As we know, Haiti is experiencing one of its worst social, political and economic meltdowns in years. The United Nations (U.N.), driven most by initial pressure from the United Kingdom with the United States and others supporting, is exiting after 15 years. The U.N. began withdrawing military soldiers in 2017 with the closure of its U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (known by its French acronym MINUSTAH).
MINUSTAH has helped the Police Nationale d’Haiti to restore control of many neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince once controlled by gangs. A smaller Mission, MINUJUSTH, followed on 16 October 2017, composed of police and civilian staff. MINUJUSTH will assist the Government of Haiti to develop the Haitian National Police (HNP); to strengthen Haiti’s rule of law institutions, including the justice and prisons; and to promote and protect human rights. The overall efforts of the U.N. family in Haiti, including MINUJUSTH and the UN Country Team, will be guided by a longer term, common vision under the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, as peacekeeping gradually gives way to development priorities.
For decades, the UN has stood with the Haitian people, supporting them in their quest for democracy, stability, security and the strengthening of their institutions and responding to many humanitarian disasters (helping to rebuild the nation after the tragic earthquake of 2010 and after Hurricane Matthew in 2016). The security situation in Haiti has vastly improved since the Mission’s establishment in 2004: kidnappings are down by over 95% and rates of homicides are among the lowest since 2013.
The U.N.’s decision came as the political gridlock between Moïse and his opponents went into a fourth week with businesses and schools still shuttered, and Haitians unable to leave home due to the protests and burning tires and barricades cutting off cities. While urging all sides to talk, the U.N. has also found itself thrust in a political melee. Thousands of protesters recently marched to the U.N. headquarters in Port-au-Prince to demand that it stop supporting Moïse, who faced a fraud-plagued presidential vote only to be accused of corruption and mismanagement during his 32 months in the presidency.
But for all the success the U.N. points to, critics highlight its failures. They look no further than present day Haiti, where after the U.N.’s last foreign police unit, 130 officers from Senegal, left on Sept. 30, local police officers have had their stations and cars set on fire, and guns taken by protesters. But the U.N., which has failed to get to the root of the dysfunction due to sovereignty concerns, isn’t totally to blame.
Haiti had five different governments during the U.N.’s 15-year presence, and all failed to transform Haitian society. While Haiti was dysfunctional 15 years ago, many problems have worsened.
Today, nothing works — not the courts, not schools, not government ministries.