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How can the UN best support Kenya’s Mission to Haiti? Delay provides time to reflect

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Picture: AFP / File – Protesters in Haiti’s capital lash out at UN peacekeepers and the government, blocking roads and attacking foreigners’ vehicles. Kenya offered to lead an ad-hoc coalition mission lin 2023 after Haiti, overrun with criminal activity by armed gangs, requested a support deployment from the Security Council in 2022, the writer says.

By Eugene Chen

On Friday, January 26, 2024, Kenya’s High Court blocked the deployment of Kenyan police to Haiti, throwing the timeline for the deployment of the Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission to Haiti further into doubt months after the mission was authorised by the United Nations (UN) Security Council. Kenya offered to lead an ad-hoc coalition mission last summer after Haiti, overrun with criminal activity by armed gangs, requested a support deployment from the Security Council in 2022.

Although an appeal is possible, the mission — which is not being deployed through the UN — also faces resourcing challenges, and Kenyan government officials have insisted that the deployment of the Kenyan contingent will only take place if the costs of deployment are met by UN member states. Although the Security Council made clear that the mission should be funded through voluntary contributions, support from the UN through assessed contributions may become necessary to address capability and resourcing gaps, as well as to address other concerns that have been raised regarding accountability and strategic coherence with other international efforts.

There is no playbook for this type of mission, and it is unlikely that it will be able to effectively operate without dedicated logistical support with adequate, predictable, and sustainable funding. This further delay in the deployment of the MSS provides an opportunity to reflect on the support required to provide the mission with the greatest chance of success in implementing an extremely difficult mandate. This article looks at the challenges and options.

Background

In October 2022, the Haitian authorities requested the deployment of an international specialised armed force to address the insecurity resulting from criminal action by armed gangs. In July 2023, the Government of Kenya indicated its willingness to lead this force, to which other countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, and Jamaica have also pledged to contribute. On October 2, 2023, the Security Council adopted resolution 2699 authorising the deployment of the MSS mission in Haiti. On November 16, the Kenyan parliament approved the deployment of 1,000 police, though, as noted above, the deployment was temporarily blocked by the Kenyan High Court in a ruling issued on January 26, 2024.

Despite its authorisation by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the MSS mission is not a UN peacekeeping operation. Instead, it is a multinational operation conducted by an ad-hoc coalition tasked “to support the efforts of the Haitian National Police (HNP) to re-establish security in Haiti and build security conditions conducive to holding free and fair elections”. Although billed as a law enforcement mission, its purpose — to help the HNP to combat gangs — implies a more kinetic mandate than what a typical peacekeeping operation is expected to undertake, even if not billed as a peace enforcement mandate.

Four Challenges Facing the MSS

Beyond the domestic political and judicial challenges to the deployment of the Kenyan contingent, the MSS mission faces several major challenges. One pertains to the financing of the mission. Security Council resolution 2699 states that the costs of the MSS mission “will be borne by voluntary contributions and support from individual Member States and regional organisations”.

Although the Security Council allowed for the possibility of providing a UN support package, it specified that the costs of any such package were to be subject to “full financial reimbursement to the United Nations through available voluntary contributions”. A UN trust fund has been established, as requested by the Security Council, despite the fact that the Secretary-General has repeatedly indicated — in the context of reports on support to African-led peace support operations — that logistical support packages to non-United Nations forces should not be funded through trust funds, as support packages are ineffective unless they have adequate, predictable, and sustainable funding through assessed contributions.

The Kenyan interior minister informed a parliamentary committee in November that “the resources for this mission will be arranged or mobilised among the member states of the United Nations” and asserted that the overall budget for a one-year deployment would be $600 million*. He stressed that, “unless all resources are mobilised and availed, our troops will not leave the country”. Although the US has pledged $100 million to support the MSS and a further $100 million in in-kind support, this contribution falls short of the estimated annualised cost of the mission. While a number of other member states (France, Canada, etc.) have committed funding, the amounts pledged so far have been modest.

A second set of challenges relates to the absence of a ready playbook for the type of mandate that the MSS mission is expected to implement. Some elements of the mission mandate can build off of existing policy and practice from UN peacekeeping operations, such as on urgent temporary measures and support to national police. On other aspects, Kenya and the other contributing countries will have to contend with differing interpretations of the mandate on rules of engagement and the use of force, on command and control, and on accountability, not only among its contributing countries, but also with the host government and members of the Security Council.

Kenya and the other contributing countries will also need a shared training curriculum and the capacity to deliver the training consistently across all personnel that will be deployed. Compounding these challenges is the fact that, although the mission planning process has benefitted from access to UN policy and practice, it will not be able to benefit from the dedicated structures and resources that are in place to backstop UN peace operations from UN headquarters.

