The mission was requested by the Haitian Government and civil society representatives after months of worsening conditions in the Caribbean nation, including thousands of homicides and kidnappings for ransom, with 200,000 individuals forced to flee their homes this year alone.
According to a November report issued by the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, gang violence is of particular concern, and now extends beyond the capital city of Port-au-Prince into once-peaceful rural communities in central Haiti that lack police presence and basic government services. “A climate of fear reigns… where murders, sexual violence, theft, destruction of property, and other abuses are committed against the population on an almost daily basis,” the UN report states. Gangs have also stolen crops and livestock, blocked irrigation systems, and attacked agricultural lands, forcing poor farmers to pay for access. In response, small militias have formed to track down suspected gang members as part of a civilian uprising.
The Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission is designed to re-establish security in Haiti and build security conditions conducive to holding free and fair elections. It will do this by assisting the Haiti National Police to counter gangs and securing critical infrastructure and transit hubs, including the airport, ports, schools, and hospitals. However, the deployment has been stalled after an opposition brief filed with Kenya’s high court challenged the constitutionality of deploying Kenya’s national police force outside the country. The MSS is intended to 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. Kenya’s High Court Judge Chacha Mwita said he would issue a final ruling on January 26 to determine next steps for the MSS.
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).