A draft of the resolution obtained by The Washington Post outlines plans for a force that would provide support to Haitian police, including by conducting joint security operations against the gangs, and protect “critical infrastructure sites” such as hospitals and ports with an aim of establishing a level of security “conducive to holding free and fair elections.”
The Security Council authorized a one-year mission, to be reviewed after nine months. It would be funded by the voluntary contributions of U.N. member states. The United States, which spent months searching for an ally to head a mission it didn’t want to lead itself, has pledged at least $100 million, contingent on congressional approval.
The resolution authorizes the force to “adopt urgent temporary measures on an exceptional basis” to “prevent the loss of life.”
Jean Victor Généus, Haiti’s foreign minister, welcomed the authorization.
“More than just a simple vote, this is in fact an expression of solidarity with a population in distress,” he said at the United Nations after the resolution passed. “It’s a glimmer of hope for a people that have for too long been suffering the consequences of a difficult political, socioeconomic, security and humanitarian situation.”
Thirteen of the 15 Security Council members voted to authorize the mission. China and Russia abstained.
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, said Moscow understands the “scale and the urgency” of the calamities confronting Haiti and has “no objections in principle” to a mission. But its requests for more details about its “parameters,” he said, went “unanswered.”
“Haiti’s history contains a lot of experience of irresponsible foreign interference,” Nebenzia said. “That was what gave rise to the downward spiral that Haitians have not been able to overcome for years. Authorizing another use of force in Haiti without a precise understanding of the parameters of the mission … is short-sighted.”
Senior U.S. administration officials cast the authorization Monday as a “significant milestone” in the effort to address “critical security and governance challenges in Haiti.”
“Getting a U.N. mandate is an extremely important initial step,” said one of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under rules imposed by the administration. “There are a number of additional steps to come, and we expect that this will begin to unfold in a phased approach.”
The United States has said that it plans to provide “significant” logistical, communications and medical support. Kenya has said it’s considering a commitment of 1,000 police officers to the nation of 11.5 million. Several Caribbean nations have said they’re open to contributing hundreds of personnel.
The mission did not require approval from the U.N. Security Council, but Kenya said it would seek such approval before moving forward.
Analysts have raised concerns that the mission will be insufficiently resourced to take on the gangs. Alfred Mutua, Kenya’s foreign minister, was optimistic it would have a positive effect.
“We don’t think that there’s going to be a lot of violence,” he told the British Broadcasting Corp. last week. “These gangs are powerful because they don’t have anyone who can match them.”
He expected a force to be deployed by the beginning of next year.
Samuel Madistin, chair of the Port-au-Prince-based human rights group Fondasyon Je Klere, said he was skeptical the mission would “yield any lasting security results” if it does not have military capabilities and does not work to rebuild key institutions, including an independent judiciary and a police force that has been buffeted by an attrition crisis.
“We do not need tourists,” Madistin said. “Instead, we need a force capable of pushing back the gangs and assisting in the reunification of the national territory.”
Gangs have long held sway in Haiti, but their power and influence has grown in the power vacuum left by the still-unsolved assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. By some estimates, illegal armed groups control 80 percent of the capital and have extended their reach into the countryside.
The gangs have unleashed terror on ordinary Haitians. Gang members kidnap civilians for ransom, snipe indiscriminately at them from rooftops and rape women and children. The violence has driven more than 130,000 people from their homes and blocked humanitarian aid in a country where UNICEF reports nearly one in four children suffers from chronic malnutrition.
The United States has repeatedly urged its citizens to leave.
Haitian police have been outgunned and outnumbered by the gangs, which smuggle most of their weapons in from the United States. Civilians have formed vigilante groups to take on the gangs themselves, lynching supposed suspects and drawing concern.
Many Haitians support a multinational security mission but some fear it could serve to prop up Henry, an appointed prime minister widely viewed as illegitimate. Progress toward elections has been slow, and efforts by Caribbean leaders to break the political gridlock have been unsuccessful.
Zhung Jun, China’s ambassador to the United Nations, said that “without a legitimate, effective and accountable government in place any external support can hardly have any lasting effects.”
Pulling together a force has been a challenge; Henry harbored doubts this year that it would ever materialize.
Though the United States backed his call for such a force, it never entertained leading one — a reflection in part of Washington’s aversion to participating in such interventions after the U.S. withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Biden administration pushed Canada to take the helm, and Ottawa deployed a delegation to Haiti last year to assess needs. But Canada’s top soldier expressed doubts that the military had the capacity to lead a mission while also aiding Ukraine.
The reluctance among several countries stemmed also from the failures of past international interventions in Haiti, many of which have failed to bring long-lasting stability to the Caribbean nation.
A U.N. stabilization mission from 2014 to 2017 achieved mixed results against the gangs. It’s remembered mostly for a cholera outbreak that killed nearly 10,000 people. The United Nations long refused to acknowledge that the poor sanitation practices of its peacekeepers started the outbreak.
Kenya, which has a history of participating in such missions, said in July that it would consider leading a force. But the country’s police have their own record of corruption and abuses, and analysts worry that English- and Swahili-speaking personnel will struggle without knowledge of Haitian Creole or French.
The resolution calls on the mission to set up “an oversight mechanism” to prevent rights violations. A senior U.S. administration official said Monday that the administration would “keep a close eye on this as the mission moves forward.”
James Beltis, a member of the Montana Accord, a powerful opposition group made up of civil society groups and political figures, called the authorization of the mission a “setback.”
“We seem to be stuck with the same solution we’ve been using for the past 30 years,” he told The Post. “From a political perspective, this appears to be support for the current government.”
Remose Clerbrun has mixed feelings. The 46-year-old housekeeper in Port-au-Prince has three kids who are prevented from attending school by gang violence and is overwhelmed by “extreme anxieties.”
“I’m skeptical” that the forces will be effective, she told The Post. “But I hope they do help. We need that with the current state of the country.”