Averting climate catastrophe and giving hope to Haiti


The press release accompanying the latest report of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on the dismal state of implementation by governments of their climate pledges carries this title:

Inadequate progress on climate action makes rapid transformation of societies only option

The Aljazeera.com headline of the same day and its follow-on banner read:

UN warns the planet is heading for ‘climate catastrophe’

UN Environment Programme reports that implementation of current government climate pledges will lead to a 2.4-2.6C temperature rise this century.

This projected temperature rise stands in marked contrast to the landmark Paris Agreement commitment by nations to keep the global temperature rise well below 2° C and aiming — to be safe — for 1.5°C.

In light of the report, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned:

The window to take urgent climate action is closing rapidly. Unless countries dramatically scale up their efforts to counter the climate crisis, the world faces a global catastrophe.

UNEP executive director Inger Andersen adds:

We had our chance to make incremental changes, but that time is over. Only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster.

The UNEP website summary of the report states:

As climate impacts intensify, the Emissions Gap Report 2022 finds that only an urgent system-wide transformation can avoid an accelerating climate disaster.

The report looks at how to deliver this transformation through action in the electricity supply, industry, transport and buildings sectors, and the food and financial systems.

The UNEP findings and the Secretary-General’s warning come less than two weeks before the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), where global leaders will discuss ways to tackle the climate emergency — from building resilience and adapting to its impacts to financing climate action.

Developing countries suffering consequences of our actions without adequate support

As of August 2022, 7.1 million Somalis cannot meet their daily food requirements today and require urgent humanitarian assistance, with more than 200,000 facing catastrophic hunger.  – World Food Programme

On the vital issue of financing, at the UN climate change conference in 2009, rich countries pledged to give low-income states — those on the frontlines of climate change they did not create — $100bn a year by 2020 to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis. The Green Climate Fund was created as a way to deliver the money.

However, report after report indicates that only a fraction of the money rich countries say they have provided even reaches the Green Fund. Perhaps the most spectacular — and hideous — example of this failure is that climate crisis funds are not reaching Somalia, facing outright famine due to the climate crisis.

Martin Griffiths, the UN’s Humanitarian Chief comments:

The truth of the matter is that we are scrambling to try to understand where the climate money is that was promised a decade ago. Where is it? Who’s holding it and who is not delivering it to places like Somalia?

The UN has warned that a state of famine is likely to be declared in areas of Somalia by the end of the year as the country continues to struggle with drought and flare-ups of conflict.

Griffiths further comments:

Somalis are the victims of our behaviour, the victims of our habits — not of theirs. And yet we haven’t even managed to get to them the money that we pledged nobly some time ago for exactly this kind of purpose.

Ukraine war impeding vital scientific research to combat climate change

As we have charted in past blog posts, Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the Western response to it — including wide-ranging sanctions — have exacerbated climate change and stalled many developed countries’ efforts to prevent climate catastrophe and to mitigate its worst effects in the most vulnerable countries — not to mention the environmental damage in Ukraine itself that grows worse by the day.

Now a new report from Nature.com entitled Seven Ways the war in Ukraine is changing global science (27 July 2022) outlines the negative impact on vital scientific research itself.

They write:

The crisis has created economic and political rifts that have already affected research in physics, space, climate science, food security and energy. A prolonged conflict could foment a significant realignment of scientific-collaboration patterns.

These include the disruption of climate responses and a serious sustainable development setback.

In the view of Ceasefire.ca:

Time is quite literally running out for Western governments to accept the basic reality that our planet cannot afford a prolonged war and they therefore must forthwith commit to supporting a credible, internationally facilitated peace process for Ukraine.


Despite the polarizing Ukraine war, and consistent with recent UN peacekeeping mandate renewals since the Russian invasion, on 21 October 2022 the United Nations passed Resolution 2653, which, inter alia, demands an immediate cessation of violence and criminal activities in Haiti and

Urges all political actors to constructively engage in meaningful negotiations to overcome the current political stalemate in order to allow the holding of inclusive, free and fair legislative and presidential elections, as soon as the local security situation permits.

