Since the deployment of the joint United Nations - OAS International Civilian Mission in Haiti (United Nations Mission in Haiti - UNMIH) in February 1993, the international community has taken many steps to resolve the current conflict in Haiti and to prevent it from re-erupting. Efforts have centered on disarming and policing (security), building institutions (political process) and developing human rights (social agenda). Besides multilateral efforts, countries such as Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Spain and the USA have made major bilateral efforts at cooperation. Although it might not yet be possible to declare victory in Haiti, it can be argued that efforts by the international community have born fruits and the situation on the island has improved significantly since the outbreak of hostilities.
2. Steps that have been taken by the international community to prevent/resolve the conflict in Haiti
The current United Nations (UN) Mission in Haiti was deployed after the Security Council adopted resolution 1542 in April 2004, establishing MINUSTAH for an initial six-month period. MINUSTAH is one in a series of UN Missions in Haiti that have been deployed over the last 25 years. It currently comprises a total of 9,070 uniformed personnel that include 7,039 troops and 2,031 police, supported by 491 international civilian personnel, 1,224 local civilian staff and 191 United Nations volunteers. By launching MINUSTAH, the Security Council determined that the situation in Haiti constituted a threat to international peace and security and decided therefore to act under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. To carry out its mandate, the Security Council requested that MINUSTAH work in collaboration with the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). This engagement has been of fundamental importance in that neighboring countries participated decisively on a bilateral level. Perito notes that “leadership from Brazil and Chile has been critical to the success of the UN mission. Venezuela’s provision of discounted petroleum is vital to Haiti’s economy. Regional concern and assistance from the OAS and CARICOM will also be invaluable in improving living standards for the Haitian people” (Perito: 2007). It is important to observe that the peacekeeping operation in Haiti is the only one currently going on in the southern hemisphere. Regarding the reason why the operation was set up, it can be argued that security concerns in Haiti lie at the heart of the decision made by the regional community not to abandon Haiti to its fate.
MINUSTAH was established with a robust mandate consisting of three main areas: I - security (to attain a secure and stable environment); II - politics (to restore order and the flow of the political process); and III - human rights (to deter widespread violations). The mandate clearly states that MINUSTAH focuses on reestablishing order and regaining control of the security agenda, reestablishing the political process, and reining in human rights violations.
To establish a secure and stable environment, a series of objectives were set up, the main ones being:
Support the Transitional Government and ensure a secure and stable environment where the constitutional and political process in Haiti can take place;
Assist the Transitional Government in monitoring, restructuring, and reforming the Haitian National Police force according to democratic policing standards by vetting and certifying its personnel, advising its reorganization and training, including gender training, and monitoring/mentoring members of the Haitian National Police;
Assist the Transitional Government, particularly the Haitian National Police, with comprehensive and sustainable Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programmes for all armed groups, including women and children associated with such groups, as well as aiding in weapons control and public security measures;
Assist with the restoration and maintenance of the rule of law, public safety and public order in Haiti by providing, inter alia, operational support to the Haitian National Police and the Haitian Coast Guard, as well as helping strengthen their institutions and re-establish the corrections system;
Protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence as much as possible within its areas of deployment, without interfering in the responsibilities of the Transitional Government or police authorities.
Since the beginning of the intervention in Haiti, there have been a number of positive developments in establishing a stable environment. Democracy has been restored, albeit not fully, and the island has experienced the first transfer of power between two democratically elected presidents. According to Perito, “during René Préval’s first year as president of Haiti, his country has witnessed the democratic election of a new parliament, the return of relative security, and the first hints of economic recovery” (Perito: 2007). More importantly, a diverse civil society has emerged that is shaping a new political culture based on democratic values.
Although participation in this process has not been as broad as it could have been, Perito notes that “after one year in office, Haiti’s democratically elected government enjoys broad international and domestic support” (Perito: 2007). He adds that “Haitians seem generally pleased with their new leadership” (Ibid).
Perito also addresses the electoral process noting that “the December 3, 2006, municipal and local elections were the first in eleven years to provide Haiti with a full complement of democratically elected local officials. Some 29,000 candidates competed for 1,429 offices. Voter turnout in Port-au-Prince was less than 10 percent, but some rural areas saw turnouts of up to 60 percent. Four people were killed in election-related violence, but these were isolated incidents, and the elections were peaceful overall” (Perito: 2007). It is clear that the island has recovered some ground in establishing a functioning electoral system. The Transitional Government still needs, nevertheless, to improve its efforts in securing broader participation in the political processes. To that end, it must ensure legislation that is conducive to such participation.
Much has been accomplished in the efforts to put an end to violence perpetuated by armed groups, particularly in Port-au-Prince, the capital. There has been some progress in removing illegal weapons from the streets. A comprehensive and community-based disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program has been implemented, albeit with debatable results. Perito affirms that “UN military forces have cracked down on armed groups, arresting more than four hundred gang members, including prominent gang leaders. Security in Port-au-Prince has improved as a consequence” (Perito: 2007).
