By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Officials of the United-Nations Stabilization Mission to Haiti discussed this week with a group of Haitian senators about a plan to begin withdrawal, in 2016, of thousands of Blue Berets deployed to the Caribbean country ten years ago, but the UN secretary-general may speed the process should circumstances allow it, UN officials say.
Chief of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti Sandra Honore
he UN secretary-general’s special representative and chief of the UN Mission in Haiti, Sandra Honoré, confirmed, in a speech this week, the existence of the plan, but did not attend personally the meeting held on Wednesday between UN representatives and a group of senators, during which the plan was discussed.
According to the spokesperson for the UN Mission in Haiti, Sophie Boutaud de la Combe, the discussions took place in the framework of a series of consultations with Haitian actors from different sectors, as the world organization prepares to decide on the plan, which provides for the beginning of the withdrawal in the course of 2016.
"The current initiative follows the presentation of the secretary-general's report in March, which proposed five options to perform the political and peacekeeping functions that are likely to remain relevant beyond 2016," de la Combe told the Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN).
The plan provides for a continued presence of a political component or an armed or unarmed peace structure, following the withdrawal scheduled to begin in about two years.
"But depending on the option chosen, the secretary-general may speed the process to begin the withdrawal in 2015 should conditions on the field allow it", de la Combe explained.
"This is a decision that the Security Council will make in consultations with Haitian actors, and from the five options, three would entail a complete withdrawal of the military component," de la Combe told HCNN.
The force is now composed of 7,645 peacekeepers, including 2,426 police officers from contributing countries on different continents, while the mission's civil personnel amounts to 1, 728.
The initiatives are part of a 2012-2016 consolidation strategy set up by the UN to make sure the gains obtained as a result of the deployment of the UN Stabilization Mission are maintained even after the withdrawal of the force.
Haiti plans to increase its 11,000-member police force to 15,000 by 2016.
Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe announced on Friday an increase in the logistical and budget means to allow the police to carry out their mission in a better working environment. The Haitian government has also granted a pay raise to police officers in the most recent budget approved by Parliament, earlier this month.
The number of homicides in 2013 was 21% lower than in 2012 and kidnappings decreased by 53% compared to 2012, according to the UN.
The 2013-2014 budget for the UN mission in Haiti is US$609.1 million, compared to US$648.4 million for the 2012-2013 period.