With its extensive history of political violence and coups d’état along with a succession of natural disasters in recent years, Haiti remains one of the most unstable countries in the western hemisphere. The deployment of a US-led operation in 1994 and three separate UN peacekeeping missions between 1993 and 2000 did little to improve the situation, and in 2004 Haitian politics was disrupted by another coup. In February 2004, an armed group known as the National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti launched an insurgency against the government, successfully capturing two of the largest cities in the country.1 Just weeks later, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the Haitian president, was taken from the country by US military personnel, supposedly after resigning voluntarily, and left in exile in the Central African Republic.2 With no legitimate government and an armed rebellion seizing territory, Haiti stood at the precipice of war.
In accordance with the Haitian constitution, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court took power as interim president following the unusual departure of Aristide. His first move was to invite the UN to deploy a peacekeeping mission to restore stability. Within a day, troops from the US arrived, soon followed by contingents from across the world. Brazil offered the largest contingent of the 7,000 soldiers and police who gathered under the banner of the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).3 Upon their arrival, MINUSTAH personnel worked to restore a ‘secure and stable environment’ and prevent the spread of armed conflict across the country.4 While efforts in this regard were largely successful, Haiti was hit by a series of hurricanes in 2008 and an earthquake in 2010 which killed 300,000 people and devastated much of the country’s infrastructure. In response, MINUSTAH was heavily reinforced. In 2017, MINUSTAH completed its mandate and was replaced with a much smaller follow-up mission, the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti, which focused on strengthening the rule of law.5 For all its faults (sexual abuse scandals and a cholera outbreak), the fifteen-year UN presence in Haiti prevented an incipient armed conflict from erupting, restored order, and helped foster democracy.