09 August 2012

A Post-MINUSTAH Haiti? Not So Soon

The UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has experienced a tumultuous relationship with the island nation over its 8 years of existence. A peak moment was reached during the cholera crisis following the 2010 earthquake when it was uncovered that recently arrived peacekeepers from Nepal were responsible for bringing cholera to Haiti. Protests and riots followed after the news broke that MINUSTAH was responsible for the cholera outbreak.

Despite the troubled past, MINUSTAH continues to play a in important role says the International Crisis Group (ICG). In a new report, ICG warns that an immediate pull-out of peacekeepers is not the right solution. Rather, the report assesses MINUSTAH and offers recommendations on how to 'rethink and revamp' the mission.
MINUSTAH has successfully deterred the potential threat of organised violent actors overthrowing the government by force, which was its fundamental raison d’ĂȘtre. It has improved security in much of the country mostly by reducing armed violence in CitĂ© 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.
The report sets out a series of recommendations for the UN, Haitian authorities and donors. One that sits at the forefront is the UN shouldering the blame for the cholera outbreak and taking a leadership role in the response. The office of the Secretary-General continues to dodge the issue of blame by saying that they are looking further into the evidence, but there is little doubt that an outbreak of cholera in a country that may have never had one before was introduced in the fall of 2010.

“By helping Haiti construct a functioning justice system, MINUSTAH can recover public confidence and help Haiti foster a climate that generates increased private investments, jobs and more effective public services, says Mark Schneider, Crisis Group’s Senior Vice-President.
It is the latest higher-profile call on the UN to step forward by admitting blame and ensuring that the number of future cases is significantly reduced. Also important are the recommendations for MINUSTAH to help in leading security sector reform by transferring power to the Haitian National Police through a 5 year direct assistance plan and collaboration with the Haitian government.

The overall target is to ensure that the mission is no longer needed by the 2016 presidential elections. “MINUSTAH and the Haitian government need to work together in the next five years to form a shared vision on how to create the conditions for the mission’s departure”, says Bernice Robertson, Crisis Group’s Haiti Senior Analyst. “Haiti still needs support to guarantee security and political stability, but MINUSTAH will only be as effective as the government allows it to be.”

What lingers is how these recommendations will be put into action. MINUSTAH is far from popular among Haitians and continuing the mission will leave some unhappy. However, Haiti is still not on politically stable footing and still is dealing with the repercussions of the 2010 earthquake and the cholera outbreak that was unconnected but followed soon after.

Read the full report here.