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United Nations Security Council to Close 13-year-old Haiti Peacekeeping Mission in October

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FILE - The U.N. Security Council votes on a resolution concerning North Korea, March 23, 2017. The Council voted unanimously Thursday to end the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti in mid-October. VOA

The United Nations Security Council took action Thursday to begin shutting down its 13-year-old peacekeeping mission in Haiti.

The current 5,000-strong mission will begin drawing down its troops and transition in mid-October to a smaller force of just over 1,200 police personnel. It will focus on the rule of law, building Haitian police capacities and monitoring human rights.

“As the stabilization mission in Haiti draws down and the new mission gears up, the Haitian people will be set on the path of independence and self-sufficiency,” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told council members.

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The council said in its unanimously agreed resolution that the transition recognizes “the major milestone towards stabilization achieved” with the peaceful transfer of power in elections held in February.

“This new stage does not mean that it is the end of the commitment to Haiti,” said France’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Alexis Lamek. “It shows quite the contrary, that we can develop, change and adapt our activity to the situation on the field, while guided by the need to meet the aspirations of the people.”

FILE – A U.N. peacekeeper takes cover behind national police officers while demonstrators throw rocks, during a protest against the country’s electoral council to mark the 25th anniversary of first democratic election in 1990, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. VOA

History

The U.N. stabilization mission, known as MINUSTAH, was deployed to Haiti in June 2004. It succeeded a Multinational Interim Force authorized by the Security Council in February 2004 after then-Haitian President Bertrand Aristide departed the country for exile following violence that spread to several cities across the nation.

By 2010, the country was regaining stability when it was rocked by a massive earthquake. More than 220,000 people were killed. Among the dead were 102 U.N. personnel, including the head of the MINUSTAH mission and his deputy.

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In response to the needs following the earthquake, the Security Council added 3,500 more troops and police to support recovery, reconstruction and stability efforts.

In 2016, Haiti again faced another natural catastrophe when Hurricane Matthew devastated the southern part of the Caribbean nation and killed hundreds.

FILE – A demonstrator spray paints the message in Creole “We demand justice for all cholera victims” outside United Nations headquarters to protest the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 15, 2015. VOA

Cholera outbreak

In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, the country suffered a cholera epidemic. U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal were blamed for bringing the disease into the country. Haiti’s Artibonite River was infected with cholera through human waste believed to be from the peacekeepers’ camp. The river is the main water source for tens of thousands of Haitians.

Subsequently, more than 8,500 people died of the water-borne disease, which can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, and hundreds of thousands more were sickened.

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Last year, the United Nations acknowledged it played a role in the epidemic and said it would set up a trust fund for victims. It has appealed to member states for $400 million to fight the disease and support those most directly affected by it. The trust fund, however, is severely underfunded, with only $2.6 million of the $400 million requested having been received.

FILE – A Brazilian U.N. peacekeeper opens a gate at the U.N. base in the Cite Soleil slum of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. VOA

Sexual abuse and exploitation

U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti have also come under criticism for the rape and exploitation of children and women they were sent to protect.

In 2012, three Pakistani peacekeepers were sent home after the rape of a Haitian boy at their base. Only one peacekeeper reportedly served a brief jail sentence in Pakistan.

This week, the Associated Press reported that at least 134 Sri Lankan peacekeepers repeatedly sexually abused nine Haitian children as part of a sex ring from 2004 to 2007. None of the peacekeepers has been jailed for the alleged crimes.

Peacekeepers from Bangladesh, Brazil, Jordan, Nigeria and Uruguay have also faced allegations in Haiti.

The Haitian cases are part of a wider problem in U.N. peacekeeping of sexual exploitation and abuse that the organization has been trying to stem for years. Despite a “zero tolerance” policy and the repatriation of offenders, the inability to stop often poorly trained and ill-disciplined troops from abusing civilians has been a major stain on the U.N.’s credibility and reputation.

The United States, which pays nearly a third of the annual peacekeeping budget of almost $8 billion, has demanded that the abuses stop.

