Earlier today, the United States formally entered into an agreement with the United Nations on a division of responsibilities in Haiti. The “Memorandum of Understanding,” obtained by UN Dispatch, enumerates the tole of a U.S. Joint Task Force (JTF)- Haiti. According to the document, the JTF-Haiti will mainly focus on securing Haiti’s transportation infrastructure, which includes maintaining security at the airport. The MOU also notes that the United States stands ready to augment its security role should the need arise, but that the United States military will operate under its own chain of command (i.e. not as part of MINUSTAH). From the MOU:
among other tasks, [JTF-Haiti] seek to ensure the safe and effective functioning of the transportation infrastructure, including: the identification and preparation of staging sites; protection of air and sea port installations; and access to air and sea ports and roads. The United States as requested by the Government of Haiti, is also prepared to assist as needed in augmenting security in support of the Government and people of Haiti and the United Nations, international partners and organizations on the ground.
United States military forces will operate under autonomous United States chain of command.
The document stresses the lead role of the government of Haiti in managing this crisis; that is, the UN and the United States are there to support the Haitian government, not supplant it. This is key because after the dust settles, the goal of the international community is not just to rebuild schools and hospitals, but to strengthen the institutions of government that run these schools and hospitals.
Here is the MOU in its entirety:
Statement of Principles on Field coordination between the United Nations in Haiti and the United States Government in the Haitian earthquake response effort
The Government of Haiti has primary responsibility for the response to the earthquake of 12 January 2010. The scale of the disaster and the urgency of the humanitarian relief needs require a comprehensive and coordinated international response. The United States Government and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti are committed to supporting the Haitian Government in carrying out its responsibilities, and intend to coordinate their respective activities. The Governments of Haiti and the United States will continue to cooperate under their shared understanding, set forth in the Joint Communiqué of their two governments issued at Port-au-Prince, Haiti on 17 January 2010, to promote the most safe and effective rescue, relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts possible.
We have decided to apply the following principles for coordination, without prejudice to MINUSTAH’s mandate from the United Nations Security Council:
Roles and Responsibilities
1. The Government of Haiti has primary responsibility for the response to the earthquake of 12 January 2010, including the maintenance of security and public order by the Haitian National Police and in leading recovery and reconstruction efforts.
2. In consultation with the Haitian government, the United Nations is coordinating the international response to the Haitian earthquake. The Special Representative of Secretary-General (SRSG) is the senior UN official in the field with overall authority for UN activities.
3. Consistent with its mandate, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), in accordance with Security Council resolution (S/RES/1542 (2004)), is to include:
(i) ensuring a secure and stable environment;
(ii) assisting in the restoration and maintenance of the rule of law, public safety and public order in Haiti through the provision, inter alia of operational support to the Haitian National Police and the Haitian Cost Guard;
(iii) protecting civilians under imminent threat of physical violence within its capabilities and areas of deployment, without prejudice to the responsibilities of the Government of Haiti.
4. The United Nations recognizes and embraces the critical role that other international actors must play in supporting the humanitarian response called for by the Government of Haiti. The United Nations commits to identify and communicate clearly and expeditiously priority aid requirements, including material and logistics.
5. The Government of Haiti has welcomed as essential the efforts in Haiti by the
Government and people of the United States to support the immediate recovery, stability and long-term rebuilding of Haiti. The United Nations welcomes the commitment of the United States Government to make such a contribution. As part of this contribution, the United States will deploy United States Joint Task Force Haiti (JTF) to support the humanitarian response.
6. In support of these efforts, the JTF is to, among other tasks, seek to ensure the safe and effective functioning of the transportation infrastructure, including: the identification and preparation of staging sites; protection of air and sea port installations; and access to air and sea ports and roads. The United States as requested by the Government of Haiti, is also prepared to assist as needed in augmenting security in support of the Government and people of Haiti and the United Nations, international partners and organizations on the ground.
7. United States military forces will operate under autonomous United States chain of command.
8. The United States Government commits to take into account and, as appropriate, fully support priority humanitarian and logistical requirements identified by the United Nations in their response activities
9. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator is to lead the coordination of international humanitarian efforts through the humanitarian cluster system. Designated sectoral coordination (cluster) leads are to support operational coordination.
10. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the United States Chief of Mission or his designee are to establish effective coordination mechanisms between their respective Headquarters.
11. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the Chief of Mission or his designees are to establish arrangements for regular contact, including regular joint meetings for senior United States and United Nations staff to be chaired by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General or his Deputy.
12. The United Nations and the United States Government commit to promote effective relations in the field and seek to resolve operational differences on the ground.
13. The United Nations and the United States Government recognize the need to make additional arrangements regarding coordination, including arrangements between the JTF and the United Nations regarding respective roles and responsibilities.