The U. N. Security Council voted Friday to renew its peacekeeping mission in Haiti for an eighth year, noting that the international community must continue to work to help Haiti strengthen rule of law and its national police force.
“Strengthening the capacity of the Haitian National Police is paramount for the Government of Haiti to take timely and full responsibility for the country’s security needs, which are central to Haiti’s overall stability and future development,” the Council said in its resolution.
The force has been in Haiti since 2004 when a rebellion forced the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In recent years, however, resentment of the mission by Haitians has grown amid allegations of sexual abuse by some peacekeepers and the introduction of a deadly cholera epidemic. Blamed on Nepalese peacekeepers, cholera has killed more than 7,000 Haitians and sickened more than a half million people.
Critics of the mission called for protests Friday outside the United Nations in New York.
The Security Council recognized progress has been made in Haiti but said the country remains fragile. It approved a gradual drawdown by the U.N. Stabilization Mission, known by its French acronym MINUSTAH, reducing the force by 1,710 to 8,871. That had been the recommendation by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Members said it’s “a critical task” for the mission to continue to help Haiti and called on Haiti’s foreign friends “to intensify their assistance.”
A recent study by the International Crisis Group, an independent watchdog group that monitors conflicts around the world, advised against a swift withdrawal of MINUSTAH, saying any exit strategy must be tied to Haiti doubling the size of its 10,000-member police force.
“It would be foolhardy to rush that process given the serious gaps in consolidating security and justice,” the study said. “The real challenge was and still is how to actually strengthen the police force to levels commensurate with the size of Haiti’s population.”
The study also criticized President Michel Martelly’s plan to rebuild the army, noting it could negatively impact police strengthening. That plan has since been put on the back burner, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told the Miami Herald editorial board Monday.
“We feel right now … the security investment would provide a better return if it’s put [in] the national police than if we were to do an army at the same moment,” Lamothe said. “The cost to doing a new army would be greater than reinforcing the police, and the effect would probably be the same.”