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Peacekeeping missions must put human rights before charity

Op-ed columnist Juliette Kayyem argued that the United Nations made the right choice in refusing to hear claims that it was grossly negligent in causing an epidemic of cholera in Haiti that has killed more than 8,000 people (“UN’s cold, but correct, call on Haiti,” Feb. 28). Invoking diplomatic immunity was “the only outcome that provides the necessary protections” to ensure future peacekeeping operations, she wrote.

Kayyem’s low standard of accountability is only viable because peacekeeping missions serve poor people without the political power to enforce their rights. It’s the same sentiment of charity — that those in need should not question their helpers — that has given the international community’s response to the 2010 earthquake a pass for its ineffectiveness.

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But the UN was founded on the principle of human rights, not charity.

As Americans who fund one-quarter of the budget for UN peacekeeping in Haiti, we must ask ourselves what kind of help we’re willing to pay for, and call the UN to account for its gross negligence and persistent denial of justice. In the end, we would be helping, not harming, future UN missions to fulfill the UN charter “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.”

Stephanie Garry


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