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Editorial, Opinion Piece Address U.N.’s Role In Haiti’s Cholera Outbreak

The following editorial and opinion piece address the U.N.’s role in the Haitian cholera outbreak and aftermath.

  • Washington Post: On Friday, the Washington Post responded to an August 14 letter from Martin Nesirky, a spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who addressed a Post editorial published on August 11. The Washington Post’s response said Nesirky “pointedly ignored the editorial’s central focus, which is that the United Nations’ responsibility derives not only from its mission as a major humanitarian relief organization, but also from the growing body of evidence that the cholera outbreak originated with U.N. peacekeepers deployed to Haiti in 2010 following a devastating earthquake,” the editorial states. “That is the conclusion of a range of experts, including a panel enlisted by the United Nations itself and, most recently,” a report from Yale Law School and the Yale School of Public Health, the editorial writes, adding, “[B]y refusing to acknowledge responsibility, the United Nations jeopardizes its standing and moral authority in Haiti and in other countries where its personnel are deployed.” The editorial concludes, “To its credit, the United Nations does seem to be pressing hard to help Haiti eradicate cholera and lessen the effect of the epidemic. … Yet without also speaking frankly about its own responsibility for introducing cholera to Haiti, the organization does a disservice to Haiti and Haitians, who deserve better” (8/16).
  • Celso Perez and Muneer Ahmad, The Atlantic: “As new cases [of cholera in Haiti] continue to emerge, and the U.N.’s legitimacy continues to erode, it is time for the organization to apologize and take responsibility for the consequences of its actions and its inaction,” Perez, a member of the Transnational Development Clinic and a fellow in the Global Health Justice Partnership at Yale Law School, and Ahmad, director of the Transnational Development Clinic and a professor at Yale Law School, write. Noting the Yale report, the authors state, “As we detail, international law … requires that the U.N. provide individuals affected by its peacekeeping operations with mechanisms for bringing claims against the organization. The failure to provide remedies in Haiti is part of a recent pattern of the U.N. neglecting its legal and moral responsibilities in peacekeeping operations worldwide. A continued refusal would further undermine the organization’s claim to promote the rule of law and human well-being in its missions.” They conclude, “Moreover, by failing to lead by example, the U.N. is undercutting its core aims of promoting international peace, law, and human rights. As the third anniversary of the Haitian epidemic approaches this October, it is time for the U.N. to live up to its mandate” (8/16).