United Nations Authorizes the Use of Force in Haiti Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

With the collapse of the Governors Island Agreement, the U.N. Security Council, growing increasingly impatient with the intransigence and human rights abuses of the Raoul Cédras regime in Haiti, authorized the use of force to remove his junta and to restore the legitimately elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Summary of Event

On July 31, 1994, the U.N. Security Council authorized the use of force to depose a military junta led by Lieutenant General Raoul Cédras that had been ruling Haiti illegally and to restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide as the democratically elected president. The decision not only had ramifications for the governance of Haiti but also set a precedent in U.N. Security Council policy. Haiti;U.N. intervention United Nations;peacekeeping [kw]United Nations Authorizes the Use of Force in Haiti (July 31, 1994) [kw]Haiti, United Nations Authorizes the Use of Force in (July 31, 1994) Haiti;U.N. intervention United Nations;peacekeeping [g]West Indies;July 31, 1994: United Nations Authorizes the Use of Force in Haiti[08940] [g]Haiti;July 31, 1994: United Nations Authorizes the Use of Force in Haiti[08940] [c]United Nations;July 31, 1994: United Nations Authorizes the Use of Force in Haiti[08940] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;July 31, 1994: United Nations Authorizes the Use of Force in Haiti[08940] [c]Government and politics;July 31, 1994: United Nations Authorizes the Use of Force in Haiti[08940] Aristide, Jean-Bertrand Cédras, Raoul Bush, George H. W. [p]Bush, George H. W.;Haiti Clinton, Bill [p]Clinton, Bill;Haiti

In 1991, Aristide was elected president in Haiti’s first truly democratic election. Aristide was a Catholic priest who had been suspended from the Salesian Order for his advocacy of violent revolution and his support for the liberation theology movement. Through a radio program, he had become a prominent figure in Haitian politics and media. He was highly opposed to U.S. intervention in Haiti.

Shortly after his election, Aristide was overthrown by a military coup d’état and replaced as president by Raoul Cédras. While U.S. president George H. W. Bush condemned the coup and called for a return to democracy, he did not specifically express support for Aristide. Revolutions and coups;Haiti He also refused to take any action to intervene in the situation, other than calling for sanctions against the military regime and an embargo on all goods except food and medical supplies coming into Haiti.

U.S. troops in Haiti in 1994.

(AP/Wide World Photos)

During his campaign preceding the 1992 U.S. presidential election, Bill Clinton took a more vocal stance on the Haiti issue. Thousands of Haitian refugees, known as boat people, had been crossing the Gulf of Mexico to Florida, only to be sent back to Haiti. Clinton promised to accept the Haitian boat people into the United States, although it was not until 1994 that he fulfilled this promise. In his first months as president, Clinton sent a special envoy to Haiti to begin putting pressure on the military government, and he began rallying international support. While many of the constituent groups within Clinton’s own Democratic Party called for more direct intervention in Haiti, the majority of the American public opposed such intervention.

The U.N. Security Council passed several resolutions between June, 1993, and June, 1994, calling for Cédras to step down. The United Nations and the Organization of American States convinced Cédras to sign the Governors Island Agreement Governors Island Agreement (1993) on July 3, 1993, and the New York Pact New York Pact (1993) on July 16, 1993, promising him amnesty if he withdrew and Aristide was restored by the end of October, 1993. When no progress was made to implement the accords by October, Clinton sent a naval delegation to help implement them, but the delegation was turned back.





In May, 1994, Clinton took a more active stance, threatening military intervention. The U.N. sanctions were increased to a total embargo except humanitarian aid, and members of the junta were prevented from traveling outside Haiti. Clinton sent naval and marine forces to patrol the waters near Haiti, but he waited for approval from the United Nations to take action. On July 12, 1994, the military regime expelled the International Civilian Mission, whose purpose was to observe the human rights situation in Haiti.

Finally, on July 31, 1994, the U.N. Security Council voted twelve to zero in favor of military intervention in Haiti (Resolution 940). The representatives from Brazil and China opposed the measure but abstained from voting, and the representative from Rwanda was absent. The council authorized the United States to lead a multinational force to depose the dictatorship, followed by a six-thousand-member peacekeeping force, the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH), which would help restore the democratic government after the military regime was deposed.

Even with the U.N. resolution, however, Clinton was reluctant to take military action and made several last-ditch diplomatic efforts. He had the military begin drawing up plans for an invasion, but he refused to set a date. In September, the U.S. Army’s Tenth Mountain Division and the Navy’s USS Eisenhower carrier group mobilized to Haiti.

Despite a great deal of international support, Clinton still needed domestic support, so he held his first live television speech on the issue on September 15. The next day, a delegation led by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter Carter, Jimmy [p]Carter, Jimmy;postpresidency diplomacy arrived in Haiti as a final diplomatic delegation. Their mission was to convince the Cédras regime to step down peacefully by September 18.

The negotiations were still in progress on the afternoon of September 18 when it was announced that the U.S. had deployed the Army’s Eighty-second Airborne Division to Haiti. This announcement was sufficient to convince Cédras to step down. Cédras and the other members of the junta were allowed to leave Haiti with their money. Members of the legislature were given amnesty for their involvement in the regime, and Aristide returned to serve out the remainder of his term as president.


United Nations Security Council Resolution 940 marked a change in U.N. Security Council policy. It was the first time the Security Council had acted to specifically change a country’s government, setting precedents for, among other things, the 2003 Iraq War.

For Haiti itself, the democratic government was restored, but the social and economic status of its people did not improve. Aristide had been elected to a five-year term, and, after debate about whether he should be allowed to serve out the entire term, he agreed to step down in 1996. He was succeeded by René Préval Préval, René in the first peaceful transfer of power in Haiti’s history. Préval then became the first Haitian president to serve his full term and step down peacefully without seeking reelection.

After Aristide was reelected in 2000, his administration was criticized for corruption and for violent suppression of opposing viewpoints. Aristide was himself deposed by the United States and France in 2004, and, after two years of turmoil, Préval was reelected in 2006. Haiti;U.N. intervention United Nations;peacekeeping

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ballard, John R. Upholding Democracy: The United States Military Campaign in Haiti, 1994-1997. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1998. An in-depth analysis of the coordination of the joint military campaign in Haiti and the example it provided for future humanitarian actions.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Malone, David. Decision-making in the UN Security Council: The Case of Haiti, 1990-1997. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. An in-depth study of the United Nation’s decision in 1994: how the Security Council came to reach the decision and how that decision has affected the Security Council’s position on other international crises since.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Pezzullo, Ralph. Plunging into Haiti: Clinton, Aristide, and the Defeat of Democracy. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006. An account of the events written by the son of Lawrence Pezzullo, one of Bill Clinton’s special envoys to Haiti.

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Categories: History