Haiti: Vote to Authorise Multinational Security Support Mission*
This afternoon (2 October), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution authorising member states to form and deploy a Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission to Haiti to help re-establish security in the country and build conditions conducive to holding free and fair elections. Ecuador and the US—the Council’s co-penholders on Haiti—produced the draft.
Following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, Haiti has descended into a multidimensional crisis characterised by political deadlock, extreme violence, and dire humanitarian conditions. At the time of writing, the country lacks a single democratically elected official, and the caretaker government led by Prime Minister Ariel Henry has been unable to reach a political settlement with opposition groups on the organisation of elections. Politically connected criminal gangs have overtaken an estimated 80 percent of Port-au-Prince, the capital, fuelling unprecedented levels of violence that the Secretary-General’s April report on Haiti described as “comparable to countries in armed conflict”. According to the Secretary-General’s July report, 2,094 homicides were committed in the country between January and June, an increase of 67.5 percent compared with the second half of 2022. In the absence of functioning state security institutions, a vigilante movement known as “bwa kwale” has emerged, resulting in the extrajudicial killing of over 200 individuals allegedly linked to gangs. About half of the country’s population is food insecure and nearly 200,000 people are internally displaced.
In October 2022, seeking to stabilise the country’s security situation and stem the multidimensional crisis, the Haitian government appealed for the immediate deployment of an “international specialised force” to temporarily reinforce the efforts of the Haiti National Police (HNP) to combat gangs. Subsequently, Secretary-General António Guterres submitted to the Security Council a special report outlining options to enhance security support for Haiti, requested by resolution 2645 of 15 July 2022, renewing the mandate of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH). The report recommended that “[o]ne or several Member States, acting bilaterally at the invitation of and in cooperation with the Government of Haiti, could deploy, as a matter of urgency, a rapid action force” to support the HNP. At the Council’s October 2022 meeting on Haiti, the US noted that it and then-Council member Mexico—co-penholders on Haiti at the time—were working on a resolution that would “authorize a non-UN international security assistance mission to help improve the security situation”. The US added that such a mission would be “led by a partner country with the deep, necessary experience required for such an effort to be effective” and would “operate under Chapter VII of the UN Charter”.
The initiative stalled in the absence of a country willing to lead such a mission, however. Unwilling to take charge of such a mission itself, the US nonetheless engaged in bilateral consultations with several regional countries, including Brazil and Canada, both of which also declined to take on this role. In a 10 February statement to the Organization of American States (OAS) Permanent Council, the US said it continued “to discuss with international partners the possibility of sending a multinational force composed primarily of police”. Similarly, at the 26 April Council briefing on Haiti, the US said it continued “to work with a growing number of international partners to support the urgent security needs in the country”. In May, Secretary-General Guterres acknowledged that the initiative appeared to have reached “a stalemate”.
As the situation in Haiti deteriorated further, the Haitian government reiterated its request for security support in a letter dated 7 June addressed to the Secretary-General. On 14 July, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2692, renewing BINUH’s mandate for another year and requesting the Secretary-General to report within 30 days on the full range of support options the UN can provide to enhance the security situation in Haiti, including but not limited to support for a non-UN multinational force or a possible peacekeeping operation.
On 29 July, ten months after Haiti’s initial request, Kenyan Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua announced in a statement that his country had agreed to “positively consider” leading a multinational force to Haiti. The statement said that Kenya would deploy a contingent of 1,000 police officers “to help train and assist Haitian police restore normalcy in the country and protect strategic installations”. Subsequently, several Caribbean countries—including Jamaica, Barbados, and Antigua and Barbuda—announced their intention to either participate or consider participating in the force. The pledges were welcomed by Haiti and the US, as well as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). In his report dated 14 August, requested by resolution 2692, the Secretary-General reiterated his recommendation to deploy a non-UN multinational force to Haiti and similarly welcomed the announcements of Kenya and partner countries.
From 21 to 23 August, a Kenyan delegation visited Haiti to assess needs on the ground and meet with Haitian and UN officials and members of the diplomatic community in the country. Following the assessment mission, Ecuador and the US introduced a draft resolution authorising the multinational force.
On 22 September, the US hosted a ministerial-level event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to discuss the proposed multinational force. At the meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged $100 million to support the deployment—pending Congressional approval—as well as logistical support in the form of intelligence, airlift, communications, and medical capabilities. Several other countries in attendance reportedly also announced pledges of support.
