SEATTLE — In the past 10 years, the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has strongly assisted the nation in renewing its democratic institutions and reinstalling national elections. However, allegations of fraud have revived Haiti’s political crisis and threatened its development.
After armed conflict spread to cities across the country in 2004, the U.N. installed MINUSTAH to protect Haitians and restore stability. Additional forces were sent to aid the mission after the January 2010 earthquake devastated the country. Since 2011, the mission has focused on strengthening governmental institutions, restoring the political process and promoting human rights.
Haiti’s 2015 elections marked a new leaf for political stability. The holding of executive, legislative and local elections in August proved Haiti’s desire to attain a stable, democratic government. Preliminary presidential elections in October further demonstrated a commitment to democracy and represented a great success for MINUSTAH.
The elections have not been met without challenges, as Haitians have historically doubted the political process, including during the election of former President Michel Martelly in 2011. The October 2015 elections also saw public doubt and violent protests, but Haiti’s ability to respond accordingly demonstrated steps towards political stability.
Under the mandate of MINUSTAH, Haiti has established an improved National Police Force with support from the U.N. The police force better equips Haiti in responding to violent protests and security threats that had previously marred Haiti’s elections.
The preliminary presidential elections exhibited the efficacy of the newly renovated National Police Force. Haiti has taken a strong stance against instigators of violence and implements punitive action against violators, carefully monitoring election-related protests.
Despite Haiti’s success in establishing elections last year and its improved response to violence, public distrust for the electoral process prevented the induction of a new president. On February 7, former President Michel Martelly completed his term and stepped down without a successor.
A transitional government resulted in the installation of interim President Jocelerme Privert. During his term, claims of fraud in the October vote continued, and Haiti missed its April 24 election deadline.
President Privert stepped down in June, also without a successor. In response, the U.N. called on Haiti’s National Assembly to reach a viable agreement and return to constitutional order. On July 16, Haiti’s National Assembly unsuccessfully deliberated on an arrangement for provisional governance for the fourth time in four weeks.
The U.N. and Core Group cite the absence of a sufficient number of parliamentarians as the reason an agreement couldn’t be reached. As Haiti’s political crisis persists, the Core Group (Ambassadors from Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, U.S. and the European Union) has expressed its alarm for their economic development, stating, “Haiti continues to face serious long-term socio-economic and humanitarian challenges. These challenges cannot be fully addressed in an environment of institutional instability.”
As the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, the World Bank attributes Haiti’s high levels of poverty to its political instability and poor governance. Further, the current lack of strong constitutional order instigates political instability threatens the ground-breaking successes of MINUSTAH.
Undeterred by these setbacks, MINUSTAH continues to plan future goals in Haiti. In the next year, 15,000 police officers will receive training and on-the-ground conditions in Haiti will be improved through developing food and health security.
Haiti’s political crisis has drawn widespread attention and aid from the international community. With global assistance, stability in Haiti will continue to improve and MINUSTAH can achieve its end goal of prosperity and development in the island nation.
– Anna O’Toole