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UN Security Council authorizes 3500 more UN peacekeepers for Haiti

From the UN News Centre:

19 January 2010 – The Security Council today backed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call to increase the overall force levels of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti to support the immediate recovery, reconstruction and stability efforts following last week’s devastating earthquake.Following his visit on Sunday to the capital, Port-au-Prince, Mr. Ban asked the Council for an additional 1,500 police officers and 2,000 troops to reinforce the mission, known as MINUSTAH, to augment its 9,000 uniformed personnel already on the ground.

The Council, in unanimously adopting resolution 1908, decided that MINUSTAH will consist of a military component of up to 8,940 troops of all ranks and of a police component of up to 3,711 police, and that it will keep the new force levels under review as necessary.

The 15-member body took that action, “recognizing the dire circumstances and urgent need for a response” to the 7.0-magnitude quake which struck Haiti on 12 January, leaving one third of the country’s population of 9 million in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Ban voiced his gratitude to the Council for its swift action. “By approving my proposal… the Council sends a clear signal – the world is with Haiti.”

He stressed the need to try to get the extra forces on the ground as quickly as possible. Yesterday UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said a pledge for 800 troops has already been received from the Dominican Republic and more pledges are expected soon.

The additional forces are needed, Mr. Le Roy said, to escort humanitarian convoys, to secure humanitarian corridors that are being established, and to constitute a reserve force “in case the situation unravels and security deteriorates.”

The earthquake has caused the single greatest loss of life in the UN’s history. The Christopher Hotel, which housed the world body’s headquarters in Haiti, collapsed, while other buildings hosting the UN suffered extensive damage.

Hundreds of UN personnel are still unaccounted for, and among those confirmed dead are Mr. Ban’s Special Representative to Haiti and head of MINUSTAH, Hédi Annabi, as well as his Deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa, and Acting Police Commissioner Doug Coates of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Last week Mr. Ban dispatched Edmond Mulet, the former Special Representative to Haiti and current Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, to the country to assume full command of MINUSTAH in the wake of the disaster.

Good. Let’s hope that the organization can play a useful coordinating role too.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.