A third set of challenges relates to the constellation of entities already present in Haiti. Co-ordination between the MSS mission and existing UN entities already present in Haiti — including the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) and the UN country team — is essential. After all, BINUH already has a mandate to support Haitian institutions and to build the operational and administrative capacities of the Haitian National Police, and the activities of the various UN funds and programmes in Haiti include delivery of humanitarian assistance as well as activities in areas such as protection, peacebuilding, and the rule of law. Co-ordinated approaches and means of information sharing will be necessary to ensure that the various actors are not working at cross-purposes but are in fact complementing each other’s efforts.

A fourth set of challenges — and perhaps the most fundamental — has to do with the absence of a broader political strategy within which the mission can operate. The challenges facing Haiti are dire and multifaceted. However, the MSS mission does not provide solutions to the fundamental social, political, and economic issues that lead to the absence of functioning government structures and democratic institutions. We know from decades of experience that overly securitised international approaches do not themselves create lasting stability and can serve to exacerbate risk factors for violence. For stabilisation efforts to work, they must be part of a broader strategy that includes both political engagement as well as longer-term peacebuilding efforts.

Solutions for better co-ordination, logistical support

In his letter of August 14, 2023 to the Security Council, the Secretary-General outlined two sets of options for the configuration of the United Nations in Haiti to complement the efforts of a multinational force, namely:

  1. the provision of a tailored suite of dedicated logistical support to both the multinational force and the Haitian National Police, and
  2. the strengthening of BINUH.

Although the Security Council did not take action on either set of options, they offer a starting point for designing an approach that addresses the obstacles facing the MSS.

As noted above, it is unlikely that the MSS mission will be able to operate effectively without dedicated logistical support with adequate, predictable, and sustainable funding. The deployment of standalone UN support offices to deliver such packages, such as in the case of UN support to African Union operations in Somalia, has become increasingly popular in certain circles, but this is not the only model through which support can be delivered.

Logistical support funded through assessed contributions can also be delivered through an existing peace operation. In the case of Haiti, an enhanced BINUH could also be mandated to deliver a logistical support package to the MSS force. Such an approach, although unconventional, would have several key benefits. First and foremost, it would ensure that the activities of both the MSS and the UN would be implemented as part of a common political strategy under the oversight of the Security Council. Having BINUH responsible for providing logistical support to both BINUH and the MSS would also help ensure that the activities of both entities, including their expansion of presence beyond Port-au-Prince, can be done in a fully coordinated manner.

Beyond helping to better co-ordinate the activities of the MSS with the efforts of the UN system in Haiti, this would enhance alignment in the support provided by both BINUH and the MSS mission to the Haitian National Police. It would also help ensure that adequate support is also provided through the UN to Haitian judicial and corrections capacities and institutions to complement the enforcement activities of the MSS mission.

Delivery of support through BINUH would also facilitate implementation of the human rights due diligence policy and allow the UN to assist the MSS and its contributing countries with fulfilling their obligations under international law and meeting best practices with regards to conduct and discipline.

Enhancement of the BINUH mandate should not be limited, however, to providing support to the MSS mission. The Secretary-General’s August 2023 letter suggested other substantive areas in which the BINUH mandate should be enhanced.

These should be seriously considered by the Security Council, but where the funds and programmes of the UN country team already have capacity and expertise in these areas, the Secretariat should avoid the usual temptation of expanding the BINUH footprint to implement new mandates but should instead take advantage of the structural integration of the UN presence in Haiti and delegate the implementation of those activities to the relevant country team partners.

This would help ensure clarity in roles and responsibilities while also helping to ensure continuity of programmes and the maintenance of institutional memory during the eventual drawdown of the mission, therefore helping to avoid some of the recurrent challenges that face the UN during mission transitions.

Conclusion

In his policy brief on A New Agenda for Peace, the Secretary-General emphasised that “peace operations must be significantly more integrated and should leverage the full range of civilian capacities and expertise across the United Nations system and its partners, as part of a system of networked multilateralism and strengthened partnerships”.

Indeed, the situation in Haiti is an example of a complex crisis in which no single actor has the tools or resources necessary to assist the population in forging a path towards sustainable peace. A multinational force such as the MSS mission can — if well-designed — help counter the hold of gangs over much of the country. However, the MSS mission does not itself have the ability to resolve the more fundamental political and economic drivers of violence and instability in Haiti.

An enhanced BINUH mandate that provides the UN mission with a mandate to deliver, under UN assessed contributions, a support package to the MSS mission, is an example of how a more modular approach to mission design can potentially bring together a range of UN and non-UN partners — each with its own mandates, procedures, and areas of comparative advantage — more effectively in support of a common overarching strategy.

This would allow the MSS mission to operate as part of a fully co-ordinated approach with the UN that also leverages the political engagement of the UN through BINUH and the full range of capabilities of the UN country team. Such an approach is one that member states should seriously consider in the days ahead to ensure that the opportunity provided by the authorisation of the MSS mission is not squandered, assuming that the legal challenges to its deployment can be overcome.

Eugene Chen is the director of the Prevention, Peacebuilding, and Protracted Crises programme at the NYU Centre on International Co-operation.

This article was published on Global Observatory

* It is not immediately clear what is included in this figure. Other sources report a lower figure for the Kenyan deployment, at $240 million per year