UN Considers Removing Peacekeepers From Haiti

The United Nations has publicly expressed consideration over removing military personnel from its peacekeeping mission in Haiti. The mission, known locally by its French acronym MINUSTAH, has been established in Haiti since 2004, during a time of extreme civil unrest. The UN stepped in right after President Bertrand Aristide was exiled from the country, in the aftermath of widespread armed conflict.

MINUSTAH’s original mandate was to restore a secure and stable political environment in Haiti, by boosting the country’s flailing government and justice systems. It also intended to promote and protect human rights throughout the region.

As one of the UN’s longest-running missions, MINUSTAH has drawn much scrutiny and contention over the years. Additionally, it is the sole UN peacekeeping mission in the Americas. The mission has been widely criticized for various sexual abuse allegations, as well as its contribution to Haiti’s cholera epidemic. The rampant spread of the disease was caused by UN peacekeepers after the January 2010 earthquake. Following this earthquake, the UN Security Council approved the Secretary-General’s proposal to increase the mission’s overall forces. This action was initially taken as a means to support immediate recovery and restoration but, was hugely undermined by the cholera outbreak.

Furthermore, there is much debate over how appropriate the peacekeeping mandate is, with regards to current circumstances. Although Haiti has suffered a two-year political crisis, leading up to the most recent election and an onslaught of natural disasters, the nation has not fallen victim to an armed conflict in years. It can be said that the UN was anticipating a scaling back of operations in the region since last year. The UN Security Council, which approves mandates for peacekeeping missions, last renewed MINUSTAH for only six months, instead of the usual one-year period.

The UN’s stance was made clear in a statement given to reporters by Herve Ladsous, a UN Deputy Secretary-General, to wrap up his week-long visit to Port-au-Prince. During this visit, Ladsous attended the inauguration of the new Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, and conducted an evaluation of the mission. Ladsous attributes the UN’s optimism towards peace to several factors, namely the successful elections, the inauguration of the president, and the growth and development of Haiti’s police force. Consistent progress has been made with regard to security, despite underlying tensions that plague Haiti’s political climate. Ladsous has emphasized that as of right now, the UN seriously considers modifying the mandate of the stabilization mission.

It is expected that the Secretary-General will weigh in on any changes by March 15, and the Security Council should have its decision by April.