The U.N. Security Council approved a multinational security force to address Haiti’s rampant gang violence — but another major challenge will be the volatile political environment. “There’s a lot of work just on government capacity,” says USIP’s Keith Mines. “It would behoove the international community to buckle down and build that capacity.”
U.S. Institute of Peace experts discuss the latest foreign policy issues from around the world in On Peace, a brief weekly collaboration with SiriusXM's POTUS Channel 124.
Laura Coates: Joining us now from the United States Institute of Peace is the Director of the Latin America program, Keith Mines. He joins us now. Keith, welcome and good morning. How are you?
Keith Mines: Great. Thanks. And thanks for having me on.
Laura Coates: I'm glad that you're here. I mean, the UN Security Council voted on Monday to allow for a multinational security force to go to Haiti, China and Russia abstained in this vote. So, what has this vote been about? And why are the UN sending forces to Haiti?
Keith Mines: Right. So, this is the kind of arrangement that they make when they can't get full security council approval of a mission. So, it's something that basically authorizes another country to lead a multinational force. We've, the United States has done that several times. The closest parallel I think, from my experience was when the Australians were given this same kind of a mandate for East Timor. And that was when, in advance of a follow-on UN mission there was a need for a quicker force to get in and try to reestablish orders. So, it's been done before, it's a model that's used. It's the first time Kenya will have done it. The Kenyans seem very capable and enthused about the mission, but it is a real challenge, what they've taken on.
Laura Coates: So, they're going to deploy to Haiti, workers to with a Haitian National Police to try to address the gangs and also infrastructures, that right?
Keith Mines: Right. So, the two main missions that were part of the mandate was to push back the gangs and try to wrest control of the country back from these really vicious gangs that have been making life a living hell and stopping the flow of food and water and everything. It's been a real tough couple of years for the Haitian people living under the thumb of these gangs. So that's the first one and that will be done in conjunction with the HNP, the Haitian National Police, as they build out a new police force. And then the second part of it is to protect critical infrastructure. The other part of it is, is building the HNP itself. So, there's going to be a huge train and equip mission for a new Haitian National Police. And then humanitarian access is another mission that will be going along with that, where they need to secure the corridors so that food and water can move, and people can get back to their normal lives. It's a huge challenge. There's a lot of moving pieces, and there's still a long way to go. It's just the first step to having this mandate that allows them to round up this collection of other countries and put it together into a coalition.
Laura Coates: In fact, several other countries, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Italy, Spain, Mongolia, Senegal, Rwanda, Belize, Suriname, Guatemala, Peru, they've all announced pledges of support as well and the US has offered $100 million in financial support for the force and another 100 million dollars in enabling support for intelligence, equipment, logistics and beyond. You know, obviously, there is a need within Haiti for this to happen. Why has there been this buy-in? Is there something in it strategically as well for these other countries?
Keith Mines: Well, it's something that people are all, other countries are really just looking at the collapse of Haiti with, you know, with, and tragedy that it's brought on and are willing to be to be part of that. There's obviously always a sense of international pride, they want to be able to say that they've been involved in something important. The Kenyans I think are certainly looking at this as a way that they can exert an international profile. The other countries, I think, are honestly just trying to respond to something where there's a need. It's a kind of a, you know, it's a hodgepodge of countries, but it does bring in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, so it's every region is now going to be involved. Now the level of support is not exactly clear. Some of them may send trainers, some of them may send small contingents. So, there's, you know, they'll have to be putting, the Kenyans will take their plan and then start to collect this coalition over the coming months to where they're ready to deploy it. I would guess no sooner than the first of 2024.
Laura Coates: There is going to be some challenges though, in trying to implement this. Now, obviously, the money is coming in, the support is there but what are those challenges in terms of trying to get this off the ground and implemented in a way that is a long-term proposition?
Keith Mines: Right, I always point to the first challenge being the political environment on the ground. There's a very challenging political dynamic in Haiti right now. There is not an elected government, it's a government that was appointed after the assassination of the President in 2021. And it's never really quite found its footing. So, it struggles a bit with legitimacy. There's an issue there, and many are actually calling for a political reset, a conference of national unity, something that would allow the country to reset that temporary government so that it's more capable, more transparent, and more inclusive. And then the other parts of it, there's a lot of legacy issues that this force will have to overcome. There was one force that brought cholera into the country and another one that brought sexual predation. Those were isolated cases, but the cholera as an isolated case, still killed 10,000 people, so it wasn't insignificant, but there's, they'll come in, and there's actually things written into the mandate that try to preclude those sorts of things in the future. So, they have to establish a connection with the people, they'll need to get their rhythm with regards to training this new HMP, $100 million, frankly, might sound like a lot, it's actually not in peacekeeping missions, there's going to be a lot more funding required. $100 million dollars in in enablers, as they call it, for the United States will help them with intelligence and operations and logistics and things like that. That's basically what the Department of Defense can draw down to help support the force. But it's the first step again, of a very long process, they'll have to find the way to establish their dominance in the country against the gangs, but also be willing to negotiate with the gangs so that they don't have to fight all of them. And they can start to peel off some of the gang members in a way that would allow many of them to start to lay down their arms, as is the case at the end of any conflict.
Laura Coates: Who is in power in Haiti right now? There was the political structure, there has been such unrest and political strife there and also turnover for very tragic reasons. Who is in power and are they able to coordinate a government such that the funding and all the things are being sent will not be just turned over to corrupt hands?
Keith Mines: Yeah, I mean, the corruption I think, with this kind of a thing is not too much of an issue because the money doesn't go directly into the hands of the Haitian government. The more important part for the Haitian government is just, are they empowered enough and capable enough and do they have strong ministers and a strong government, and the answer is probably not. So, there's a lot of work just on government capacity, but the government is led by Prime Minister Henry. He fell into that position after the death, the assassination of President Moïse. He fell into the position, he had fallen into it, actually, just before the assassination, he was the acting prime minister, and then he fell into the job of having full executive authority. And there's a number of ideas on the table of how to reset that, but it's really important. Just government capacity has always been a problem in Haiti. And one of the things that I always note is that the internationals tend to just go outside the established government system. I hope this time we don't do that because what we often do is just say, well, the government's hard to work with, not very capable, let's just go you know, form alternate institutions, will have an alternate hospital system and an alternate security system and an alternate education system. And that's really been the struggle I think that Haiti's had, I think this time it would behoove the international community to buckle down and build that capacity and it can be done with advisors, with mentors, with funding and capacity building of the civil servants that need to run that government.
Laura Coates: Keith Mines, Director of the Latin American program at the United States Institute of Peace. Thank you for helping us to understand this issue. It's really important. Thanks for your time.
Keith Mines: Thanks Laura.