13 Years Later: UN Bids Farewell To Haiti

After thirteen years, the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti has come to an end, with a symbolic blue flag descent from the territory. Haiti represented the world’s poorest country in 2004, with no evidence of a stable political regime. The UN established the project in an attempt to restore and maintain the order of law within Haiti, alongside public order and safety. The mission was established by UN Security Council Resolution 1542 given the correlation between political strife in Haiti and its consequences to international peace and global security.

The UN represents the world’s biggest peacekeeping organization, with a responsibility to equip nation states with appropriate apparatus to combat internal conflict. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (UNSTAMIH) also recruited and trained a new police force to represent the civilians, which was non-existent before their arrival.

International cooperation was used alongside the mandate, with the Brazilian army conducting the military component of the mission. American and Canadian military bodies were responsible for provisions of humanitarian aid and providing the security necessary when distributing aid. Separately, India provided just over 500 police officers for the project in 2008. Their principal delegation was to establish and operate police checkpoints and implement anti-crime operations.

The issue that UNSTAMIH committed to resolve was that of political instability, which referred to the overall lack of stable governmental bodies in place to oversee state interactions. Following the removal of President Aristide, the mission’s next step was to remove violence and corruption from Haitian politics.

Admittedly, establishing a sovereign power in a foreign state with differing principles and ideals to that of the predominantly Western UN is a difficult task. Further, resolving the conflict that was already ingrained in the state’s history is difficult to undo in a predestined period.

Several issues have arisen in the face of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (UNSTAMIH). Initially, the mission was intended to terminate by October 15, 2010. Given the unresolved issue of instability, the mission was extended a further two years, and then renewed periodically.

Majority of the criticism towards the mandate revolves around attacks against innocent civilians, however in January 2006, two Jordanian peacekeepers were killed. Evidently, despite the premise of a peacekeeping mission, there has been an abundance of violent measures taken to achieve this. Seven hundred troops entered the impoverished commune of Cité Soleil in early 2007 ensuing major armed conflict. For a namely ‘peacekeeping mission,’ such violence blurs the boundaries between conflict resolution and instigation.

However, the largest criticism of the mission came from the emergence of the viral disease, Cholera. The faulty construction of MINUSTAH sanitation systems in the town of Méyè was linked with the conception of the disease. The systems created irrigation into the Artibonite River from which a vast proportion of the population drank water. Unfortunately, the outbreak led to 8,448 deaths, nearly half of which occurred within the first six months.

A resolution was adopted in April 2017, which ordered the departure of peacekeepers based on a U.S.-led review into the effectiveness and funding into all UN Peacekeeping missions. This indicates a potential misallocation of funds within the project. Nonetheless, a peaceful presidential election was carried out in November 2016, which demonstrated effectiveness in political stabilisation.

While critics have been relentless in their disapproval of UNAMISTAH and UN Peacekeeping missions in general, it is important to realise that in their absence, there is no other international body that could have accomplished their work today. However, there are many elements of peacekeeping that the UN needs to re-conceptualize to achieve their objectives without harming the residing populations.

Increased vocational training for peacekeepers:

The biggest criticism of UNAMISTAH arose from the inception of cholera through faulty sanitation systems. For the death toll that derived from this, it is understandably a grave error on the part of the peacekeepers. Intensive planning and training for proposed projects could have feasibly prevented this fatal error.

Alternatives to violence in conflict resolution:

The extensive use of military bodies to enforce security represents a paradox. Imposing peace on the basis of intimidation is effective in a short-term period. Rather, a more tranquil and long-term solution is education. Educating the population on the importance of peace and security creates a common desire for reconciliation from both parties; the peacekeepers and their constituents respectively. This, in turn, would create greater cooperation and inevitably greater success in their operations.

Tougher regulations for peacekeepers:

In 2012, two Pakistani peacekeepers were arrested for raping a fourteen-year-old child during the mission. Meanwhile, a report in 2015 uncovered that other peacekeepers had initiated ‘transactional sex,’ whereby over two hundred women would engage in sex in exchange for food and medicine. Unfortunately, this does not contribute to a positive legacy of UNAMISTAH and undermines any affirmative sentiment towards the mission overall. However, two months prior to their departure from Haiti, the UN created a fund to help the survivors of rape and sexual abuse by the peacekeepers that grew to $1.5 million. The fund included contributions from ten different nations.

Undoubtedly, the UN acknowledged its errors and attempted to amend them. However, stricter regulations for peacekeepers with history checks and behavioural analyses could deter future peacekeepers from repeating their counterparts’ errors.