Prof. Sabine Lee
University of Birmingham
As of April 2016, a total of 103,510 uniformed personnel from 123 countries were serving in 16 peacekeeping operations around the world. Where foreign soldiers – during war, occupation or peacekeeping operations – are on foreign soil, military-civilian relations develop, including those between soldiers and local women. Peacekeepers have increasingly been associated with sexual exploitation and abuse of the vulnerable populations they had been mandated to protect. Many of the intimate relations between peacekeeping personnel and local women, of both voluntary and exploitative nature, have led to pregnancies and to children being born. These so-called ‘peace babies’ and their mothers face particular challenges in volatile post-conflict communities, reportedly including childhood adversities as well as stigmatization, discrimination and disproportionate economic and social hardships.
This project proposes an in-depth-study on the situation of ‘peace babies’ conceived by personnel from or associated with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). MINUSTAH is among the missions associated with allegations of misconduct, not least related to sexual and gender-based violence and consequently the unintended legacy of children fathered by UN personnel. The UN has recently acknowledged that ‘peacekeeper babies’ exist. Yet, an evidence base relating to the welfare of children fathered by UN peacekeepers (globally or in Haiti) is virtually non-existent, and it is clear that the existing UN policies and support programs are inadequate.
The multidisciplinary collaboration between scholars from the University of Birmingham, Queen’s University, Kingston, the Centre of International and Defence Policy, and Haitian-based Enstiti Travay Sosyal ak Syans Sosyal (ETS), along with civil society organisations, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and Haitian-based Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, will address the above-described knowledge gap and enhance our understanding of the challenges faced by peace babies and their families as well as the obstacles to accessing support. Beyond the core UK-Canada-Haiti partnership, the project will include further ODA-recipient countries (among others Cambodia, Bosnia, Liberia and the DRC) and in a final project conference will apply insights from Haiti to Peace Support Operations (PSO) more generally in discourse with academic and non-academic participants from other countries with extensive PSO experience in order to enable service providers to address the needs of ‘peace babies’ and their families more effectively.
For further information, please email Sabine at email@example.com