Originally: The United Nations, the MINUSTAH and US

 Originally appeared in Le Matin

The United Nations deserves special recognition for the uninterrupted interest it has shown toward the Haitian cause during this unnecessarily long crisis. The quality of the efforts made deserves also to be underscored, even if the results have sometimes been less than hoped for.

In fact, since its creation, the United Nations through its specialized agencies has done unlimited good for our country. To convince ourselves of this, one only has to recall the multiple contributions of the WHO in the health sector, of UNICEF in protecting Haitian childhood, of FAO and of UNDP in agriculture, environment, cattle grazing–to cite only these sectors–of UNFPA in relation to population issues, UNESCO, in education, the preserving of our historical monuments and the promoting of our culture, ILO, WTO etc…

This listing is not at all comprehensive. One could add, among other examples, the various opportunities offered by the United Nations across the years to many generations of Haitian professionals both abroad and in Haiti. It is indeed an impressive record in all regards.

However, since the beginning of the 1990s, the most visible presence of the United Nations in Haiti has been through the series of special missions authorized by its Security Council. On a general basis, the mandate of these missions is determined taking into account the nature and the quality of the sociopolitical situation of the moment. What has been the end result of these missions? It is difficult to answer with precision and in an exhaustive manner.

In principle, the presence of an international mission whether it is in the ambit of the protection of human rights, or that of the organization of elections or for the maintaining of peace always benefits the population. And to date none of the UN missions has been negatively evaluated. Nevertheless, many Haitians seem to deplore the fact that the achievements of most of these missions have only been known to a small group of officials directly in contact with them. The presence of these missions raises also great expectations and everyone hopes that they will contribute to creating a more secured environment.

However, the analysis of the evolution of these missions indicates that they have operated under rather difficult conditions and that the unpredictable politics in Haiti have seldom made their task easier. (See below the listing and  the mandates of these different missions).

As concerns the multinational forces, these missions have had to face three fundamental constraints:

(i)     Their mandate has never been very precise;
(ii)    Their term has never been defined;
(iii)   Their means of operation have always been very limited.

1. A mandate too wide and vague

Given all the problems to be solved and in order to give these missions a strong institutional authority , the  resolutions of the Security Council have always tried to cover almost all sectors  in order not to leave aside some aspects considered fundamental. Furthermore, in order to counter the nationalistic posture of certain Haitian politicians as well as their tendency to complicate life, these resolutions have defined fields of operations so wide (and at the same time so vague) that the chief of missions had in fact been given unlimited powers.

Whether one refers to Lakhdar Brahimi, Enrique ter Horst or Alfredo Lopez Cabral, these chiefs of mission had such authority that they could have easily played the role of “governor” of Haiti. To my knowledge, they have not abused their unlimited powers. (A friend suggested that I instead write that they have seldom abused their powers, since I have no specific information regarding this.) Notwithstanding, the mandate of all these missions has covered a varied set of domains. From this comes the impossibility to focus on a specific theme. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is difficult to do an actual evaluation of the results of these missions.

One should note however that all these missions had a common objective:  strengthening, professionalizing and modernizing the National Police. And in this field, even taking into account the later failure of the PNH, it seems as if concrete results were achieved until March 2000, date of the departure of the MIPONUH. What has happened afterwards? No one can say for sure. It is only easy to see that the decline of the national police has accelerated since the departure of this last UN mission .

II. A term never well defined

To a certain degree, this constraint is worse than the previous one. On the one hand, you have missions with very wide mandates from which one expects very precise results in the short and medium term and on the other hand  the official length of these missions is usually very short, hardly a few months. True, their mandate is regularly renewed. However, given that the initial mandate and the subsequent extensions rarely go over six months , that creates a situation which does not really allow for  medium- or long-term planning . One never knows what may happen.

One is never 100-percent certain that the Security Council will authorize the renewal of the mandate or that the government in office will officially request such renewal, particularly when there are always Haitian legislators who opt for over-interpreting the constitution.

Certainly short-term mandates give the UN important leverage in negotiations with the host country. However, they also create an unfavorable environment for the good execution of the mandates themselves and they are not to the advantage of the host country. Unless one is referring to a mission with a very precise objective as in the case of  the multinational forces. To a certain extent, one could even argue that the Haitian National Police has not been able to take full advantage of the presence of these successive missions because of the relative briefness of their terms.

The UNMIH (United Nations Mission in Haiti) for example which played a key role in the training of the first cohort of police officers from 1995 to 1996 saw its term extended several  times.  In fact, the total length of time of the mandate of the UNMIH has been thirty-three  months with an initial term of six months, a first extension of four months and a second one of six months, a third one for another six months, a fourth one of seven months and a last one of four months.

