UN-Haiti Relationship ‘Must Evolve’: Haiti’s Dependency on the UN

Haiti stands ‘at the crossroad’ for peacekeeping and development. The peacekeeping goals established by the UN are almost fulfilled, although the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet has criticized the withdrawal stating that ceasing aid is too much of a risk for Haiti’s future, and later saying we either ‘… continue building on it, or risk losing it.’ Recent protests sent the country into paralysis and as long as its government remains in a premature state, the UN is crucial for the nation’s stability. Bachelet argues that although Haiti’s dependency on aid policy brings fears for its future, continued support is necessary for strengthening its institutions as political stability is bringing great leaps for human rights.

Since Haiti’s coup d’état in 2004, UN peacekeeping forces have held a permanent presence within the country. Haiti, regarded by Helen La Lime, is ‘laden with challenges, but also hope.’ Progress has been slow, though the increased capacity of Haiti’s National Police has been vital towards promoting human rights. The UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) is transitioning from a peacekeeping role towards a supporting role, encouraging effective government and implementing programmes to lift citizens out of poverty. Long-lasting stability is at risk as social grievances, corruption and weak institutions leave the nation vulnerable for disaster. Haiti is the poorest country in the America’s, with over half the country lives below the poverty line. Its flourishing criminal landscape, widespread gang violence and extensive protests place the country at risk. Failed promises by its president, mismanagement of resources and the continued intervention of foreign powers have intensified public anger against the state. Bachelet describing the recent protests as ‘the longest and most violent’ in years, which had ‘almost entirely paralyzed the country.’ She added that “we want to remain engaged and to support Haiti’s commitment to achieving democratic and economic development so that the rights of all people in Haiti are upheld.”

UN-Haiti’s relationship ‘must evolve’ according to UN Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean Pierre Lacroix, who stated that Haiti needs to become independent and establish strong trust in the government’s ability to manage security risks without international support. Currently, the UN runs programmes training law enforcement and strengthening government institutions. Lacroix later said there has been ‘progress in some areas and volatility or stagnation in others.’ Branches of civil society continue to be targeted by acts of intimidation, and government influence outside the capital remains fragile. The planned changes within the UN-Haiti partnership have never been done before and will take an innovative approach. Combining both bottom-up and top-down approaches in aid policy, Lacroix concluded that the operation “remain[s] strong and rooted in our ongoing commitment towards achieving democratic progress.” The transition in Haiti’s aid policy will impact the country greatly however it is up for debate whether it is the right time to implement these changes.

Jonno McPike