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UN Chief Asks Security Council to Authorize More Troops, Police for Haiti

Secretary Ban Ki-moon surveys damage to UN headquarters in Haiti, 17 Jan 2010
Secretary Ban Ki-moon surveys damage to UN headquarters in Haiti, 17 Jan 2010

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, just back from a tour of earthquake devastated Haiti, has asked the Security Council to boost the U.N. stabilization mission by as many as 3,500 troops and police as soon as possible. 

Mr. Ban said the "heartbreaking scenes" he saw on Sunday in the Haitian capital compel the United Nations and the international community to act "swiftly and generously" now and over the longer term.

He said most important in the coordination of the massive relief effort is to remove obstacles to reaching those in need and avoid wasting resources.

See a slideshow of Mr. Ban's visit
and the destruction he witnessed

Photos by Margaret Besheer

 

To better support the effort, Mr. Ban has requested the U.N. Security Council temporarily boost the 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers and police in Haiti. "I recommended that the Security Council raise the number of U.N. police officers in the mission by 1,500, or 67 percent, over current levels.  I also recommended that the Security Council boost the number of troops by 2,000, a nearly 30 percent increase, for six months," he said.

Mr. Ban's decision exceeded the estimates of senior officials, who said Sunday that he would ask for an increase of about 1,250 troops and police.

His Chief of Peacekeeping, Alain LeRoy, told reporters that the reason for more troops is three-fold.  "And for the military, the three, I repeat: mostly securing the humanitarian convoys; second, humanitarian corridor; and third, to constitute, of course, a reserve force in case the situation unravels and the security situation is deteriorating," he said.

He said the police requested are mostly specialists, such as forensic experts and corrections officers.  Additional U.N. police will also help maintain law and order at aid distribution sites.

In the meantime, the U.N. has shifted about 400 peacekeepers from other parts of Haiti to the capital to help fill the gap.

The U.N. estimates that one-in-three Haitians is in need of assistance, following last week's 7.0 magnitude earthquake.  Haitians have criticized the relief effort, saying they are seeing aid planes arriving, but that food and other supplies are not reaching them fast enough and on a wide-enough scale.  U.N. officials say more peacekeepers and police will help the aid reach those in need faster.

The peacekeeping increase must be voted on in a Security Council resolution, which is likely on Tuesday.

Alain LeRoy said the United Nations already has a firm offer of 800 troops from Haiti's neighbor, the Dominican Republic.  He said they could be in place as early as the end of this week.  The European Union has also expressed interest in contributing police, but has not made a firm offer yet.

The United States has committed more than 10,000 troops to the Haitian relief effort.  They are coordinating with the United Nations, but working under their own command, securing their massive relief operation, as well as running the airport and repairing one of Haiti's seaports.

 

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