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Interview: Examining How a New Mission Could Help Haiti, a Country Affected by Gang Violence
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Interview: Examining How a New Mission Could Help Haiti, a Country Affected by Gang Violence

This week, the Security Council will review a proposed resolution regarding a fresh multinational mission not under the jurisdiction of the UN, but permitted to use force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

“This is not a typical or old kind of peacekeeping mission,” Ambassador Robert Rae of Canada, Chair of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, told UN News.

Retired Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz of Brazil stated in a separate interview with us that it is a misconception to believe that the UN is going to provide solutions, as the solutions will ultimately come from the Haitian people themselves.

He served as the Force Commander for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) from 2007 to 2009. He wrote the book “Improving Security of United Nations Peacekeepers: A Call for Change” and led the UN Secretary-General’s investigative mission in Ukraine.

We inquired about the potential appearance and logistics of a non-UN security operation, as well as the UN’s role in implementing the new mission.

Bob Rae emphasizes that this is not a traditional or conventional peacekeeping operation. The circumstances at hand are unique and do not involve armed conflict between two distinct groups based on ethnicity, region, or geography. Instead, the issue at hand is gang-related violence, including theft, murder, and sexual assault. Therefore, addressing the issue of gangs requires a different strategy.

The connection between BINUH, the UN’s mission in Haiti, and the Haitian National Police will be crucial in our efforts to understand and address the situation. BINUH has a well-established partnership with the Haitian National Police, and a major focus of current discussions is how the new mission will strengthen security measures and enhance the relationship with the current security forces in Haiti.

A burned car serves as a barricade on a street in Port-au-Prince. With over 150 gangs operating in and around the country, all roads in and out of Haiti's capital are now under some form of gang control.

© Giles Clarke

A vehicle that has been set on fire is being used to block a street in Port-au-Prince. Due to the presence of more than 150 gangs in and around the nation, all routes leading in and out of Haiti’s capital are currently under some type of gang authority.

General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz stated that a thorough understanding of the context is essential for a new mission in Haiti. This context is extremely complex, and it is crucial to consider all the variables present in the country. Additionally, it is important to understand the perspectives of local partners and the government. The success of any solutions implemented in Haiti relies on the collaboration of Haitians, the government, and the public. It is not realistic to expect the UN to single-handedly provide solutions; rather, they will arise from the efforts of the Haitian people.

Bob Rae stated that the Kenyans have taken on a crucial role, but they will not be working alone. All of us who have been involved in improving the Haitian National Police will be providing support as well. The effort will involve multiple countries, and several nations have already publicly expressed their support and plans for action. As soon as the Security Council approves the resolution, we can begin moving swiftly. We are eager to see an engagement process that is efficient and does not take too much time. It is important for us to respond quickly.

Ambassador Robert Rae of Canada addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s 78th session.

UN Photo/Cia Pak

Canada’s Ambassador Robert Rae speaks at the 78th session of the General Assembly’s general debate.

General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz: When you arrive in a country, you typically have four or five months to organize the mission, for all contingents to arrive on the ground, to organize police units and the work. The first step is about how to operate together with the Haitian police. It’s fundamental to have joint operations. It’s very important to establish a joint operation and establish a very professional relationship with the Haitian police.

Bob Rae stated that the mission ahead would not be easy and instead would be a challenging endeavor. However, he emphasized that the entire United Nations is united in acknowledging that a comprehensive approach to security is necessary in order to effectively address other pressing issues. The issue of security is rapidly becoming a top priority. He also noted the importance of learning from the past experiences of others before embarking on such a mission.

I understand the need for all foreign forces to abide by the law and respect human rights. This will be a key topic during discussions at the Security Council. It is important to acknowledge that we are dealing with extremely violent and ruthless individuals operating in Haiti.

Displaced men, women, and children sheltering in a boxing arena in downtown Port-au-Prince after fleeing their homes during gang attacks in August 2023.

© Giles Clarke

In August 2023, individuals of all genders and ages who were forced to leave their residences due to gang violence sought refuge in a boxing arena located in central Port-au-Prince.

General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz emphasizes the importance of personal experience in intelligence work. The effectiveness of one’s work greatly depends on access to reliable information. Dealing with street gangs is particularly challenging in this field as they blend in with the general population and do not wear uniforms. As a foreigner, it is crucial to exercise caution and not mistake criminals for innocent civilians. To successfully distinguish between the two, it is essential to have experienced individuals to organize intelligence. This highlights the significance of maintaining contact with Haitian authorities and police in this line of work.

Bob Rae stated that Canada has made significant investments in gathering and analyzing information about gang structures and funding sources, leading to a better understanding of their operations and the individuals involved. This improved information has revealed the extreme level of brutality exhibited by these gangs.

UN News

From 2007 to 2009, Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, a retired Lieutenant General, was in charge of leading the United Nations peacekeeping forces in Haiti.

UN News

General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz stated that the newly appointed Commander and professionals are competent and capable of fulfilling their duties. However, it is important for them to recognize that the issue at hand is not solely related to public security. They will be operating within a complex political problem. The root of the issue goes beyond public security and is more focused on effective public administration, government performance, and coordination. The presence of numerous international organizations in the area often leads to poor coordination. It is crucial to acknowledge that the main concern is accountability, rather than simply a matter of public security.

According to Bob Rae, the high-level meeting on Haiti, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last Thursday, resulted in a strong consensus regarding international development. The focus was on finding a non-military approach to the intervention, specifically through police support for existing Haitian efforts. Additionally, there must be increased efforts in development and humanitarian aid. The current situation in Haiti is a serious crisis that requires a comprehensive intervention, rather than a singular focus.

BINUH will play an essential role, along with other crucial positions. One of their main tasks is determining the language of the [Security Council] resolution, which will outline the overall purpose of the mission. However, I am unable to provide further details as the resolution has not yet been approved. We are all eagerly awaiting its passing and will make our assessments based on its contents.