Towards a Post-MINUSTAH Haiti: Making an Effective Transition
Towards a Post-MINUSTAH Haiti: Making an Effective Transition
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Frank Giustra on the Devastating Situation in Haiti
Frank Giustra on the Devastating Situation in Haiti
Report / Latin America & Caribbean 3 minutes

Towards a Post-MINUSTAH Haiti: Making an Effective Transition

The UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MIN­U­­­STAH) needs a gradual reconfiguration of its operations prior to a withdrawal, to avoid a security vacuum and give Haiti the chance for sustainable development.

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Executive Summary

Haiti is now marking the eighth year of the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Debate about its eventual withdrawal is intensifying under the one year-old administration of President Michel Martelly. Opposition to its presence stems from the country’s nationalistic pride, anger at the cholera epidemic linked to UN peacekeepers and publicity surrounding unacceptable abuses by a small number of peacekeepers. Yet even its critics admit the country’s still limited police force cannot guarantee the security needed to protect citizens, enforce the law and underpin political stability. The real debate is not whether MINUS­TAH should leave but when, and what to change in Haiti and in the mission’s mandate, structure and behaviour to ensure that a phased withdrawal is linked to stronger institutions and progress toward lasting stability and development.

On 8 March 2012, the UN Security Council welcomed progress in Haiti and confirmed a start toward MINUS­TAH’s military drawdown, returning to the levels before the devastating quake that rocked the island in January 2010. Before the October renewal of the peacekeeping mandate, with preliminary discussions already planned for August, consensus needs to be forged between the UN, Latin American nations which provide the bulk of the troops, other international contributors, donors and the Haitian nation. That consensus has to be built on an objective analysis of MINUSTAH’s past performance and priorities for restructuring, Haiti’s continuing political instability, weak institutions and extreme poverty.

Haiti remains ensnared in a deep political, social and economic crisis. Despite the past presence of 12,000 UN military and police and the resumption of significant post-earthquake aid, progress in reconstruction, development and rule of law is disappointing. Haiti needs at least double its current numbers of police, with adequate training and vetting, deployed and capable of protecting its citizens and borders from home-grown and transnational criminal threats. A second five-year national police development plan needs to be adopted and implemented to chart that growth and the police need to be part of a comprehensive and professional justice system securely founded on the rule of law. The Martelly government should put on hold the reconstitution of the army until these goals are met.

Both the Haitian government and the UN Security Council are looking for a way out for MINUSTAH, but it would be foolhardy to rush that process given the serious gaps in consolidating security and justice. Despite the voices advocating for a more rapid exodus, it is unlikely that full departure can or should be accomplished before a third peaceful handover of democratic power takes place at the end of the Martelly presidency, five years from now, which also should correspond to the completion of the second five-year police development plan.

It is neither in Haiti’s nor in the donors’ interest to see a hasty withdrawal of the mission, but MINUSTAH needs rethinking and revamping. Based on other UN-assisted state transitions, like Sierra Leone and Liberia which faced or face comparable challenges, the UN presence in Haiti should see a reconfigured MINUSTAH, with reduced but still capable troop strength and a robust police presence. That transformation would move from a military dominated Chapter VII force to a Security Council sponsored political mission by the end of 2016, which would still be able to coordinate the full range of UN agencies under the special representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in support of an integrated peacebuilding agenda set with the Haitian government.

MINUSTAH has successfully deterred the potential threat of organised violent actors overthrowing the government by force, which was its fundamental raison d’être. It has improved security in much of the country mostly by reducing armed violence in Cité Soleil and other urban slums. The mission has also provided invaluable contributions to countrywide logistics operations, from assisting with the distribution and retrieval of material in the 2006, 2009 and 2010 elections to supporting disaster relief in the aftermath of the 2008 storms and the 2010 earthquake.

MINUSTAH needs to think beyond stabilisation and focus on consolidating its achievements by providing strategic support to strengthen rule of law institutions so reconstruction, private investment and development can flourish. It must also devise a more effective way to work with fragile state institutions whose continuing partisan composition has denied Haiti a functioning government for most of the past year. An assessment of MINUSTAH’s contribution to stability since 2004 and the current status of reconstruction and development in the country are vital to understand the opportunities for sustained reduction of conflict and violence.

This report assesses MINUSTAH’s impact and explores how its contribution might be improved. It also analyses the options available for an ordered eventual withdrawal of the mission enabling Haitian authorities and the international community to better cope with a post-MI­NUS­TAH scenario. It provides recommendations for a better targeted peacekeeping agenda for security, rule of law and governance, as well as a planned transition that eliminates the need for a UN peacekeeping mission by the end of the Martelly presidency in 2016.

Port-au-Prince/Bogotá/Brussels, 2 August 2012

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