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Towards a Post-MINUSTAH Haiti: Making an Effective Transition
Towards a Post-MINUSTAH Haiti: Making an Effective Transition
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary

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

Keeping Haiti Safe: Police Reform

Kidnapping, urban gangs and unresolved killings form a trifecta of challenges to citizen safety that the four month-old Martelly administation must confront by speedily completing reforms to professionalise the Haitian National Police(HNP).

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I. Overview

Haiti’s porous land and sea borders remain susceptible to drug trafficking, smuggling and other illegal activities that weaken the rule of law and deprive the state of vital revenue. Post-quake insecurity underscores continued vulnerability to violent crime and political instability. Overcrowded urban slums, plagued by deep poverty, limited economic opportunities and the weakness of government institutions, particularly the Haitian National Police (HNP), breed armed groups and remain a source of broader instability. If the Martelly administration is to guarantee citizen safety successfully, it must remove tainted officers and expand the HNP’s institutional and operational capacity across the country by completing a reform that incorporates community policing and violence reduction programs.

The recent elections were only a first step toward determining the future of the country’s reconstruction and development. The real work now requires the political leadership – executive and legislative alike – to make meaningful efforts to address fundamental needs. Key to this is identification of common ground with the political opposition, grass roots communities and business elites, in order to reinforce a national consensus for transforming Haiti that prioritises jobs-based decentralisation, equal protection under the law and community security.

President Michel Martelly declared Haiti open for business in his 14 May inaugural address, but a functioning, professional HNP is a prerequisite to move the country forward. Police reform has made significant strides but is far from complete after nearly five years. HNP deficiencies, along with the desire of Martelly supporters to restore the army and nationalistic opposition to the continued presence of the UN peacekeepers (MINUSTAH), contribute to proposals for creating a second armed force. Serious questions surround that problematic notion. If it is pursued, there must be wide consultation with civil society, including grassroots and community-based organisations, and particularly with victims of the old army’s abuses. But first it is paramount to continue strengthening the HNP, by:

  • completing recruitment, including of women, training and full deployment;
  • building police integrity by expediting the vetting process for all active duty officers and staff, including creating an appeals structure, so as to rid the force of those who do not meet standards because of human rights violations or criminal activity and to certify those who do, and by taking immediate action to suspend and if appropriate prosecute officers found to be involved in any serious crimes;
  • revising the reform plan to focus on clearly defined areas for improving the quality of security the HNP provides and building community confidence, such as the training and strengthening of specialised units, crime investigation, border patrol and community policing, while UN police (UNPOL) more actively mentor those efforts;
  • adopting an organic law for the state secretariat for public security that clarifies its role and those of the other executive branch bodies with responsibilities for the HNP; and
  • linking police reform with the reconstruction efforts currently coordinated by the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), by deploying better trained police to the provinces as economic decentralisation proceeds.

Port-au-Prince/Brussels, 8 September 2011