The United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), which emphasizes the role of women and youth in peacebuilding efforts through their meaningful participation, began working in Haiti in 2019 in response to the needs identified by the government.
Ahead of the International Day of Peace which is celebrated annually on September 21, here are five things to know about the PBF.
Globally, the Peacebuilding Fund was launched in 2006 in countries or situations at risk or affected by violent conflict. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, described it as “a critical tool to support resilience and prevention”.
Between 2006 and 2021, the PBF allocated $1.67 billion to 65 countries to support peace efforts. Haiti has received approximately $20 million for nine projects. These interventions are broadly aimed at the implementation and maintenance of peace agreements, dialogue and peaceful coexistence and the restoration of basic services that can contribute to building peaceful societies.
Violence, instability and insecurity
Instability and insecurity, propelled by wide inequalities, are long-standing problems in Haiti and are the main reasons why the government has asked for the support of the PBF.
The assassination of the Haitian president in July 2021 and a devastating earthquake in the south of the country a month later exacerbated the insecurity caused by the growing presence and influence of gangs.
This insecurity has worsened in the capital Port-au-Prince over the past year as gang violence, compounded by the proliferation of illegal weapons and ammunition, has increased. The number of kidnappings for ransom has also risen.
In the municipality of Cite Soleil, one of the poorest areas of the capital, 99 people were killed and 133 injured in a particularly violent week of clashes in July between gangs vying for control of the territory. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and thousands of people fled to safer places, many of whom were supported by the United Nations.
Edwin*, a youth leader who lives in Cite Soleil and is part of a group of youth supported by the PBF, said he witnessed fierce fighting in the streets and added: “I go to bed and wake up to the sound of gunshots that is very stressful.” The group brings together young people from neighborhoods where rival gangs are active. “We want our voices to be heard outside Cité Soleil, because if no one hears us, nothing changes,” he said.
Absence of peace
Gang violence is just one very tangible manifestation of insecurity and the lack of peace, but the lives of Haitians are affected in countless other ways. In Cite Soleil, the education of approximately 95,000 schoolchildren in more than 300 schools was disrupted by violence.
More than 2,500 people fled the municipality and had to seek support from the UN. The blockade of roads to the south has halted the free flow of people and services in both directions, making it difficult for farmers to market their crops in Port-au-Prince and to provide relief and reconstruction materials to the earthquake-stricken southern peninsula.
“Reducing violence and conflict, access to justice and building lasting peace and stability are the priorities of the UN Peacebuilding Fund,” said Ulrika Richardson, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Haiti. “. It is through the leadership of a wide range of local and national actors that we envision joining Haiti in building a peaceful and prosperous society for all Haitians.”
Without stability, security and justice, economic progress is nearly impossible. Unfortunately, this is becoming increasingly apparent with the ongoing slowdown in the Haitian economy, the effects of which are most felt by the most vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities.
Bridging a gap
The PBF has played a particularly important role in Haiti following the closure of the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSTAH in 2017. The PBF is one of the few resources available to the United Nations to scale up efforts in areas previously under the mission or areas fell for renewed attention.
The fund has focused on a number of key areas, including reducing violence in the community, with an emphasis on supporting and promoting community-level participation with a focus on youth. It has also promoted social cohesion and mental health, especially for women and girls, and supports activities to prevent election-related and political violence, again with a special focus on protecting and empowering women.
Strengthening the justice system, including the provision of legal aid to vulnerable populations, and strengthening coordination between judicial actors and the criminal justice system, is also a PBF priority.
Supporting Haiti’s Most Vulnerable
Ultimately, the PBF is a people-oriented funding mechanism, which has led to remarkable successes.
At the age of 15, Renel* was held without trial for three years in a prison in Les Cayes after being falsely accused by a shopkeeper of stealing two ducks. His case caught the attention of the United Nations and was referred to a legal aid agency established by the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Political Mission in Haiti, BINUH and the Haitian Ministry of Justice and Public Security and funded by PBF.
Renel was released from detention along with 67 other individuals. “Children should be in school, not in prison,” he said.
Sylvie joins a PBF-supported group in the gang-affected Martissant neighborhood that seeks to prevent and resolve community-level disputes. With a focus on women’s empowerment and countering sexual violence, she said, “the situation may not be resolved tomorrow, but we are hopeful that we will see changes in the longer term.”International Day of Peace is celebrated around the world on September 21. The theme for 2022 is “End Racism. Build Peace”