United Nations Missions in Haiti Research Paper

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United Nations Missions in Haiti

The United Nations has been one of the most controversial and at the same time important constructions of the 20th century in terms of the study of international relations. It has been a constant subject for study and interpretation, for criticism and admiration; still, the peace related missions extended throughout the world since 1945 offered a proof of the UN's dedicated goal for humanity and peace. In this sense, one of the most significant missions the UN has deployed in its history is in Haiti, a country torn by war and civil unrest, with human losses and financial distress. However, the UN presence in the country, in different forms, shapes, and mandates has been the cornerstone of the country's attempt to recover.

The present paper assesses the way in which the presence of the UN in Haiti has contributed to the improvement of the situation in the country and may further do so in the future. Indeed, even in Haiti the presence of the UN has been controversial especially given the current situation in the country. At the same time though, the changes must be assessed from all perspectives and therefore, a thorough analysis must follow the tracks of the successive missions in Haiti and provide an objective perspective. It should be underlined however that the scope of the present paper is the UN presence in Haiti and thus the actual historical events that took place a the time of the UN missions are not part of the present paper.

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The values, norms, and principles of the United Nations are enshrined in the type of action the organization tends to follow. More precisely, the peacekeeping missions are part of a global approach to peace which includes the core values of the UN and its predecessor, the League of Nations. The United Nations came into being after assiduous talks and discussions among the representatives of the major powers that were fighting the Second World War, the U.S., the UK, and Russia. The agreement was reached on June 26, 1945 when the UN Charter was signed in San Francisco by 50 states

. However, from the very beginning, there have been numerous arguments about the actual strength of the Act and the system it had set in place. In this respect, the mere existence of the "Four Policemen" as leading the world body through the Security Council represented a milestone which would become a subject for debate in the years to come

. The principles of the peacekeeping operations lie in the attempt to advance peace and security. Better said, "traditionally, peacekeeping operations a primary military model of observing ceasefires and the separation of forces after inter-state wars. Today, it has evolved into a complex model of many elements - military, police, and civilians - working together to lay the foundations for sustainable peace."

Therefore, the aim of the peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peace enforcing missions is the eventual establishment of peace and the reconstruction of a destroyed country or region.

The United Nations in Haiti

Haiti has had a long tradition of conflicts and events which forever scared the history of the country. The history of the UN in Haiti started officially in 1990 as the organization was requested to supervise the election process after the departure of life long president Jean Claude Duvalier. The procedures of the UN and those of the Security Council in charge of the DPKO (Department for Peacekeeping Operations) require that in order to establish a mission, the state where the mission would be deployed as well as the parties to the conflict would have to ask for the UN assistance

. This request officially marks the parties' commitment to a peaceful future. However, there have been situations in which even if the request from all the parties pointed to such a conclusion, the country to be dragged into a war, in the presence of the UN peacekeepers. Such a situation was seen in Rwanda, as the genocide from the early '90s marked crucially the way in which the United Nations perceived the peacekeeping operations in a conflict area in terms of humanitarian efforts


The first mission of the UN in Haiti was therefore the United Nations Observer Group for the Verification of the Elections in Haiti (UNUVEH). It was established in 1990 and observed the elections which resulted in Jean Bertrand Aristide being the new president of Haiti. However, the historical background in the country determined a coup d'etat and in 1991 the president fled in exile. There is little information on this mission largely because it marked the beginning of the UN presence in Haiti. However, the coup was an extremely important moment in the history of Haiti because it provided glimpse of the region's tradition in military power takeovers as well as political instability. In this sense, "the removal from office of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Catholic priest and leader of the liberation theology movement, only months after his election as President of Haiti was orchestrated by the military/police and heralded a return to Haiti's cycle of violence and oppression. His ouster and the subsequent three years of tyranny by the de facto government of Lieutenant General Raul Cedras branded Haiti as a pariah"

The UN mission had respected its mandate as mere observers of the elections process, without any interference and obstruction. Moreover, at the time, it was considered that Haiti was, for the first time in its modern history, witnessing a democratic process. Therefore, at the moment of the ousting of president Artistide, elected with more than 70% of the votes, the UN strongly condemned the human rights abuses, the crimes, and violence committed on the Haiti territory. At the same time though, there was no clear resolution from the Security Council in terms of the actual deployment of forces. The only resolutions provided during the three years of military power were provided by the General Assembly. In one such occasion, in Rez no 138 of 1991, the General Assembly "strongly condemns the over through of the constitutionally elected President, Jean Bertrand Aristide, and the use of violence and military coercion and the subsequent violation of human rights in that country"

. Therefore, up to a certain point, the UN strongly supported Aristide as he embodied at the time a new changed future. Thus, the first UN presence in Haiti was not remarkable by any standards. It followed its mandate and supported change which came in the form of democratic elections, as considered at the time.

The coup d'etat which followed in 1991 however gave a new perspective on the specificities of the region and of the country in particular. More precisely, it pointed out that the situation in Haiti demanded much closer attention and involvement at the level of the international community as well as at the level of the United Nations.


The second mission in Haiti was the International Civilian Mission in Haiti, established in February 1993

. The deployment of the mission was as well the result of a special request made by president in exile Aristide who was viewed as the legitimate representative of Haiti. In this sense, "on 8 January 1993, President Aristide, in a letter addressed to the Secretary-General, requested, among other things, the following: (a) the deployment by the United Nations and OAS of an international civilian mission to monitor respect for human rights and the elimination of all forms of violence; and (b) the establishment of a process of dialogue among the Haitian parties, under the auspices of the Special Envoy, with a view to reaching agreements for the solution of the political crisis and the designation of a Prime Minister by the President to lead a Government of national concord aimed at the full restoration of democratic order in Haiti"

The request of Aristide was accepted by the other parties involved and the UN sent a Special Envoy in the country which soon led to the creation of the International Civilian Mission. One of the most important aspects of this mission regarded its composition. In this sense, this was to be the first joint mission between the UN and the Organization of African States (the OAS). This was a determining fact largely because it offered the opportunity of regional arrangements such as the OAS to become actively involved in peacekeeping operations in their region. This involvement determined a different more appropriate adaptation of the traditional peacekeeping operations to the specificities of the ground.

Another crucial aspect of the International Civilian Mission was related to the actual mission statement of the operation. The mandate underlined the lessons learned by the international community throughout the history of peacekeeping operations. Better said, after the massacres in Rwanda as well as the atrocities in Somalia, the international community adopted a new set of rules based on human rights and intervention to stop abuses and crimes against humanity

. The doctrine of human rights… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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