The UNSMIH (United Nations Support Mission in Haiti) spent twelve months spread as follows: an initial term of five months, a first extension of five months and a second one of two months. This created a situation of uncertainty and insecurity impeding  good planning of activities.

The UNTMIH (United Nations Transition Mission in Haiti) has been authorized only for a period of four months.

The MIPONUH (United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti) was authorized to a term limited to a single one-year period ending on November 30, 1998. However, upon request of the Haitian authorities, the term was extended to another year until November 1999. A second extension was finally granted up until March 2000, the date on which the MICAH (United Nations Civilian Support for Haiti) created by a resolution of the General Assembly took over.

III. Limited Means

The two previous constraints are a direct result of the financial constraints of the UN. These missions are generally financed by voluntary contributions of member countries and countries called “friends” of Haiti. That is why, in all the resolutions concerning Haiti, the UN always invites “the States to contribute to the Fund of voluntary contributions created by Resolution 975 taken on behalf of the National Police force of  Haiti.” But, it so happens that this fund of voluntary contributions, notwithstanding the efforts and generosity of member states and “friends” of Haiti, is never sufficiently replenished to face the important expenditures arising from the formation, equipment and operation of these missions.

From time to time, the UN is really forced to scrape the bottom of  the barrel in order to fulfill its obligations towards Haiti. And when one considers the number of missions the UN has around the world, one can start grasping the size of the financing problem and the pressure put on donor countries who themselves are facing their own internal problems of budget deficits and other crucial social problems including issues of structural adjustment and the fight against poverty.

This constitutes another element of the problem of the fatigue of donor countries with Haiti. And, if the country does not concurrently take measures to effectively fight corruption, in order to have a truly transparent management of the State and to improve governance, then the international partners, and first of all the UN will not be able to point to any concrete results and  will not have many arguments to justify a request for increased resources. It is therefore a real vicious circle. Given the lack of means, the term of the mandate cannot be too long while at the same time, the object of the mandate cannot be too limited in order to avoid giving the impression of a purely cosmetic operation.


Let us now turn to the MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) whose chief and special representative of the UN’s Secretary General is the Chilean Juan Gabriel Valdez. The mandate of this mission is very  large. It has to contribute to the establishing of a calm and stable climate, to support the political process  and to  work towards the defense of human rights. The mandate covers thus domains ranging from the respect of human rights to the developing of institutions, from disarmament/demobilization/reinsertion to national reconciliation, from economic revival to the professionalizing of the police, from the coordination of external assistance to the organization of elections, from support to the private sector to the strengthening of civil society, from reestablishing and maintaining a state of order to civil protection etc etc….

Yet after only three months, this mission finds itself facing the same structural constraints as the  previous missions: a mandate too wide and too vague, a term not well defined and an obvious lack of means. True, it is being repeated that this time around, the MINUSTAH is here for a long period of time: ten years, fifteen years and even twenty years. Nonetheless, in fact, the MINUSTAH has been established with an initial (renewable) term of six months starting June 2004 which means that the actual mandate would be renewed at the end of December: but, for how long? If previous practices and financial constraints can serve as indicators, one should not be surprised if the next extension is not for more than six months till the month of June 2005. This would really be counterproductive. And, in my view this could compromise the good execution of the ICF (Interim Corporation Framework).

I thus take the liberty to suggest that the Security Council consider an extension of the term of the MINUSTAH of at least a period of time similar to that projected for the execution of the ICF, that is until September 2006, in other words, an extension of twenty-one months starting January 1, 2005.

As far as the ultimate length of the mandate of the MINUSTAH is concerned, I consider the longer estimates rather premature (and as well, rather disrespectful to the Haitian people). It is true that we have had close to two hundred years of skirmishing and combating with very little to show for it but, from there to think that we will not be able to take hold of ourselves and must be under the reliance (and at the expense of) of other nations for another twenty years, I for one think that this is not a path of honor. That is why, I hope that soon we’ll start making compromises with each other and find domains of understanding in order for us to no longer be a burden on other nations and celebrate the day when we will, while thanking our international partners, be able to tell them that we are now able to do without a certain type of assistance. I really hope that this will not take us twenty or not even ten years.
If the term of the MINUSTAH is renewed for a twenty-one-month period as suggested above and, if the transition government is able to fulfill its mission, as I wish it, there will be an elected government and parliament at the time of the second extension of the mandate. Could we not consider at that time signing with the UN or the MINUSTAH a formal convention with very precise objectives, terms well defined, and clear expected results as a way to lift the constraints tied to the vagueness of the mandate? Could not this Convention which could among other things take into account the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as proposed by the UN be subject to parliamentary approval? These are questions I take the liberty to submit to my fellow citizens and to our friends in the international community in order for each and everyone to remain “seized of the matter,” to borrow the language of the Security Council. We’ll follow up on that.

