Situation on the Ground
A founding member of the United Nations, Haiti has a long history of engaging with the UN, and played a central role in both the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the establishment of UNESCO.
Today, however, decades of unrest and natural disasters have made Haiti one of the most volatile and least resourced nations in the Western Hemisphere. UN human rights chief Volker Türk has called Haiti “on the verge of an abyss,” citing continuing gang warfare and a vacuum of law and order, and warning that recovery requires “urgent and sustained action.”
Türk said, “People are being killed by firearms, they are dying because they do not have access to safe drinking water, food, healthcare, women are being gang raped with impunity. The levels of insecurity and the dire humanitarian situation have been devastating for the people of Haiti.”
According to the UN, nearly half the population faces acute hunger. Poor sanitation and lack of safe water supplies have led to continued cholera. And gang violence is expanding across the capital and in other regions of the country.
In 2022, Security Council Resolution 2653 established a sanctions regime targeting individuals and entities engaging in or supporting criminal activity and violence – together with a targeted arms embargo. This helped reinforce a message being carried by the hundreds of thousands of people who have taken to the streets in Port-au-Prince to protest against the government and worsening conditions. These demonstrations led to the deaths of dozens of people. Political violence against prominent leaders and journalists is also widely reported.
Still Reeling from Cholera
In 2010, during earthquake recovery efforts, a cholera outbreak hit the island nation. A 2011 independent investigation by the UN linked the outbreak to contaminated water released by UN peacekeepers, though underscored that it was not a result of “deliberate action by any group or individual.” Former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon later apologized for the accident and established a $400 million trust fund to help those directly affected. To date, more than 10,000 Haitians have died from cholera.
Peacekeeping in Haiti
In 2004, after the forced exile of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and nationwide armed conflict, the UN authorized a Multinational Interim Force that paved the way for the establishment of the the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The peacekeeping force grew in size and scope over several years, peaking in 2010 following the earthquake, which claimed the lives of nearly a quarter million Haitians and 100 peacekeepers. MINUSTAH ended in 2017 at the close of its original mandate to restore a secure and stable environment, promote transparent political processes and rule-of-law, and protect human rights. Smaller peacekeeping cohorts continue to play a role in logistical support, and talks are ongoing about the potential to enhance the UN peacekeeping presence in the country.
Current Political Climate
In the light of these co-occurring crises, the UN refugee agency has called on member states to suspend the forced return of Haitians to their country. The Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, which meets under the umbrella of the UN’s Economic and Social Council echoed the call, issuing a statement to urgently support the country’s efforts to provide lifesaving aid to those in need. “We are alarmed that the continuing blockade by armed gangs of roads, ports, and the main oil terminal, will lead to many preventable deaths because of lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation, basic health care and food,” said the group of 21 concerned nations. Members called for more solidarity with the Haitian people and support for the humanitarian response in Haiti, including by contributing to the 2022 Haiti Humanitarian Response Plan, which has only received a third of its $370 million request.
As the UN continues to shape and deliver aid to the Haitian people, the organization has shored up a sizable presence in the country, with 19 agencies, funds, and programs on the ground in the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH).