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iconCRITICAL ANALYSIS Updated March 30, 2009

Section Contents:  MINUSTAH - Disappointing results | Acceptance and debate over the nature of the mandates | Sex scandals and internal corruption in MINUSTAH | The Latin American presence in MINUSTAH  | Analysis of Canadian involvement

MINUSTAH - Disappointing results

Despite some seemingly successful moments, the UN's intervention as a whole has to be seen as a failure (sometimes in conjunction with the OAS; a failure attributable as much to the predatory tendencies of the Haitian governments which succeeded each other during this period, as to insufficient follow-through on policies promoted by the international community. Furthermore, the principle criticism levelled from all sides is that these missions left too soon without finishing what they started, that is, the real consolidation of the existing institutions (the national police and the judiciary).

The different missions expressed the necessity of rebuilding the state by strengthening the institutions which constitute it. However the costs involved in creating such a process are simply too high for a country which, in the end, does not hold a strategic interest. In addition, numerous studies have underlined that the poor understanding of the Haitian context by MINUSTAH rendered it incapable of returning permanent security to the capital.

Acceptance and debate over the nature of the mandates

At no point was the presence of foreign military troops unanimously accepted in Haiti. From MIF to MINUSTAH, numerous voices were raised demanding the departure of the troops, denouncing it as foreign occupation, which for certain people had interrupted the eventual confrontation necessary between a hated regime and its numerous opponents. During the transition government (2004-2006), on several occasions, accusations of the violation of the rights of Haitians were levelled against the military component of MINUSTAH.

Following Préval's election, the Security Council requested a re-evaluation of the mandate in order to determine whether it should be pursued as is, or not. For months different sectors in Haiti had been demanding changes to the mandate such that the military contingent, seen as of little use or even too tolerant to the destabilizing elements, be replaced by engineers and heavy machinery brought to Haiti to contribute to the reconstruction of the country's infrastructure.

However, even if undesirable, this military presence is seen by many Haitians as indispensable in the current circumstances and acts as a deterrent to all categories of bandits and armed gangs. Furthermore, MINUSTAH has helped the government and the national police substantially in their struggle against violence, drugs and the maintenance of order in the country at an acceptable level.

Sex scandals and internal corruption in MINUSTAH

Like many other UN missions, MINUSTAH has had its share of sex scandals. In 2005, following mounting criticism, the UN adopted a policy of zero tolerance, such that soldiers accused of misconduct are repatriated, tried and punished in their country of origin. At the end of November 2007, 108 Sri Lankan soldiers accused of sexual exploitation were repatriated. The minister for women and women's rights insisted that the accused be tried immediately on their return to their country. Since the arrival of MINUSTAH in Haiti, women's rights organisations (SOFA, Kay Fanm) have received several complaints of rapes committed by soldiers, police and civilian personnel.

The UN equally investigated fraud allegation and mismanagement in acquisitions in the context of its operations. Accusations were made against five employees for having influenced an oil delivery contract to the value of $10 million US per year to a Haitian company, Distributeurs Nationaux SA.

 The Latin American presence in MINUSTAH 

Seen by some as a regional effort in solidarity, the significant presence of troops, police and civilian personnel of Latin American origin demonstrates those countries' interest in the mission. 80% of the military and police force comes from the South American continent [Mullet, 2007].

Despite sending additional police in 2008, close to 95% of the Latin American resources were military. Only 11% of the police force and 11% of the international civilian force came from the Latin American countries. The heads of these countries repeatedly complained that they should be better represented in the two above-mentioned areas of the Mission.

Brazil's presence in the mission is highly visible as the leader of the military component. The Brazilian supporters of this presence argued that Brazil had to assume its regional leadership responsibilities to be recognized as such in international forums (mainly within the UN), and it represented an opportunity to put into action its multilateral policies. Indeed, this participation, supported by the Brazilian congress, could have had positive internal consequences as well as the external ones. It would increase the dialogue already in existence with countries of the sub-region (albeit in different contexts, Mercosur, for example) such as Argentina and Chile, in cooperation with the other members of the Core Group (Canada amongst others) in the context of joint projects. However both the Left and the Right denounced this involvement as an exercise in regional neo-imperialism, or even the subordination of Brazilian interest to that of the United States.

The presence of Latin American countries in MINUSTAH has been questioned and the arguments brandished for national autonomy and freedom of action, responsibility towards the UN, do not hold for certain critics. Chile was the first country in the region, from March 2004, to send troops to the multinational force. Argentina and Brazil followed in June. These decisions were taken in a hasty manner, without real coherence and with the absence of regional coordination and planning. From this critical point of view, the presence of these countries is counter-current to the policy of regional peace and security. Individual national interests took precedence over the collective interests of the region and the Latin American decision regarding Haiti cannot be interpreted as an altruistic act whose primary aim is the democratic stability or the defence of the rights of the Haitian people . 

Analysis of Canadian involvement

Canada's involvement can be defined as a cooperation which necessitates finding a balance between the results desired in the short term in order to maintain stability, and those for the long term which could bring more lasting development.

However, Muggah identifies weaknesses of Canadian cooperation in governance; in particular, he criticizes the simplistic understanding of the local context, which results in a lack of appropriate entry points as well as in difficulties of achieving coherence with partners. For example, Canada has been involved in the reform of the justice system from the mid-1990s, favouring infrastructure (building county courts, reinforcing clerks' offices) to the detriment of the heart of the problem - the interweaving of the judicial and executive branches. Its involvement in the security sector is following the same path, that is to say, by guaranteeing financial support for the reconstruction of the national police headquarters, border posts and the police academy.  All this without entering into the constructive debate over what type of security, what kind of police force and what their relationship with the judicial system will be - questions that are essential to the establishment of rule of law in Haiti.

Canada is a player committed for the long term, but one that has had changing priorities as Muggah has explained. Canadian cooperation is learning lessons from its successes and failures. The emphasis it now seeks to place on good governance, although justified, seems contradictory to the way aid has been funnelled over the course of the last three years. It will be useful to pursue the analysis of the allocation of this cooperation over the next few years.

Finally, it is important to underline here that many voices were raised in Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and in Latin America, on the morning of 1 March 2004, denouncing the participation of their countries in what they called a 'military coup' in Haiti. More moderate opinion questioned Canadian military intervention and shared along with their Caribbean partners their disappointment at having, in their eyes, abandoned too soon the diplomatic efforts underway.




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