Thursday, November 15, 2007

Peacekeepers must remain in Haiti

Peacekeepers must remain in Haiti

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

(Read the original article here.)

November 15, 2007

ISSUE: U.N. peacekeepers to stay in Haiti.

United Nations peacekeepers will stay in Haiti for several more years, according to the man overseeing that mission. Hedi Annabi, the U.N. envoy recently assigned to Haiti, offered that blunt assessment less than a week into the job.

The comment reflects no disrespect to the island nation, or to Haitians here in South Florida. The country's security situation is fragile at best, and the last thing Haiti or its Caribbean neighbors need is for Haiti to fall into more social and political turmoil.

Unfortunately, turmoil has been a part of life in Haiti's capital ever since a revolt in 2004 prompted the departure of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The uprising prompted the U.N. to send in a peacekeeping force, which today numbers over 7,800 currently stationed on the island.

The force has stemmed some of the violence in Port-Au-Prince's slums. More recently, the peacekeepers helped set up and man shelters for displaced Haitians after Tropical Storm Noel ravaged the island.

The troops are needed if Haiti ever hopes to provide the one thing businesses, foreign governments and international aid agencies want most — stability. For example, Congress passed and President Bush signed legislation designed to increase Haiti's textile trade with the U.S. In exchange, the Haitian government will take steps to develop policies to reduce poverty and hunger, establish a strong rule of law and develop a market-based economy.

The measure is a badly needed shot in the arm for Haiti's textile industry. Congress is considering further legislation that will increase the impact of the original HOPE act. Still, the bill, along with other initiatives that would help boost economic development in Haiti, will need time, and that's where the peacekeepers come in.

Annabi has a tough task. Haiti's long-standing poverty and other challenges to the government of René Préval remain major impediments to the island nation's hope of a rebirth. Fortunately, the U.N. envoy is making some progress, and his honest assessment of Haiti's challenges can only be described as a plus.

BOTTOM LINE: U.N. peacekeepers must remain to allow other efforts to help Haiti take hold.

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