“These peacekeepers are sent into vulnerable communities to protect the innocent, not to exploit or rape them,” Ambassador Haley told council members. “Countries that refuse to hold their soldiers accountable must recognize that this either stops, or their troops will go home and the financial compensation will end.” (VOA)

Next Story

2015 Agreement to Bring Peace to Ukraine’s East Remains Unimplemented

Ursula Mueller, the U.N.'s deputy humanitarian chief, said the conflict is causing severe humanitarian problems.

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FILE - A Russia-backed rebel guards the position after sunset near Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Aug. 2, 2015. Hostilities in eastern Ukraine have abated after February's peace agreement, but the truce has been frequently violated. VOA

A 2015 agreement to bring peace to Ukraine’s volatile east remains largely unimplemented and civilians are paying the highest price, with more than 3,300 killed and 3.5 million needing humanitarian aid this year, U.N. officials said Tuesday.

Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in early 2014 and support for separatist rebels in the east triggered a conflict with Ukrainian government forces that the U.N. says has also injured up to 9,000 civilians and displaced 1.5 million people.

Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav Jenca told the Security Council that negotiations “appear to have lost momentum,” with Russia and Ukraine unable or unwilling to agree on key steps forward or too distracted to focus on implementing the 2015 agreement.

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Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia addresses the United Nations Security Council, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 17, 2018. VOA

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia and Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko blamed each other for the failure to implement the agreement signed in the Belarus capital, Minsk.

Jenca, who is in charge of European affairs, stressed that the conflict in eastern Ukraine is not dormant. “It is a conflict in the heart of Europe which continues to claim victims,” he said.

Jenca said the main parties have committed to over a dozen cease-fires since the start of the conflict, but “each one was regrettably, short-lived.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation’s monitoring mission in Ukraine reports that the military positions of both sides are coming closer to each other in the “gray areas” near the so-called “contact line,” he said. “The use of heavy weapons and their deployment in the proximity of the contact line is a reality.”

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Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria, April 25, 2018, at United Nations headquarters. VOA

Ursula Mueller, the U.N.’s deputy humanitarian chief, said the conflict is causing severe humanitarian problems, noting that many of the 3.5 million people who need aid are elderly, women and children.

“Many are struggling to access schools, hospitals and other essential services,” she said. “Many have lost their jobs, homes, family members and friends.”

Mueller said the U.N. has appealed for $162 million this year to aid 2.3 million people.

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Ertugrul Apakan, Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, addresses a news conference at OSCE’s headquarters in Vienna, Feb. 5, 2015. VOA

Ertugrul Apakan, chief of the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine, told the council by video that many people use checkpoints in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk to receive pensions and see families separated by the conflict. Since December, he said, there have been “14 cases of people who died from natural causes while waiting at the checkpoints.”

Mueller said most of those who died this year were elderly. People wait for several hours in freezing temperatures to cross the contact line, and she urged better conditions and additional crossing points, especially in Luhansk where there is only one.

Before the meeting, eight former and current European Union members of the Security Council issued a joint statement urging humanitarian access to areas not under Ukrainian government control.

They called on Russia “to immediately stop fueling the conflict by providing financial and military support” to the separatists and reiterated their opposition to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. Nonetheless, they said, they “remain convinced that a peaceful resolution of the conflict is possible.”

Nebenzia said Russia called the council meeting to discuss implementation of the 2015 agreement, declaring that the situation in southeastern Ukraine “remains explosive” with positions now “too close to each other at some locations.” He said Ukraine “comprehensively and consciously ignores and sabotages the Minsk agreements and our Western partners cover up for all of its unlawful acts.”

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Ukrainian Ambassador the the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko speaks during a security council meeting about the escalating tensions between the Ukraine and Russia at United Nations headquarters, Nov. 26, 2018. VOA

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Ukraine’s Yelchenko countered that “it is only Russia and its ongoing military activity in the occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as well as in Crimea that constitute for now an unsurmountable obstacle for the peaceful resolution of the conflict.” (VOA)