Haiti: the multinational mission and the "inexorable demand to re-establish security conditions"

As violence and insecurity due to ongoing criminal gang activity in the country continues unabated, the establishment of a Multinational Security Support Mission in Haiti draws ever closer 
Unos 200.000 haitianos, principalmente en Puerto Príncipe (en la foto), se han visto obligados a huir a lugares temporales por la inseguridad - © OCHA/Giles Clarke
Some 200,000 Haitians, mainly in Port-au-Prince (pictured), have been forced to flee to temporary locations because of insecurity - © OCHA/Giles Clarke
  1. Why is an international security mission necessary?
  2. Who will support security assistance?
  3. Why has it taken so long for the mission to be established?
  4. What kind of operation will it be?
  5. What happens next and what is the UN's involvement?

Press reports suggest that the infrastructure for the mission is being put in place as supplies are airlifted into the capital, Port-au-Prince. 

Here is an explanation of what such a mission would consist of.

Why is an international security mission necessary?

Haiti is wracked by violence that has escalated to unprecedented levels. In a speech to the UN Security Council on 22 April, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Haiti, Maria Isabel Salvador, said that "it is impossible to overstate the increase in gang activity in Port-au-Prince and beyond the deteriorating human rights situation and the deepening humanitarian crisis", adding that she had "consistently drawn attention to the inexorable need to restore security conditions". 

In March 2024, gangs mounted coordinated attacks on key state infrastructure, including several police stations and two of Port-au-Prince's main prisons, as well as educational and health facilities and religious sites. 

"These attacks," Salvador noted, "have further weakened state institutions and deepened the already critical challenges to restoring the rule of law". 

In the first three months of the year, the UN reported that 2,500 people, including at least 82 children, were killed or injured as a result of gang violence.

Nearly half of the victims were hit by bullets during violent attacks on their neighbourhoods or clashes between gangs and police. 

During the same period, at least 438 people were kidnapped for ransom. 

UN data indicate that some 362,000 people - half of them children - have been forced to flee their homes because it is too dangerous to stay there. 

Sexual violence and abuse against women and girls is on the rise and tens of thousands of children are unable to attend school because of insecurity.

Violencia en las calles de Puerto Príncipe, Haití - © UNICEF/Roger LeMoyne and U.S. CDC
Violence on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti - © UNICEF/Roger LeMoyne and U.S. CDC

Who will support security assistance? 

The Haitian National Police cannot fully contain the outbreak of violence, and the Haitian army is small and only modestly equipped. 

Virtually all countries agree that assistance from the international community is needed to support the Haitian police in their efforts to stabilise the situation and enable the population to go about their daily lives without fear of gang violence. 

Already in October 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres responded to a request from former Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, urging nations to step forward. 

The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Belize, Benin, Chad, Jamaica and Kenya formally notified the secretary-general of their intention to contribute personnel to the mission. 

The UN spokesperson confirmed that other countries have also expressed interest, but that the UN has not yet received official notification.

Las comunidades de Puerto Príncipe han levantado barricadas de vehículos abandonados para limitar el riesgo de secuestros y ataques de pandillas - © OCHA/Giles Clark
Communities in Port-au-Prince have erected barricades of abandoned vehicles to limit the risk of kidnappings and gang attacks - © OCHA/Giles Clark

Why has it taken so long for the mission to be established?

Initially, a major sticking point was which country would offer to lead what could be a very complicated and risky mission. 

Press reports suggest that gangs exert some control over 80% of the capital. A recent agreement between gangs to form a united front against the mission has further complicated the picture. 

Kenya will lead the mission, and government officials visited Haiti to discuss its mandate and scope with Haitian and regional leaders. 

Kenyan President William Ruto emphasised to the UN General Assembly in September 2023 that Haitians were "suffering immensely from the bitter legacy of slavery, colonialism, sabotage and neglect", adding that addressing the situation there was the "ultimate test of international solidarity and collective action".

La Policía Nacional de Haití necesita ser fortalecida para poder responder a los enormes desafíos que enfrenta, según la ONU - PNUD/Borja Lopetegui González
Haiti's National Police needs to be strengthened to be able to respond to the enormous challenges it faces, says UN - UNDP/Borja Lopetegui González

What kind of operation will it be? 

It is important to note that the mission will not be a UN operation. 

However, the Security Council authorised it and asked the Secretary-General to establish a trust fund to channel voluntary contributions to the operation. 

At the end of April, the UN spokesperson confirmed that Canada, France and the US had deposited $18 million into the fund.

Residentes de Cité Soleil, en Puerto Príncipe, Haití, hacen cola para recibir suministros humanitarios - PMA/Theresa Piorr
Residents of Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, queue to receive humanitarian supplies - WFP/Theresa Piorr

What happens next and what is the UN's involvement? 

In endorsing the mission, the Security Council acted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which, among other things, authorises the use of force after all other measures to maintain international peace and security have been exhausted. 

Meanwhile, the UN continues to support Haiti on multiple fronts. A political mission led by Maria Isabel Salvador continues to support the government's efforts to strengthen political stability and good governance, including the rule of law. 

UN agencies provide humanitarian assistance to Haitians affected by violence and insecurity, but also by natural disasters such as the August 2021 earthquake. The UN Humanitarian Air Service transports humanitarian workers, critical equipment and life-saving aid into Haiti, as well as within the country. In addition, the UN also supports the authorities in strengthening socio-economic development.