"Towards a Post-MINUSTAH Haiti: Making an Effective Transition", crisisgroup

Latin America/Caribbean Report N°44 2 Aug 2012

Executive Summary

Full PDF Report


Haiti is now marking the eighth year of the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Debate about its eventual withdrawal is intensifying under the one year-old administration of President Michel Martelly. Opposition to its presence stems from the country’s nationalistic pride, anger at the cholera epidemic linked to UN peacekeepers and publicity surrounding unacceptable abuses by a small number of peacekeepers. Yet even its critics admit the country’s still limited police force cannot guarantee the security needed to protect citizens, enforce the law and underpin political stability. The real debate is not whether MINUS­TAH should leave but when, and what to change in Haiti and in the mission’s mandate, structure and behaviour to ensure that a phased withdrawal is linked to stronger institutions and progress toward lasting stability and development.

On 8 March 2012, the UN Security Council welcomed progress in Haiti and confirmed a start toward MINUS­TAH’s military drawdown, returning to the levels before the devastating quake that rocked the island in January 2010. Before the October renewal of the peacekeeping mandate, with preliminary discussions already planned for August, consensus needs to be forged between the UN, Latin American nations which provide the bulk of the troops, other international contributors, donors and the Haitian nation. That consensus has to be built on an objective analysis of MINUSTAH’s past performance and priorities for restructuring, Haiti’s continuing political instability, weak institutions and extreme poverty.

Haiti remains ensnared in a deep political, social and economic crisis. Despite the past presence of 12,000 UN military and police and the resumption of significant post-earthquake aid, progress in reconstruction, development and rule of law is disappointing. Haiti needs at least double its current numbers of police, with adequate training and vetting, deployed and capable of protecting its citizens and borders from home-grown and transnational criminal threats. A second five-year national police development plan needs to be adopted and implemented to chart that growth and the police need to be part of a comprehensive and professional justice system securely founded on the rule of law. The Martelly government should put on hold the reconstitution of the army until these goals are met.

Both the Haitian government and the UN Security Council are looking for a way out for MINUSTAH, but it would be foolhardy to rush that process given the serious gaps in consolidating security and justice. Despite the voices advocating for a more rapid exodus, it is unlikely that full departure can or should be accomplished before a third peaceful handover of democratic power takes place at the end of the Martelly presidency, five years from now, which also should correspond to the completion of the second five-year police development plan.

It is neither in Haiti’s nor in the donors’ interest to see a hasty withdrawal of the mission, but MINUSTAH needs rethinking and revamping. Based on other UN-assisted state transitions, like Sierra Leone and Liberia which faced or face comparable challenges, the UN presence in Haiti should see a reconfigured MINUSTAH, with reduced but still capable troop strength and a robust police presence. That transformation would move from a military dominated Chapter VII force to a Security Council sponsored political mission by the end of 2016, which would still be able to coordinate the full range of UN agencies under the special representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in support of an integrated peacebuilding agenda set with the Haitian government.

MINUSTAH has successfully deterred the potential threat of organised violent actors overthrowing the government by force, which was its fundamental raison d’être. It has improved security in much of the country mostly by reducing armed violence in Cité Soleil and other urban slums. The mission has also provided invaluable contributions to countrywide logistics operations, from assisting with the distribution and retrieval of material in the 2006, 2009 and 2010 elections to supporting disaster relief in the aftermath of the 2008 storms and the 2010 earthquake.

MINUSTAH needs to think beyond stabilisation and focus on consolidating its achievements by providing strategic support to strengthen rule of law institutions so reconstruction, private investment and development can flourish. It must also devise a more effective way to work with fragile state institutions whose continuing partisan composition has denied Haiti a functioning government for most of the past year. An assessment of MINUSTAH’s contribution to stability since 2004 and the current status of reconstruction and development in the country are vital to understand the opportunities for sustained reduction of conflict and violence.

This report assesses MINUSTAH’s impact and explores how its contribution might be improved. It also analyses the options available for an ordered eventual withdrawal of the mission enabling Haitian authorities and the international community to better cope with a post-MI­NUS­TAH scenario. It provides recommendations for a better targeted peacekeeping agenda for security, rule of law and governance, as well as a planned transition that eliminates the need for a UN peacekeeping mission by the end of the Martelly presidency in 2016.


In order to work toward an orderly transition and handover

To the UN Security Council:

1.  Incorporate in MINUSTAH’s next mandate a requirement for a structured five-year transition plan, as Haitian state capacity builds, that:

a)  reduces the current Chapter VII (under which MI­NUSTAH is placed) military-dominated contingent to one with robust police and back-up military to avoid any security vacuum;

b) shifts at the end of the next five years to a Security Council-authorised political mission that focuses on follow-on support for Haiti’s continuing peacebuilding and development needs; and

c) maintains the Chapter VII mandate to enable continued major force contributors but recognises progress in Haiti by citing a lower “threat to international peace and security in the region”.

2.  Require that the timing of each MINUSTAH drawdown be consulted with Haiti and troop contributors but be based on continuing assessments of the security realities on the ground and not guided by donor impulses to turn focus elsewhere.

To the UN Secretary-General:

3.  Require that MINUSTAH and the UN Country Team collaboratively design  a coordinated plan, for the latter to implement, under the UN special representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) to support government priorities for stability consolidation and development in view of the eventual MINUSTAH handover;

4.  Pursue improved accountability for criminal acts committed by UN peacekeepers by setting out in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) – signed with each troop contributing country (TCC) – common binding standards of investigation, with participation by the UN internal oversight office, with fixed timelines to determine if there was criminal misconduct and, if so, guarantee appropriate prosecution and other necessary response.

