UNITED NATIONS – The Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti for a year, saying the situation in the impoverished Caribbean nation still constitutes a threat to international peace and security despite recent progress.
The resolution adopted by the council will maintain the current mission's force level of about 9,000 troops and police.
But the council agreed to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's recommendation to reconfigure the force so it can deploy rapidly and monitor remote locations, including border areas and the country's coastline. The U.N. chief said this could be done now since it is increasingly unlikely that U.N. peacekeepers will need to conduct large-scale security operations like those in the Cite Soleil area of Port Au Prince in 2007.
The U.N. mission, known as MINUSTAH, was sent to Haiti following the bloody ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. It has provided the only real security in the Western hemisphere's poorest country ever since, fighting gangs, cracking down on kidnappers and helping develop local police.
The Security Council authorized that the number of U.N. troops be reduced by 120 to 6,940 and the number of police be increased by 120 to 2,211. Ban said the extra police were needed to further strengthen the mission's ability to support Haitian authorities in their crowd-control efforts.
While the council acknowledged some improvements in the last year, it said "the security situation remains fragile."
In authorizing the extension of the U.N. mission's mandate until Oct. 15, 2010, the council said it determined "that the situation in Haiti continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region, despite the progress achieved thus far."
The resolution asks Haiti's neighbors and countries in the region to coordinate with MINUSTAH and strengthen their engagement with the government and police "to address cross-border illicit trafficking of persons, in particular children, and the trafficking of drugs, arms and other illegal activities."
It also "recognizes the need for MINUSTAH to continue its efforts to patrol along maritime and land border areas in support of border security activities" by the Haitian police. It encourages MINUSTAH to continue discussions with the government and member states "to assess the threat along Haiti's land and maritime borders."
The council adopted the resolution at the same time a memorial service was taking place in Port Au Prince for 11 U.N. soldiers and airmen killed when their plane crashed into a mountain near the border with the Dominican Republic on Oct. 9 while on a reconnaissance mission.
The resolution reaffirms that MINUSTAH will provide logistical and security assistance for upcoming elections in 2010.
The council said it recognizes that the global food, fuel, financial and economic crises continue to pose "a significant threat to the overall process of stabilization in Haiti."
It welcomed the appointment of former U.S. President Bill Clinton as a U.N. special envoy to promote investment and job creation and spur the delivery of basic services in the country.