Unrest in Haiti

Current Crisis

On June 13, Haiti’s new government was sworn in, with a mandate to restore order amid crippling violence throughout the country, as well as set the stage for national elections. The new cabinet replaces all leadership from the previous administration of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who stepped down after pressure from criminal gangs who now control 80% of the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

In remarks during a press conference shortly after the transition, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said the “positive transitional governance milestone should be accompanied by urgently needed security gains.” He added, “Secretary-General [António Guterres] reiterates his call for the swift deployment of the Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission to Haiti to support the Haitian National Police in addressing the dire security situation.”

Among the earliest acts of the new cabinet was the ousting of Frantz Elbé, the head of Haiti’s National Police. Former Haitian police chief Normil Rameau has resumed the helm of the beleaguered body that the UN has criticized for having just 4,000 officers in a nation of 11 million and on the brink of lawlessness.

Although some actions are being taken internally, Haitians are still awaiting the arrival of the promised international Multinational Security Support Mission that was endorsed by the UN Security Council to assist the crisis-ridden Caribbean nation.

While negotiations are ongoing, here’s insight on the history and deteriorating situation occurring in our own backyard.

UN Support for Restoration of Order

On October 2, 2023, the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of an international security force led by Kenya to help Haiti’s national police crack down on surging violence in the small Caribbean nation.

The mission was requested by the Haitian Government and civil society representatives after years of worsening conditions in the country, including thousands of homicides and kidnappings for ransom, with hundreds of thousands of individuals forced to flee their homes.  

The Unraveling Security and Humanitarian Situation

More than 2,500 people were killed or injured from January to March 2024, and more than 90,000 have fled the capital his year amid relentless gang violence. Gangs have burned police stations, opened fire on the main international airport and released more than 4,000 inmates after storming the country’s two biggest prisons. Sexual assault of women and girls has also become a common weapon employed by gang members.

In February, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement on the dire humanitarian situation, noting the “disastrous consequences for Haitians.”

“Every day that passes, more casualties are being recorded,” said Volker Türk. “Now more than ever, Haitian lives depend on the deployment — with no further delay — of the Multinational Security Support Mission in Haiti to support the National Police and bring security to the Haitian population.”

“Now more than ever, Haitian lives depend on the deployment — with no further delay — of the Multinational Security Support Mission in Haiti.”

Volker Türk

These events culminated in the ouster of Haiti’s Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, who resigned in April after being locked out of the country for months. Replacing Henry is the transitional council tasked with appointing new leadership and creating a road map to hold long-awaited general elections. The council’s mandate will expire in February 2026.

Meanwhile, UN agencies have been hard at work meeting the needs of the population.

  • Since the beginning of 2024, the World Food Programme has distributed more than 1.1 million hot meals to over 120,000 displaced people in the country.
  • The UN Population Fund supplied 900 dignity kits to women and girls in May 2024, as well as deployed eight mobile clinics providing sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence services and support.
  • The International Organization for Migration has offered psychosocial support, including by phone and in camps hosting displaced people.

Shoring Up the Multinational Security Support Mission

Against this backdrop, the UN Security Council continues to mediate the establishment of the Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission to provide security in Haiti and build conditions conducive to holding free and fair elections, primarily through assisting the Haiti National Police and secure critical infrastructure and transit hubs, such as the airport, ports, schools and hospitals.

The mission’s deployment, however, has been slow to materialize, owing largely to a protracted case before Kenya’s high court to determine the constitutionality of deploying Kenya’s national police force outside the country. A path forward was solidified in March, when Kenya and Haiti agreed to “fast-track” deployment of 1,000 police officers. In addition, five countries affirmed troop contribution commitments, including the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin and Chad. Benin will contribute up to 2,000 troops.

The MSS will operate through voluntary contributions from regional partners and UN member states, including 1,000 troops from Kenya, with additional pledges from the U.S. of up to $100 million in Department of Defense funds and $100 million in foreign assistance, subject to Congressional approval.

A History of UN Engagement in Haiti

A founding member of the UN, Haiti has a long history of engaging with the organization, and played a central role in both the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the establishment of UNESCO. 

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 a devastating 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.

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 worsening safety conditions. 

In the same year, UNHCR appealed to UN 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. Members called for more solidarity with the Haitian people and support for the humanitarian response in Haiti, including through contributions to the 2022 Haiti Humanitarian Response Plan. To date, the fund has received just one-third of its $370 million request. 

As the UN continues to support 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). 

Learn more about the UN in Haiti

Curious how Peacekeeping missions differ from Multinational Security Support missions?

Unlike peacekeeping missions, multinational security support (MSS) missions are funded strictly through voluntary contributions from UN Member States and regional partners. These operations are “self-contained,” and do not receive outside support from the UN for logistical or operational needs. Therefore, states who volunteer to participate in these missions agree to provide additional logistical or financial support outside of their regular UN budget contributions.