A Security Council report corroborates Perito, asserting that “there were signs of improvement in the security situation following successful operations by MINUSTAH and the Haitian National Police, with a view to curbing the activities of illegal armed groups and reducing their activities” (MINUSTAH: 2009). Perito also notes that “UN military action against the gangs was preceded by a personal effort by President Préval to convince gang leaders to surrender their arms and participate in the United Nations’ Disarmament, Demobilization, and Rehabilitation Program” (Perito: 2007). Perito welcomes progress in security issues, stating that, “with a democratically elected government in office, the restoration of security in Port-au- Prince, and an upturn in the Haitian economy, a window of opportunity has opened” (Perito: 2007).
In spite of the progress that has been made, the security situation in Haiti still remains uncertain. Perito warns that “despite the recent crackdown, criminal violence continues to pose the greatest threat to the stability of Haiti” (Perito: 2007), and asserts that “a major reason for Haiti’s crime problems is the slow pace of the UN effort to reform and reconstitute the Haitian National Police (HNP), the country’s only indigenous security force” (Perito: 2007). Furthermore, The Transitional Government must implement a more comprehensive campaign of disarmament and demobilization. In effect, according to Perito, “today, UN soldiers and police remain the only coherent security force in Haiti, although their numbers are too small to provide more than a token presence in many parts of the country” (Perito: 2007).
Furthermore, there remains an urgent need to improve judicial and corrections systems. Perito argues that “the Haitian judicial and corrections systems are dysfunctional at best. Haitian courts are in disrepair; judges are untrained, inept, and corrupt; and case management is rudimentary. Records are not kept; evidence is lost; few, if any, criminal cases are brought to trial. Prisons are crammed with inmates” (Perito: 2007). However, he optimistically notes that “the United Nations and the Préval government have prepared a comprehensive plan for developing a police force of 14,000 by 2010” (Ibid.) It remains to be seen whether the implementation of this ambitious, albeit necessary, plan will be accomplished.
To achieve its goals, the Transitional Government will have to rely on support from the international community, which could grant badly needed funding to the efforts being carried out. According to Perito, “donor assistance provides 65 percent of Haiti’s budget” (Perito: 2007). As long as the economy remains dysfunctional donor assistance will continue to be fundamental to Haiti. So far, “donors have pledged more than $1.5 billion in economic assistance” (Perito: 2007). Additionally, “U.S. congressional passage of trade preferences and new Haitian incentives for foreign investors should give a boost to Haiti’s textile industry” (Ibid). The international community must keep its promises of helping restructure the Haitian economy and fulfill its financial pledges. Remittances from abroad are another fundamental source of income for the Haitian economy. Perito notes that “in 2006, cash remittances from Haitians living abroad totaled $1.65 billion, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.” (Perito: 2007). For the foreseeable future, the Haitian economy will depend on cash remittances and foreign aid. Since no other major economic activities are yet firmly established, the international community ought not only to maintain its current level of foreign aid and cash remittances, but should increase it.
Despite the progress attained in human rights issues, the situation remains a serious concern. Perpetrators are not brought to justice, causing situations of impunity that threaten further progress. The Transitional Government has failed to launch an investigation into human rights violations committed by members of the national police officers. Weak police, justice, and prison systems that are responsible for guaranteeing the rule of law (the) are another cause for concern. Such institutions still lack legitimacy in the eyes of the Haitian population, which further undermines prospects for improvement. According to the Security Council report, “the Transitional Government (has) to ensure that the technical advice and recommendations provided by the Mission’s UN police officers are implemented by national police officers at all levels.”
The main objectives of MINUSTAH in reestablishing the political process were:
To support the constitutional and political process underway in Haiti and foster principles and democratic governance and institutional development;
To assist the Transitional Government in its efforts to bring about national dialogue and reconciliation;
To assist the Transitional Government in its efforts to organize, monitor, and carry out free and fair municipal, parliamentary, and presidential elections at the earliest possible date, specifically through providing technical, logistical, and administrative assistance and continued security that would support an electoral process where voters, including women, accurately represent national demographics.
To achieve such ambitious goals, the Transitional Government has explored possible ways of including previously excluded inhabitants that had rejected violence, in the democratic and electoral processes. Presidential, legislative and local elections were held in 2005, thus further strengthening the political process. Members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) provided assistance in the electoral process, which added a significant dimension of regional cooperation. The government of Brazil provided expertise in counting ballots, training personnel, and the installing equipment. An International Donors Conference in Haiti was held in Washington, D.C. in 2004. The aim of this conference was to provide funding that would improve the standards of living in Haiti, which is a part of the process of strengthening institutions. All these combined efforts have created an environment of considerable political development. The people of Haiti granted the Transitional Government a certain amount of respect, confidence and support.
In spite of the enormous challenges that still lie ahead, much has been accomplished in Haiti since the international community decided to support the peace process on the island. Not without reason, many scholars have welcomed these latest developments with optimism, and there has been talk of a unique window of opportunity being opened for the Haitian people. This window of opportunity should not, however, be misleading: the situation in Haiti is still critical. After analyzing the situation, Perito concludes that “the sense of guarded optimism emerging from these positive developments has done little to alter the grim conditions on the ground, however. Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and among the poorest countries in the world. Fifty four percent of Haiti’s more than eight million people live on less than one U.S. dollar per day; two-thirds of the labor force does not have formal jobs; half of the adult population is illiterate. Haitian society remains deeply divided between a small, well-educated, affluent, French-speaking elite and a large, uneducated, Creole-speaking, impoverished peasant population” (Perito: 2007).
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