5.  Respond to the cholera epidemic by:

a) apologising for the perceived failures of some units to appropriately dispose of human waste in relation to the cholera epidemic, regardless of ongoing scientific disputes as to the devastating epidemic’s origins;

b) directing that MINUSTAH undertake further actions in conjunction with the Haitian government to reduce the short-term spread of the disease prioritising vaccination in remote areas, access to drinking water, and treatment;

c) convening additional donors’ commitment to the ten-year comprehensive water and sanitation infrastructure investment project now recommended by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO)/
World Health Organization (WHO) and the health ministries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic; and

d) reporting to the Security Council on the pace of implementation of the recommendations of the expert group on cholera for all peacekeeping missions.

To the UN Security Council and the Secretary-General:

6.  Urgently establish a comprehensive human rights vetting and orientation for peacekeeping missions and carry out systematic pre-deployment screening to ensure conformity to universal human rights principles and consistency with the UN’s zero tolerance policy.

In order to make the contribution of MINUSTAH more effective

To the UN Security Council:

7.  Refocus MINUSTAH’s mandate and reconfigure the mission to better match Haiti’s development needs by helping strengthen security, law enforcement, and governance by:

a) transferring greater responsibility to the Haitian National Police (HNP) for citizen security, assisting it in completing and implementing a five-year expansion plan to double the size of the current force and significantly improve its performance;

b) maintaining sufficient UN Formed Police Units (FPU) and a back-up rapid response military capability to guard against any threat to public order beyond the HNP response capacity;

c) deploying the needed numbers of core teams of skilled UN police officers, ideally from many of the Latin American countries reducing their military contribution, to support development of the HNP, particularly in border control and security, community policing, crime scene investigation and institutional and operational strengthening;

d) expanding the military engineering contingents to help support reconstruction, particularly community rebuilding in more violence-and-crisis prone and earthquake ravaged areas;

e) seeking government agreement on a governance/rule of law compact that:

  • integrates police, justice and prison reform;
  • links security sector reform (SSR) with border and customs control as well as community violence reduction;
  • supports state capacity building for tax collection, land registration and national identification;
  • supports the new Permanent Electoral Council (Conseil électoral permanent, CEP) and provides technical support to manage electoral reforms, to empower political parties and to bolster the council;
  • accelerates revision of the penal and criminal procedures codes and enhances public understanding of those reforms; and
  • revives the MINUSTAH-led border task force to support the government in reinvigorating the Border Development Commission;

f) creating and implementing an adequate donor coordination mechanism to ensure the availability and better use of funds for the implementation of integrated police, justice and prison reforms.

To the Haitian Authorities:

8.  Increase the level of understanding and awareness of Haitians citizens about the rationale and impact of the constitutional amendments voted in May 2011 and finally published on 19 May 2012.

9.  Take concrete steps towards the organisation of senate, municipal and local elections by establishing the Permanent Electoral Council; installing the newly appointed director general; submitting the revised electoral law to parliament for approval; and announcing the electoral calendar.

10.  Design and implement in close partnership with MINUSTAH and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) a capacity-building plan to enable gradual national responsibility for electoral security and logistics currently led by MINUSTAH, at least for polls following the 2015 presidential election.

11.  Articulate a clear development strategy through an inclusive national consultation process and agree on a joint agenda that specifically targets consolidating stability, enabling an investment climate, and facilitating the handover of responsibilities from MINUS­TAH to the HNP. Among other items, this agenda should include:

a) the continued strengthening of the police as an immediate security priority, notably with adoption by the Haitian government of a new five-year plan to:

  • increase police forces to around 20,000;
  • complete the vetting of all police officers and personnel;
  • agree on and implement a career plan that regulates merit-based promotions and improves working conditions;
  • improve procurement practices, internal inspection, administration and maintenance, and middle- and upper-level management training;
  • complete the training, equipping and deployment of the specialised forces, including the border police to guard all official border crossing points and patrol the unofficial ones, as well as the country’s nascent coast guard; and
  • harmonise the legal framework regarding policing powers, including the HNP and other laws such as the Criminal Procedure and Penal Codes, customs and immigration laws;

b) putting army reconstitution on hold until there is greater national consensus and not before the HNP has reached full strength and tax revenues are at a satisfactory level;

c) continuing to strengthen the independence of the judiciary by providing the Superior Judiciary Council (CSPJ) with the human and material resources required for its immediate functioning, rapidly ensuring the appointment and operations of the Constitutional Court and improving work conditions and job security for judicial actors;

d) improving access to justice by designing and implementing a plan to expand existing legal aid offices into a public defender system and lessen impunity by providing for witness protection in cases of serious crimes; and

e) reinvigorating the Border Development Commission and deepening cooperation on these issues with MINUSTAH and donors.

To Donors:

12.  Provide political, financial and technical support to the government to help implement the national development strategy and to a restructured UN mission, as MINUSTAH’s transition takes place over the next five years.

13.  Increase use of the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF) as a mechanism to rapidly provide funds to support government efforts on key areas such as modernisation of public administration, border security, control and management, customs and tax collection, human capital and economic infrastructure investment.

Port-au-Prince/Bogotá/Brussels, 2 August 2012