Drawdown of UN Mission Could Impact Organized Crime in Haiti

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The United Nations voted to end a stabilizing mission in Haiti shortly after the release of a report documenting allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers, raising questions about the short- and long-term security prospects for the impoverished nation. 

The UN Security Council unanimously approved the measure on April 13. The mission started in 2004 amid unrest following the removal of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The UN mission will operate until mid-October of this year, when it will be replaced by a smaller mission with a narrower mandate focused on rule of law and human rights, reported the Miami Herald

The mission came under fire recently after an Associated Press investigation revealed an internal UN probe had found that at least 134 Sri Lankan peacekeepers took part in a sex ring involving Haitian children between 2004 and 2007. The AP also collected numerous allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers from six other nations.

Citing the AP investigation, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that new measures will be taken to strengthen accountability of UN peacekeepers.

In March, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recommended that the mission in Haiti be downsized.

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite the sex ring scandal and the tragic consequences of a massive cholera epidemic caused by peacekeepers’ negligence, the UN mission in Haiti has had some positive impacts on the island nation’s security situation. According to the Miami Herald, there is widespread agreement that the mission was successful in combating criminal gangs as well as in supporting and training the National Police. In his March report recommending the downsizing, Guterres noted there were 1,056 reported homicides during a recent 12-month stretch. That equals a murder rate of roughly 10 per 100,000 inhabitants, a figure far lower than that of many other countries in the region. 

However, some major security challenges remain unaddressed. The country’s prison system suffers from extreme overcrowding and lack of control by authorities. And the weakness of Haiti’s judicial institutions has been blamed for hundreds of unpunished lynchings carried out by citizens with no trust in the formal justice system. Moreover, many members of Haiti’s political elite have been suspected of involvement in organized crime, including current President Jovenel Moïse, who has been investigated for money laundering, and Senator-elect Guy Philippe, who was extradited to the United States to face drug trafficking charges shortly before he was officially sworn into office.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Haiti

Although the new UN mission will continue to focus on rule of law, the reduced number of peacekeepers will likely limit its influence. According to Guterres, the mission conducted almost 10,000 military operations since August 2016, and performed thousands of vehicle checkpoints and joint foot patrols. How the Haitian police manages to fill in the gaps left by the departing peacekeepers will be an important factor determining whether the country can continue to make progress on the security front or whether it will backslide into higher levels of violence and crime. 

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