Harmonising climate diplomacy with the Haiti mission

Tuesday, October 17th, 2023 05:45 | By
G9 gang coalition leader Jimmy Cherizier, aka Barbecue (right) talks to reporters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on October 6, 2021. PHOTO/AP
FILE - Flanked by members of the G9 gang coalition, leader Jimmy Cherizier, aka Barbecue, right, talks to reporters near the perimeter wall that encloses Terminal Varreux, the port owned by the Mevs family, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 6, 2021. The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Friday, Oct. 21, 2022 demanding an immediate end to violence and criminal activity in Haiti and imposing sanctions on Barbecue, a former police officer. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)
G9 gang coalition leader Jimmy Cherizier, aka Barbecue (right) talks to reporters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on October 6, 2021. PHOTO/AP

Climate diplomacy must take centre stage in Kenya’s leadership role within the Multinational Security Support Mission in Haiti.

While the visible challenges in Haiti may include street gangs, the root causes of instability lie in the breakdown of institutions, driven by poverty, decades of social injustice, and environmental degradation aggravated by climate change. As observed by the Brazilian representative at the UN Security Council, a comprehensive approach is needed to address the underlying issues (“polycrisis”).

The approval of UN Security Council Resolution 2699 in 2023 set in motion a process to assist Haiti in addressing its security nightmare. However, the multidimensional nature of the Haitian crisis demands a concerted effort, utilising a systemic approach supported by climate and food system diplomacy.

The Root for peace: Uncovering climate security challenge in Haiti and what to do about them report should inform the preparation of the Multinational Security Support Mission, led by Kenya. The report emphasises security challenges are symptomatic of deep-rooted issues that require collaboration and cooperation. As highlighted during UN Security Council proceedings by Brazil and the US, addressing the underlying causes of insecurity and instability is an urgent necessity.

A close examination of Haiti’s security challenges reveals that social, political, economic, and environmental factors are at the heart of the crisis. Notably, the worsening climate crisis has exacerbated the issues faced by Haitians. Natural disasters like the 2010 and 2021 earthquakes, Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Matthew, and environmental degradation have contributed significantly to the current calamity.

Institutional breakdown is another contributing factor to Haiti’s challenges. As Francis Fukuyama points out in his book Trust: The social values and the creation of prosperity, societies with low levels of trust may struggle to seize opportunities. The Roots for Peace report underscores that trust among the Haitian people in existing political institutions is extremely low. Given the chequered history of international community involvement, the mission faces a formidable task that necessitates creativity and innovation.

Kenya’s policy of good neighbourliness is a strong starting point for leading the mission. As Kenya conducts reconnaissance and prepares for its role, it is critical for the pathways and recommendations outlined in the Roots for Peace report to guide the process.

Drawing from Elinor Ostrom’s writings on institutions, a bottom-up approach should be embraced to empower Haitians to take charge of the transformation process. This aligns with the recommendation to decentralise responses and empower local communities. It is essential to embed behavioural scientists within the mission to understand and underscore the role played by institutions like “Lakou,” a self-organising model among the Haitian people.

The Lakou model has a historical legacy rooted in the resistance to the reintroduction of plantation farming by colonialists, explaining the low level of trust in government institutions in Haiti. Any sustainable peace process must involve these institutions in peace-building.

Given Haiti’s heavy reliance on agriculture and the disproportionate impact of climate change, climate diplomacy should be central to the mission. Climate diplomacy should be integrated into all policy proposals to enhance adaptation.

Climate and food system diplomacy call for collaboration across various actors and sectors. While states offer support, a strong focus must be placed on transforming the food system to revitalise the connection between Haitians and their natural environment.

— The writer is Climate Change and Food system communication consultant 

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