By Abigail Cordaro
The United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to end the 13-year-long peacekeeping mission in Haiti by mid-October.
According to Al Jazeera, U.N. peacekeepers were initially deployed in 2004 following an uprising that led to the exile of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Haiti suffered through two years of political turmoil in the uprising’s aftermath, until the election and recent inauguration of current President Jovenel Mosie. In recent years, Haiti also suffered natural disasters including the devastating earthquake of 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Despite its political and environmental struggles, Haiti has not seen an armed conflict in years. The mission is currently the only U.N. peacekeeping operation in the Americas. The U.N. and the international community as a whole see this period of peace as an indication of progress in Haiti’s stabilization.
Regional support in addition to international support is on display for the reduction of Haiti’s peacekeeping mission. The Miami Herald reports that Chilean president Michelle Bachelet promises her 400 troops in the U.N. operation will withdraw from Haiti along with the rest in October. She reaffirms that Chile’s commitment to Haiti remains strong as Haiti works to stabilize itself.
The U.N. decided to replace the 2004 peacekeeping mission with a smaller police force in light of observing the mission’s success. However, the 13-year-long mission’s duration had several issues, including U.N. troops facing accusations of sexual abuse, as well as the introduction of cholera to the Haitian population. Al Jazeera reports Haiti was free of cholera until 2010 when U.N. peacekeepers “dumped infected sewage into a river.” Estimates project that approximately 9,300 people have died and over 800,000 have been infected as a result. The U.N. does not accept legal responsibility for the outbreak.
The 2,342 U.N. troops currently stationed in Haiti will withdraw over the next six months. During the following six months, 1,000 police personnel will be established in Haiti to replace the U.N. troops. The police force will be deployed from October 2017 to April of 2018, and are expected to occupy Haiti for two years after the initial establishment. Al Jazeera reports other peacekeeping mission reductions will be underway in the coming months. Most recently, in March the Security Council reduced the number of peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo: the 19,815 troops decreased to 16,215. In addition, missions in Liberia and the Ivory Coast are planned to end, and the joint peace operation between the U.N. and the African Union in Sudan’s Darfur region will be reduced as well.
There is the suspicion that U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres is downsizing peacekeeping missions due to U.S. threats of cutting funding to U.N. peacekeeping operations, as reported by the New York Times. The U.S. is the largest contributor to U.N. peacekeeping missions- contributing 28.5% of the overall peacekeeping budget. Peacekeeping is the U.N.’s most costly body of operations, but it is relatively inexpensive for the United States to provide its 28.5% of funding. Out of the 92,000 U.N. peacekeepers, less than 70 of them are U.S. police officers and soldiers.
American ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley promised to perform a mission-by-mission review of peacekeeping in accordance with “her get-tough approach to international diplomacy”, the New York Times reports. In a note to other Security Council members, Haley asked fundamental questions pertaining to peacekeeping missions and urged members to re-evaluate their logistics and efficacy. Opposition to the movement comes from nations such as France, who advocates for “robust” peacekeeping missions. France warns against plans to reduce personnel in the peacekeeping mission in Congo, considering elections are approaching and civilians remain in danger of brutal murder and rape. Ambassador Haley staunchly supports territorial sovereignty and argues that it may not be “advisable” to deploy peacekeeping troops where they are unwanted by national governments.