February 14, 2012
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The U.N. Security Council began a four-day mission in Haiti on Monday to review the terms of its mandate and evaluate earthquake reconstruction efforts in the Caribbean country.
The 15-member delegation led by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice plans to meet with senior Haitian officials, tour the future site of a job-generating industrial park and visit a police academy in the capital.
“We will see how the United Nations supports Haitian government institutions in security and governance,” Rice said as she read from a prepared statement. “We will examine economic development efforts and we will look at the ongoing humanitarian challenges.”
In its first mission since 2009, the delegation also aims to evaluate reconstruction efforts following the massive earthquake in 2010 that displaced more than a million people. It plans to see how it can help strengthen the national police force, which has only 8,000 officers in a country of 10 million.
The delegation will venture outside its area of expertise in security and visit a treatment center for patients who have fallen ill to cholera. Now an epidemic, the disease has been a source of tension between Haitians and peacekeepers after several studies showed that a unit from Nepal, where the disease is endemic, likely brought the disease.
Haiti now has the world’s highest cholera rate and the disease has killed more than 7,000 people and sickened more than 526,000 others, Haitian officials say.
The Haitian firm Bureau of International Lawyers and its Boston-based partner, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, issued a statement Monday urging the Security Council to evaluate the cost of the U.N.’s failure to take responsibility for the epidemic. The groups filed a complaint last year againt the world body that seeks reparations on behalf of the cholera victims.
The case is under review by the U.N.’s legal department.
Tensions have been further strained because of several abuse allegations involving peacekeepers, which are under investigation.
The U.N. set up the peacekeeping force in Haiti known by its French acronym Minustah in 2004 to provide stability following the overthrow of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Haitian President Michel Martelly hopes to replace the U.N. peacekeeping mission of 11,000 troops by restoring the national army, which was disbanded in 1995 because of its involvement in coups and history of abuse, and turning it into a “professional” force.
The Security Council would need to revise its mandate if the Haitian government took concrete steps to restore the army. The existing agreement, which focuses on developing Haiti’s police force, has no provision to allow peacekeepers to work with a Haitian military.
The plan to restore the army has met opposition from the United States, Canada and other nations that believe the government should devote its limited resources toward the police department or toward reconstruction.
The Security Council’s arrival this week coincides with that of two other delegations.
The Caribbean Community landed in Port-au-Prince Monday for a two-day mission that will look at ways to help Haiti recover from the earthquake and try to engage the country more in the regional bloc.
Legal experts from the U.S. State Department are expected to arrive Wednesday to help strengthen the country’s beleaguered judiciary. They also want to support the justice system as it weighs evidence to prosecute former strongman Jean-Claude Duvalier on corruption charges instead of the human rights abuses synonymous with his 15-year rule.
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