The United Nations announced yesterday that it is investigating two cases of sexual exploitation of children allegedly committed by UN police personnel in Haiti. One case involves the UN Police (UNPOL) in Port-au-Prince, while the other implicates one or more members of the Formed Police Unit (FPU) in the northern city of Gonaives.
UN Spokesperson Martin Nesirky said that the Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) alerted UN headquarters of the allegations last week. “The United Nations is outraged by these allegations and takes its responsibility to deal with them extremely seriously,” said Nesirky in a statement. The UN has not disclosed the nationalities of the police officers in question, but confirmed that they have been removed from duty while under investigation.
Since peacekeepers first arrived in Haiti 2004 to restore order following the ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the UN has had a sometimes tense relationship with the local population. Last September, five Uruguayan peacekeepers were recalled after being accused of sexually abusing a Haitian man at a UN base, while recording the incident on a cellphone. Four months earlier, an independent UN panel concluded that the Cholera epidemic that infected 344,000 Haitians and killed over 6,000 likely originated from poor sanitation by Nepalese peacekeepers stationed in Mirebalais. Both incidents resulted in protests and clashes between protesters and UN and Haitian police.
In an effort to ebb anti-UN sentiment in Haiti, the Security Council decided last October to withdraw 3,000 troops from the Caribbean nation, returning the force to pre-earthquake levels. Still, President Michel Martelly maintains that UN troops are a necessary presence in Haiti until the country’s police force—or a new military—can ensure security.
Colombia will serve as a rotating member of the United Nations Security Council this coming January for a two-year term following approval of its uncontested bid to represent Latin America and the Caribbean alongside Brazil. This marks Colombia’s sixth time serving as a non-permanent rotating member of the Council, replacing Mexico as the second representative of the region. Other countries elected to serve as non-permanent rotating members include South Africa, Germany, Portugal, and for the first time, India.
Colombia’s bid for a seat on the Council was made official by President Juan Manuel Santos on September 24 during his address at the UN General Assembly, voicing Colombia’s commitment to assist UN efforts in maintaining international peace and security. However, Colombia’s bid was met with some opposition from neighboring Bolivia over concerns that Colombia’s presence on the Security Council would serve to expand the influence of the United States on the Council. Despite the concern, Colombia’s appointment was approved by 186 member countries.
In addition to the five newly elected countries, the Security Council’s other non-permanent members—Brazil, Nigeria, Lebanon, Gabon, and Bosnia-Herzegovina—will join the five permanent members (China, France, Russia, Britain, and the United States) for the 2011 term.
The United States today dismissed a proposed agreement between Brazil, Turkey and Iran that would allow Iran to swap enriched uranium for reactor fuel. The deal was brokered by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during his trip in May to Tehran. The U.S., however, appears to think that the Brazilian agreement would leave Iran with enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.
Brazil’s role in the nuclear negotiations is part of a broader effort to increase its profile on the international stage, but the U.S. has downplayed its diplomatic efforts on Iran. Prior to Mr. Lula da Silva’s May trip to Tehran, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton repeatedly said that only UN Security Council action would be effective in curbing Iran’s ambitions. When the Brazilian president succeeded in brokering the deal, Washington declined to recognize it as an important breakthrough.
The UN Security Council is soon expected to approve a fourth round of economic sanctions against Iran, which Brazil has opposed. U.S. officials met with the Brazilian deputy foreign minister on Monday in an effort to convince Brazil to abstain from voting against the sanctions at today’s Security Council meeting, rather than cast a “no” vote. Turkey, which joined Brazil in the negotiations with Iran, and Lebanon are also expected to oppose the newest round of sanctions.
Mexico warned Israel of possible United Nations Security Council action if they continued to block humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza only hours after assuming the UN body’s rotating presidency at midnight on June 1. In a carefully crafted statement released yesterday, the council president, Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico, condemned Israel’s actions against the Turkish aid flotilla, which resulted in the deaths of at least nine civilians and dozens other injured, and called for an impartial investigation of the operation. The council also requested the immediate release of ships and civilians held by Israel.
More aid ships are expected to attempt to reach Gaza today while Israel remains steadfast to keep ships from crossing their blockade. Israel’s Defense Vice Minister Matan Vilnaí declared that the blockade would stand despite widespread condemnation of their actions on May 31. The aid ships have been docked in Ashdod Port in southern Israel and Israeli authorities began transporting the ship’s humanitarian cargo to Gaza as of Tuesday afternoon.
Mexico assumed the presidency of the 15-nation Security Council as it held closed door meetings to discuss a response to the Israeli action. The previous Council presidency was held by Lebanon, which called the meeting on May 31, just before the expiration of their month-long presidency term. The UN Security Council is charged with maintaining international peace and security in the world at large and this month marks Mexico’s second term as president since rotating into the council for its two-year term. Mexico last held the presidency of the Security Council in April 2009.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.