Initially scheduled to last six months, the mission of Brazilian soldiers to guarantee stability in Haiti remained in the country from 2004 to 2017. The work of more than 30,000 soldiers was always praised by the Army as an example of intervention that would have put into practice a model Brazilian peacekeeping
In the first decade alone, the Brazilian military operation cost R$ 2.1 billion, although 35% of this amount was reimbursed by the UN. After the troops left, the entity still maintained a reduced team in the country until 2019.
But now the UN admits that the country is on the brink of collapse. Taken over by armed gangs, Haiti has turned the country into a battleground, especially after the political vacuum left by the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021.
In July this year alone, more than 200 people were killed in the capital as a result of violence between armed groups. This week, protesters clashed with police as looting and violence took over the streets.
Faced with a breakdown in security and the state, the UN is urging governments to reconsider deploying armed forces to help the country face yet another humanitarian crisis. But the debate also exposed a bitter reality: 15 years of peacekeeping operations and billions of dollars in aid have not stabilized the country.
The proposal to send troops comes a week after Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry called on the international community to send in a “specialized armed force”, fearing that the violence had already paralyzed the country.
In a 12-page letter to the Security Council and obtained by the UOL, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, supported the idea of urgently sending armed forces to the Caribbean Island. “Considering the extremely serious situation, international efforts to increase support for the Haitian National Police should aim to reduce the ability of armed gangs to block access and carry out attacks on strategic infrastructure and threaten the livelihoods of communities,” Guterres wrote. .
During the Trump administration, Guterres and other member states accepted pressure from the White House and reduced the scope of peacekeeping missions. In 2017, the UN reached an agreement to cut the budget for Peace Operations around the world by 600 million dollars. The reduction was the largest ever applied by the United Nations. But it was less than the White House’s call for blue helmets to have a $1 billion cut in their budget.
Under the new agreement, instead of a budget of 7.9 billion dollars, the total for peace operations would be 7.3 billion dollars. Missions in Darfur, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo would suffer the most. But pressure was put on each of the operations.
The approval of a cut went in the opposite direction of what Guterres had proposed. Despite advocating cuts in spending by the UN administration in New York and Geneva, the Portuguese proposed an increase in spending on blue helmets by more than 100 million dollars.
Now, with the new crisis in Haiti, the idea would be for the United Nations Security Council to “recognise” the force. But I wouldn’t need to authorize it.
Guterres’ proposal is divided into two phases. The most urgent need is to strengthen the capacity of the national police to fight and contain gangs. In the short term, the UN chief proposes that a rapid reaction force be deployed under the leadership of one country and composed of forces from one or more countries.
Funding would come from the international community. “If member states do not step forward with bilateral support and funding for this option, contributions under a United Nations operation may offer an alternative,” Guterres wrote. “However, a return to UN peacekeeping was not the authorities’ preferred option.”
This would just be a first phase. Guterres suggests that the mission would gradually be transformed into a police task force as the national police begin to restore security.
But for many within the UN, the return of a mission, even in a new format, must also come with a recognition that the current strategy of a humanitarian response is not working and is not sustainable. In the current situation, 1.3 million Haitians will soon be in a state of emergency.
The UN Envoy to Haiti, Helen La Lime, warned that “an economic crisis, a gang crisis and a political crisis have converged into a humanitarian catastrophe”.
In an internal report, PAHO admits that “Haiti has been experiencing a security crisis due to armed gang violence in Port-au-Prince and other cities, which has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the country.”
“Current vulnerabilities include malnutrition, internally displaced persons, non-functional structures, limited or no access to health services, fuel shortages, limited access to safe drinking water and poor sanitation and hygiene facilities, among others,” he says.
“These factors would have an impact on the dynamics of cholera resurgence and on disease severity in patients with acute diarrhea.” Access to affected areas is difficult and therefore timely assessment of the epidemiological situation and provision of health care for cases is complex,” he concludes.
Drinking water supplies were also affected, amplifying the cholera outbreak after three years without any cases. As of Sunday, there were 32 confirmed cases, 224 suspected, and 16 confirmed deaths.
Martin Griffiths, the UN’s head of humanitarian aid, has called for emergency funding, and warns that if the spread of the disease is left unchecked, it could lead to “cataclysmic levels of despair for the people of Haiti”.
Gangs blocked Haiti’s main fuel port, leading to shortages of gas and diesel, and forcing hospitals to close.
The crisis also led to a food shortage. Last week, La Lime also told the UN Security Council that 2,000 tonnes of food aid had been lost due to attacks on UN-run warehouses. As a result, 200,000 Haitians could be left without food for the next month.
Indeed, the executive director of the World Food Program (WFP), Valerie Guarnieri, stated that “the situation in Haiti has unfortunately reached new levels of despair.” With inflation at record levels, 40% of the country is relying on food assistance.