Council negotiations on the draft resolution lasted one month. The co-penholders circulated an initial draft of the resolution to Council members on 1 September and convened the first round of negotiations on 5 September. The co-penholders then circulated a revised draft on 6 September and convened another round of negotiations on 7 September. A second revised draft was circulated on 8 September, followed by a third round of negotiations on 9 September. On 14 September, the co-penholders circulated a third revised draft, after which negotiations were paused for the opening session of the UN General Assembly. Council members reconvened for a fourth round of negotiations on 25 September. On 26 September, the co-penholders circulated a fourth revised draft that they placed under silence procedure, which China broke. On 27 September, the co-penholders circulated a fifth revised draft, placing it under another silence procedure, which China broke again. On 29 September, the co-penholders circulated a sixth revised draft that they put in blue. China subsequently proposed additional edits to the draft, which was then further revised and finalised for a vote today (2 October).
It seems that in the final draft resolution in blue, the Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorises member states to form and deploy a MSS mission to support the efforts of the HNP to re-establish security in Haiti and to build security conditions conducive to holding free and fair elections. The draft resolution authorises the mission for an initial period of 12 months, which is to be reviewed nine months after the adoption of the resolution, and requires participating countries to notify the Secretary-General of their intention. It specifies that the cost of implementing the operation will be borne by voluntary contributions and support from individual countries and regional organisations.
The draft resolution apparently gives the MSS mission a two-fold mandate. One function is to provide operational support to the HNP to counter gangs, including by building its capacity through the planning and conduct of joint security support operations. The second is to support the HNP in the protection of critical infrastructure sites, such as airports, ports, schools, hospitals, and key intersections.
The draft requests the MSS mission leadership, in coordination with Haiti and other participating countries, to provide the Council with a concept of operations prior to deployment, including information such as the sequencing of deployment, mission goals, rules of engagement, exit strategy, number of personnel, and financial needs.
It seems that the draft resolution authorises the mission to take all necessary measures to fulfil its mandate but emphasises that all measures must adhere to international law, including international human rights law. It calls on the mission to establish an oversight mechanism to prevent human rights violations, in particular sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), and directs the mission to take necessary action to prevent and investigate such incidents, specifying a number of measures it must take in this regard, including vetting and training of personnel and the provision of safe and accessible complaint mechanisms. The draft resolution also stresses that any logistical support that the UN provides to the mission must abide by the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.
Additionally, it seems that the draft resolution in blue expands the arms embargo imposed by resolution 2653 of 21 October 2022, which established a sanctions regime on Haiti. While resolution 2653 called on countries to take necessary action to prevent the supply of arms to individuals and entities designated by the sanctions regime, the draft resolution in blue apparently expands the arms embargo to Haiti as a whole, with exceptions for the UN-authorised mission and Haitian security units working to promote peace and stability in the country. The 2653 Sanctions Committee may also grant exceptions on a case-by-case basis. (Currently, the sanctions regime only designates one individual, Jimmy Cherizier, also known as “Barbeque”, who heads an alliance of Haitian gangs called the “G9 Family and Allies”.)
It seems that Council negotiations on the draft resolution were difficult. One major issue was the timing and type of authorisation the Council was to provide. China’s initial position was apparently that negotiations on the issue were premature, as the Council should not authorise the mission until it had received additional information from Haiti and Kenya on their bilateral agreement regulating the deployment, including details such as its rules of engagement, areas of deployment, resourcing, and exit strategy. China also argued that the Council should be cautious about invoking its authority under Chapter VII of the UN Charter—which concerns enforcement measures—and that the Council does not necessarily need to authorise a bilaterally agreed deployment. Instead, it may consider other options such as welcoming or endorsing it.
To address China’s concerns, it seems that Council members requested Kenya and Haiti to submit information to the Council outlining their bilateral agreement and the operational details of the deployment. Those details were reportedly not provided, however, as the countries had not yet advanced to that stage of the planning process. Kenya apparently maintained that the deployment’s operational details should be agreed by all participating countries—not only bilaterally between Haiti and Kenya—and that it could not complete its own domestic assessment and approval process required to finalise these details until the Council had authorised the deployment. For this reason, Kenya and some Council members held the view that a Chapter VII authorisation was necessary and that a product retrospectively welcoming or endorsing the multinational force would not be sufficient.
In an apparent compromise, the draft resolution in blue authorises the MSS mission under Chapter VII but requires the mission to submit a concept of operations prior to deployment. It also requires participating countries to inform the Secretary-General of their intent. Additionally, the draft requests the mission to include information on its exit strategy in its regular reporting to the Council.
It seems that another challenging issue concerned the illicit flow of weapons into Haiti. China apparently proposed additional language strengthening the arms embargo under the 2653 Haiti sanctions regime, as well as mandating the mission to support the HNP’s efforts to combat illicit trafficking of arms and enhance border security. The expansion of the arms embargo proved contentious and was apparently not contained in the draft resolution that was initially put in blue. Following further engagement from China, however, the draft was further revised to reflect this proposal.
Post-script: On 2 October, the Security Council adopted resolution 2699, authorising member states to form and deploy a multinational security support mission to Haiti. The resolution received 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).