Before examining this resolution further, it is useful to briefly recall the dire situation in Haiti — the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with more than half its population living below the World Bank poverty line.

Dr. Stephen Baranyi, a professor from the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa and an expert on Haiti, elaborates on that country’s “multi-dimensional crisis”:

It is ruled by an unelected government with little popular legitimacy; violent and well-resourced gangs now control key neighborhoods of the capital Port-au-Prince, other parts of the country and critical infrastructure such as the main fuel depot.

He continues:

The gangs are responsible for about 1000 kidnappings since January; they also block the delivery of fuel, water, and other vital goods to the country including its hospitals, which has contributed to the return of cholera and the aggravation of a food crisis.

In brief, Haiti is facing a perfect storm of crises.

Sanctions regime authorized

The sanctions agreed by the 15-member Security Council (including the veto-wielding five of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the USA) — which are binding on all UN member states — include a travel ban on gang leaders and other individuals and entities perpetrating or financing criminal activities in Haiti, a freeze on their assets and a targeted arms embargo aimed at curbing the supply of illicit arms into Haiti.

The resolution also provides for a committee assisted by four experts to oversee sanctions implementation.

Professor Baranyi offers this assessment of their potential utility:

Their unanimous adoption suggests that they may be more effective than the unilateral U.S. sanctions imposed last year, but only if they are applied rigorously by all states from which arms are flowing to the gangs and which harbor their bank accounts.

So, the jury is still out on their effectiveness.

Drafting continues on an international security assistance force

In response to a request by acting Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, the UN Security Council, led by the US and Mexico, is also in the process of drafting a second resolution to authorize “an international security assistance mission” to Haiti.

Writing in PassBlue, journalist Damilola Banjo explains:

The hope is that “a rapid reaction force” would work with the Haitian police to secure “the free movement of water, fuel, food, and medical supplies” from the main ports and airports to communities and health care centers.

There is a UN political mission currently in situ in Haiti — the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) — the mandate for which was renewed in July of this year, but the use of force is outside both its capacity and its remit.

Professor Baranyi provides this assessment of the merits of an intervention force:

If its mandate is circumscribed to providing tactical support to the Haitian Police’s anti-gang operations for 6 months, it could make a significant difference on the ground.

The time limit and focused mandate would avoid the high risks posed by another large, costly, and long-term mission like MINUSTAH — which left Haiti after 15 years with very little popular support, due to its responsibility for bringing cholera to Haiti in 2010 and other scandals.

USA opposed to UN-led intervention force

The UN Security Council could mandate a new integrated mission with a tightly focused and timebound military component as discussed above. Despite the fact that this is the only means for ensuring one leadership structure for all components of the mission, the US is opposed to UN command of the international military force.

Professor Baranyi comments:

A UN integrated mission with the capacity to use force in coordination with the Haitian National Police in anti-gang operations offers in my view the best model to ensure accountability for the actions of the international security assistance force.

However, given U.S. views, the dilemma is that a non-UN force may be better than no international security assistance force at all.

What is Canada doing right now?

Professor Baranyi outlines the following actions by Canada in the last year:

crucially, supporting UNSC resolutions while insisting that any international intervention should be tailored to Haiti’s real security needs and linked to genuine political dialogue with a view to a transitional governance process inside the country.

In Professor Baranyi’s assessment:

After about two years of following a very problematic approach of providing too much support to the de facto government of Haiti, Ottawa has forged a more responsible strategy in Haiti.

Canada should stick to that strategy.

Baranyi also urges Canada to “explore other options” including:

  • offering material support to the transitional process and elections that might come out of current dialogue efforts, maybe in 2023;
  • considering more innovative options such as supporting the establishment of a hybrid national and international judicial commission to investigate and prosecute cases of grave crimes and human rights abuses; and
  • building on Canada’s own Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Canada could consider supporting a TRC and hybrid judicial process in Haiti too, tailored specifically to their needs.