                                       UN MISSIONS IN HAITI FROM 1993 TO DATE

1.-  The MICIVIH.- (International Civil Mission in Haiti .1993-2000).
The UN  formed that mission jointly with the OAS. Its started in March 1993 and its mandate was to verify the respect of human rights. But, for security reasons , following the Harlan County affair and the assassination of Justice Minister Guy Malary, it was evacuated in October 1993. In January 1994, the mission returned to Haiti, but was expelled  in July by the military authorities. It came back again after the restoration of constitutional order with a mandate to work for the improvement of prison conditions , human-rights education , the strengthening  of  institutions such as the Ministry of Justice and the national police. The MICIVIH kept working in Haiti until 2000. Its chief was the Trinidadian Colin Granderson.  

2.- The UNMIH (UN Mission in Haiti . Sept. 93/June 1996).-
Although  it was authorized from September 1993, it was not activated until  March 1995. Its mandate  was to assist in the observance  of the Governors Island  agreement , including the improvement of  the army (professionalism),and the creation of a new police force. Besides, it was to assist the authorities in the organization of free and fair  elections  in 1995. UNMIH was headed by several personalities. The Argentine Dante Caputo, Special Representative of the  UN General Secretary (Sept 93-Sept 94) . M. Caputo  has also served as Special Envoy of the OAS Secretary  from 1992 to 1993. The Algerian Lakhdar Brahimi  replaced M. Caputo with the same mandate from Sept.  94 to March 96.  After this came the Venezuelan  Enrique ter Horst  from March to June 1996.

3.- The Multinational force.- ( Sept. 1994 to March 1995).-
Authorized by the UN Security Council  and headed by the US , that force was composed of 20,000 Marines. It permitted the restoration of  the constitutional government . Its mandate was also to lay the ground to assist the government in establishing a safe and stable environment. Its mission ended in March 1995.  

4.- The UNSMIH.-( UN Support mission in Haiti. July 96/July 97).-
That mission replaced  the UNMIH. Its mandate was to assist the government in establishing the appropriate conditions for the formation of an efficient police force. The role of the Special Representative of the UN General Secretary was increased to allow the coordination of the activities of  the UN agencies involved in institution-strengthening , national reconciliation and economic recovery in Haiti. The Mission Chief and Special representative was again the Venezuelan  Enrique ter Horst. UNSMIH’s  mandate ended in July 1997.

5.- The UNTMIH.- UN transition mission in Haiti (August/Nov.1997).-
Its functions were to assist in the modernization of the National Police Force, by means of the creation of  a fast deployment force, a special unit for the protection of the national palace  and a unit  specialized in crowd control .  In coordination with the UNDP, UNTMIH  was mandated to teach the National Police the necessary know-how in terms of  law enforcement. Enrique ter Horst was still the Mission Chief and the  mandate ended in Nov. 1997.

6.- The MIPONUH ( UN Civil police mission in Haiti. Dec. 97/March 2000).
Contrary to the previous missions , the MIPONUH had no military component . Its mandate was to continue the assisting the national police and to contribute to its modernization. Its Chief and Special representative of the General Secretary was  Alfredo Lopez Cabral , from Guinea-Bissau .

7.- The MICAH ( International civil mission in Haiti . March 2000).
That mission, approved by the UN General Assembly on  December  17, 1999, replaced MIPONUH and MICIVIH , on March 16, 2000. Its mandate was to consolidate the results  obtained by the previous ones , to strengthen the respect for human rights , to reinforce the institutional capacity of the judiciary and also to facilitate dialogue between the international community , the civil society and the political parties. Its termination date is not well indicated.

8.- The INTERIM MULTINATIONAL FORCE. (March /May 2004).- . Authorized for the same date as former president Aristide left Haiti (Feb. 29, 2004), its three-month mandate was , among others things, ?to facilitate the creation of the conditions permitting to the regional and international organizations to bring assistance to the Haitian people.?

9.- The MINUSTAH. (UN  stabilization mission in Haiti. June 2004 to date).

The author is a senior counsellor at the Inter-American Development Bank. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the bank.