targeted elected women. This reference could be improved by defining what in particular was done to target elected women, especially because the elected municipal councils are the only bodies to reach the 30 percent quota for women’s representation: successful initiatives in this context should be highlighted and implemented to scale. However, without reporting concrete evidence or data to reinforce this claim, this reference is a mere a rhetorical shell that cannot be adequately analyzed. Similarly, an opportunity was missed to report on the status of trainings for 114 “key” municipal personnel in gender mainstreaming that MINUSTAH reportedly had plans to expand, as was referenced in the previous report. To better assess the situation for women in Haiti, it would have been helpful if the report addressed whether MINUSTAH’s gender sensitivity initiatives were effective. Finally, an opportunity was missed to discuss any socio economic development with a gender lens, despite the fact that 40 percent of the population have access to only 9 percent of national resources and 60 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line. The mandate states that all actors should complement development operations undertaken by the Government of Haiti with the support of MINUSTAH, with longer term impact activities aimed at effectively improving the living conditions of women and children in particular. Economic empowerment of women greatly contributes to the stabilization of societies, and Member States should consult with women’s civil society to specify women and girls’ needs and priorities and design concrete strategies to address those needs, including support for better socio-economic activities.

Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation

The extreme gender inequality in Haiti should be addressed on several accounts, in terms of participation, protection and human rights concerns and, to this end, women and women’s civil society organizations should be leading the ongoing political and SSR processes in Haiti. The Government of Haiti, with increased support from international, regional and UN entities, should drastically increase recruitment of women personnel in the HNP, particularly in leadership positions which, at the time of reporting, remain 25 percent vacant, and this should be integrated into the The Haitian National Police strategic plan for 2017-2021. Women’s civil society, already active in Haiti, should be empowered to take the lead on formulating strategies for increasing women’s participation in public life and politics, and should advise all actors about successes and failures of strategies to this end. Similarly, MINUSTAH should intensify public information activities regarding protection of women’s rights, particularly disabled women’s rights, in the wake of the brutal murder of three self-sufficient deaf women accused being “lougawou,” or evil spirits, which happened during the reporting period. As a response, a 2000-person protest occurred and women’s civil society mobilized to advocate for an inclusive approach in the National Policy for Equality of Men and Women, and the United Nations should support these efforts and call on the Government of Haiti should ratify this policy and integrate it into the human rights education program. Finally, resources should be directed to eliminating the inhumane, crowded and dangerous conditions in Haitian prisons, wherein 87 to 90 percent of the population being held in pretrial detention are women and minors. The Haitian Government should restructure their security sector by shifting those being held out of prison and into reintegration programs or community stabilization measures, taking lessons from disarmament, demobilization, reintegration initiatives that have succeeded and failed in Haiti in the past. Doing so could mitigate future violence and grievances with the state, in turn contributing significantly to long-term peace and stability in Haiti.