What about Canada’s participation or even leadership of the international force for Haiti?

In a statement released on 27 October 2022 Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly announced that Canada was “conducting an assessment mission in Haiti” and consulting with regional partners, the United Nations, and others on the way forward.

At the same time a recent CBC report states:

The Miami Herald has reported that the U.S. is struggling to get a military force deployed because of widespread reluctance among potential contributing countries. Canada is one of those reluctant countries, the newspaper said, but it is still seen as the most likely to lead a rapid deployment.

Professor Baranyi welcomes Canada’s prudent approach, particularly its decision to undertake an assessment mission on the ground before making any final decisions.

Canada’s lone Haitian-born Member of Parliament, Emmanuel Dubourg, the chair of the House of Commons’ Committee on Veterans Affairs, backs a Canadian-supported foreign intervention force, although he acknowledges the request has “divided Haitian people”, including those in Montreal, where his Bourassa riding is located.

He recently told the Hill Times:

I think that we have to analyze the situation and respond favourably to this request.

On the other hand, Independent Senator Marie- Françoise Mégie (Rougemont, Que.), who was born in Jacmel, Haiti, in 1950, before moving to Quebec 26 years later, has not yet taken a position on the issue.

NDP opposes “militarized approach”

On 19 October 2022 NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson issued a statement that included the following:

While Haiti’s unelected leadership has asked the UN Security Council to discuss military intervention, we know that a militarized approach is neither sufficient nor sustainable to address the pressing needs faced by most Haitians. Many Haitian-Canadians oppose international military action given the failures of past foreign intervention in Haiti. We must not forget the troubling history of MINUSTAH.

International Crisis Group is cautious about a foreign intervention involving the use of force

In a detailed July 2022 briefing (with the security situation only deteriorating more since then), Crisis Group outlines the deep interconnections between the deadly turf wars of rival gangs and the depth of Haiti’s political morass.

ICG Consultant Diego Da Rin writes:

The Security Council … reiterated the need for urgent agreement on a political process that leads to free and fair elections, acknowledging that “breaking links between political and economic actors and gangs” must be a priority.

To that end, he laments the failure of the Council to include in its recent mandate renewal a role for BINUH in helping to address this problem.

He next considers a proposal (then in play) for an international police mission, raising concerns that apply even more directly to a military mission:

External actors interested in this option will need to step cautiously — taking into account local animosity toward foreign intervention and the UN’s compromised reputation in Haiti….

For a further in-depth analysis of the political crisis underpinning Haiti’s current security dilemma, see: Battling Haiti’s gangs – the mission no nation seems to want (Evan Dyer cbc.ca) 30 October 2022.

Whither Canada?

RI President Peggy Mason, a long-time UN peace operations trainer, comments:

The history of military interventions in Haiti, whether UN-led or not, deprives any new mission of vital public support. Having said that, effective coordination, oversight, and accountability mechanisms — essential to winning over a dubious public — will be infinitely more challenging with a divided international leadership.

We urge Canada to consider substantial participation in a multinational force under integrated UN leadership, with a tightly focused 6-month mandate to provide tactical support to the anti-gang operations of the Haitian National Police.

At a minimum, in circumstances where UN integrated leadership is not attainable, we urge Canada to ensure the authorizing resolution by the UN Security Council includes rigorous coordination and oversight mechanisms.

Photo credit: Wikimedia images (Haitian protests)

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Tags: Canada and Haiti intervention force, climate catastrophe, climate crisis, Emissions Gap Report 2022, Emmanuel Dubourg Member of Parliament, famine, gang violence in Haiti, genuine political dialogue in Haiti, Hait intervention force, Haiti sanctions, Independent Senator Marie- Françoise Mégie, non-UN-led intervention force, Professor Stephen Baranyi, Somalia, The Green Fund, Ukraine war and scientific research, UN peacekeeping, UN-led intervention force, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), World Food Programme (WFP)