The United Nations Security Council has greenlit the deployment of an armed multinational force to Haiti, as the Caribbean nation wrestles with rampant gang violence and political paralysis.
The decision follows repeated calls for military assistance by Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the United States have also strongly urged the international community to back such a mission.
Thirteen members of the council voted in favor of the resolution, with Russia and China abstaining.
Though approved by the powerful UN Security Council, the force would not formally be under UN control. It is expected to be led by Kenya, which has pledged 1000 police to spearhead the mission. Several of Haiti’s Caribbean neighbors – Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, and Jamaica – have also offered support to the mission.
The “multinational security support” force will have a 12-month mandate in Haiti. The timing of its arrival is not set yet and more countries have been invited to participate. The resolution also calls for a global stop to arms sales to Haiti, except for approved security purposes.
Warring gangs control much of Port-au-Prince – Haiti’s capital city and main port – choking off vital supply lines to the rest of the country. Gang members have also terrorized the metropolitan population, forcing some 200,000 people to flee their homes amid waves of indiscriminate killing, kidnapping, arson and rape.
The mission is expected to strengthen local security and to reinforce the Haitian National Police in its pursuit of the gangs. Haiti’s security forces already receive some international support but remain understaffed and outgunned.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 22, Prime Minister Henry told fellow nations that it was “urgent” that the Security Council approve a military mission to reestablish order. Violence has exacerbated broader instability across the country, Henry said, noting that inflation has soared past 50%, leaving 4.9 million Haitians struggling to eat – a dismal new record for the country.
In a statement the same day, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the international community to support the plan and to provide assistance, including personnel, and said Washington was ready to provide “robust” financial and logistical assistance.
The Security Council has found itself in repeated deadlock in recent years amid deepening geopolitical rivalries. A statement by the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, described Monday’s decision on Haiti as “historic” and said the mission “speaks to the UN’s ability to galvanize collective action.”
Speaking in the Security Council after the vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun said his country had “a cautious and responsible approach” toward authorizing the use of force – but that in the case of Haiti, China’s abstention represented a “constructive position” toward the resolution.
Russia’s UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia criticized the move in remarks to the council, saying “that sending the armed forces of another state to any country even upon its request is an extreme measure that must be thoroughly thought through,” but noted “some positive elements” to the approved resolution.
Both Russia and China expressed approval of the resolution’s arms embargo.
Critics of the mission have previously pointed to scandals associated with UN peacekeeping missions in Haiti, including allegations of sexual abuse and the introduction of a deadly cholera epidemic, which killed nearly 10,000 people. Some Haitians also question the mandate of Prime Minister Henry, who took leadership of the country after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in 2021.
Henry has said that Haiti’s long-overdue elections cannot be held until the country reaches a basic level of security.
The United Nations’ special representative in Haiti, Maria Isabel Salvador, said her office would support the mission “within the limits of its mandate,” while emphasizing that “unlike recent international missions deployed in Haiti, the MSS mission is not a UN mission.”