Haiti: U.S. Support for International Peacekeeping Helps Promote Recovery

May 5, 2010
UN Peacekeepers Distribute Water in Leogane, Haiti

About the Author: Andrew J. Shapiro serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.

Among the approximately 250,000 people lost in Haiti's devastating January 12 earthquake, more than 100 members of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), including several members of the mission's top leadership. The United Nations has identified the earthquake as the single greatest loss of life in the history of its operations. I recently traveled to Haiti with U.S. Air Force General Douglas Fraser, head of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), where the United States is helping several countries to contribute troops and police personnel to a revitalized U.N. peacekeeping effort that is key to setting the stage for Haiti's long-term recovery.

As General Fraser and I landed in Port-au-Prince, I could see structures of all kinds damaged or collapsed, from shantytown homes to landmarks like the National Palace and the Caribbean Market. Millions of Haitians were left homeless in the aftermath of the earthquake and remain displaced. Many are now residing in a network of spontaneous settlements or have left Port-au-Prince to stay with family and friends outside of the city. Daily living conditions remain incredibly difficult for many, but the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and SOUTHCOM's Joint Task Force -- Haiti have been working intensively support relief efforts and improve camp safety in advance of the rainy season. These mitigation efforts, which include sandbagging, retaining wall construction, canal clearance, and other activities, have made conditions much safer for those who will likely remain sheltering in these settlements through the spring and summer as Haiti's recovery continues.

General Fraser and I began our visit with briefings on the recovery efforts from U.S. Ambassador Kenneth H. Merten, USAID Mission Director Carleene Dei and the U.S. Government's Haiti Response Coordinator Chris Milligan, as well as SOUTHCOM's Joint Task Force. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the United States deployed 22,000 military personnel to support relief efforts as part of America's commitment to provide urgently needed humanitarian aid to the people, Government, and MINUSTAH. Later this month, a team from the Louisiana National Guard will lead a SOUTHCOM “New Horizons” mission to help communities rebuild, as well as provide humanitarian aid and medical assistance to communities through the end of the summer.

We also met with Brazilian Army Major General Luiz Paul Cruz, MINUSTAH Force Commander and the nine U.S. military officers serving as MINUSTAH staff officers. Despite losing many personnel and being displaced from mission headquarters, MINUSTAH has continued its mission of maintaining a secure and stable environment throughout Haiti. MINUSTAH is playing a key role by providing security for internally displaced persons, clearing roads, removing rubble, and other vital tasks.

While much work remains ahead, I am proud of the role that the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs has played in supporting MINUSTAH through our Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). GPOI is a U.S.-led initiative launched in 2005 that has trained and equipped more than 110,000 foreign peacekeepers from around the world. Almost 98,000 troops from GPOI partner countries have deployed to 20 U.N., African Union, and other regional peace support operations around the globe.

GPOI partners -- Bolivia, Guatemala, Jordan, Nepal, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Uruguay -- are currently deploying military troops or have formed police units in MINUSTAH. In addition, GPOI funds are being used to provide equipment to a Rwandan peacekeeping unit that will deploy to MINUSTAH in the coming weeks.

GPOI is an important part of our response to increased global demand for soldiers, police officers, and diplomats to serve on international peacekeeping missions to stabilize some of the world's most challenging hotspots. The United States has long been the world's top financial contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, providing on average more than one quarter of the international organization's budget to support more than 116,000 “blue helmets,” police, and civilians working to secure the peace and protect at-risk populations in nineteen peacekeeping missions around the world.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton have committed to strengthening America's support of international peacekeeping. Through stepped-up diplomatic efforts to mediate conflicts and strengthen UN peacekeeping capabilities, GPOI is ready now more than ever to do its part in the name of promoting peace and stability, in Haiti and beyond.

Comments

Comments

OysterCracker
|
United States
May 5, 2010

O.C. in U.S.A. writes:

When Haiti better recovers it would be great to get the school children growing tree seedlings for Haiti's forests. They could also start worm gardens for Haiti's agricutural projects. Now is a good time to get children planting trees because it takes their mind off all the devastation. In 5 years, Haiti will have the beginnings of a forest planted and protected by Haiti's youth.

GIno
|
Massachusetts, USA
May 6, 2010

Gino in Massachusetts writes:

If we reaiy want to help this country out for along term idependance of is security.Why not enphisise on local young men inside the country to become police oficer with no discriminating training or well train policeman.

OysterCracker
|
United States
May 6, 2010

O.C. in U.S.A. writes:

Gino,

Excellent point. I made a suggestion to Mr. Clinton that Haitians be trained by the military then used to help protect ships against Somali pirates. The money paid by cargo companies for protection could be funelled into a police force for equipment and supplies. Also, training young children in a mandatory afterschool scout conservation corps could help in providing future police/military personnel when the children reach the appropriate age. A scout conservation corps could be the impetus needed to restore Haiti's forests back to their former glory and provide agricultural support to the nation. If you set 500 kids out to plant 10,000 trees the work will be done quickly and efficiently. In 5 years, Haiti will have the beginnings of a new forest. Children love to do things. Getting them busy on planting activities helps assuage the grief and pain from the tragedy they experienced. I would get the children very busy as they are Haiti's best hope for a great future. As Americans, we can really help Haiti in organization and follow through. If we set these systems in place now it could really help the Haitian economy which in turn will help us through increased trade.

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