The 26th Peacekeeping Brazilian Battalion (26th BRABAT) assumed control of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH, per its French acronym) on June 2nd. Made up of 970 service members – 850 from BRABAT and 120 from the Engineering Battalion – this is the last Brazilian contingent that will operate on Haitian soil within the context of the mission.
MINUSTAH already has a scheduled end date of October 15th, in accordance with the decision of the UN Security Council. At that time the UN will end one of its longest peacekeeping missions – 13 years of work done on the Caribbean island. The soldiers who will see through the final months of MINUSTAH are paving the way to setting up a new operation in the country — the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH, per its French acronym) — with police officers in the predominant role.
The new initiative will be implemented for six months, in order “to assist the Haitian government to strengthen the rule of law institutions in Haiti, further support and develop the Haitian National Police, and engage in human rights monitoring, reporting, and analysis,” according to the draft resolution (S/2017/313) approved by the Security Council on April 13th.
Preparing for peacekeeping missions
The 26th BRABAT service members departed Brazil to Haiti in four groups. The first group embarked on May 16th, and the last one will leave on June 1st. Of the 850 Brazilian service members, 639 are from the Army, 30 from the Air Force, and 181 from the Navy.
The Blue Helmets taking part in the conclusion of MINUSTAH must continue maintaining a secure and stable environment while still providing support to humanitarian assistance activities for the Haitians. Therefore, Brazilian service members went through training from February to mid-April in Caçapava, São Paulo state.
Under coordination from the Brazilian Joint Center for Peacekeeping Operations (CCOPAB, per its Portuguese acronym), an organization linked to the Ministry of Defense, the training of the 26th BRABAT members included everything from French and Creole classes to riot control operations, to exercises on hospital care, and simulations of different situations that may occur in Haiti. In one of these activities, the service members trained on how to deal with the collapse of a building that was supposedly hit by a natural disaster, such as the one that happened in 2010, when an earthquake devastated the island, leaving more than 300,000 dead, including 18 representatives from the Brazilian contingent.
CCOPAB was created in 2010 specifically to support the training of members of peacekeeping and humanitarian aid missions. In seven years, this organization has already had 3,500 alumni, including service members from the Armed Forces, civilians, police officers, and firefighters from Brazil, as well as officials from allied nations.
In the last week of April, a UN team charged with evaluating troops for new peacekeeping missions was in Brazil to perform an inspection of military units, including CCOPAB. According to results, it will be possible to direct representatives from the Brazilian Armed Forces to new operations after the service members’ departure from Haiti.
“Brazil has great potential for using its air resources in Africa and in other missions,” stated Colonel Humayun Chohan Zia, head of the UN delegation, during their visit to Brazil, according to information released by the Ministry of Defense website. The Brazilian government is awaiting the UN’s decision on the subject. “Our service members’ expertise will be used in new missions, but it has not yet been determined what those missions will be,” reported the Ministry of Defense Public Affairs Office. Among the possibilities are operations in Congo, Liberia, Ivory Coast, and Lebanon.
Operations in Lebanon
Brazil already has substantial representation in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), assuming control of the Maritime Task Force (MTF-UNIFIL) in 2011. That is a unique maritime force which exists within a UN peacekeeping operation, created in order to “conduct maritime patrol and interdiction operations for the purpose of providing assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces, especially the Navy, to prevent the entry of arms and related materiel into Lebanon by sea,” explained Major General Flávio Augusto Viana Rocha, director of the Navy Public Affairs Office. MTF-UNIFIL also seeks to increase the capacity of the Lebanese Navy so that it can carry out all duties related to maritime security in its territorial waters.
There are 263 Brazilian service members in the mission in Lebanon, according to Maj. Gen. Rocha. Of those, 243 are aboard the flagship (the ship where the squadron leader is located), which, since March 15th, is the frigate União. And 10 of the crew members aboard that vessel are Brazilian members of MTF-UNIFIL’s Joint Staff, for a total of 253 service members. There are three more service members in the Joint Staff, but they remain on land.
Members of the Joint Staff belong to a team that directly advises Major General Sergio Fernando de Amaral Chaves Junior, the commander of the MTF who assumed the one-year post in February. “This group covers the areas of organization, intelligence, operations, logistics, planning, communications, and training, as well as the associated legal and financial aspects,” Maj. Gen. Rocha specified.
Brazil is also contributing to UNIFIL with seven additional Army service members who are part of the Spanish Brigade stationed in the city of Marjayoun, in eastern Lebanon. They are part of that brigade’s Joint Staff, and they remain on land fulfilling the demands of the commander of that sector.
A presence in Africa
The UN is conducting 16 peacekeeping operations around the world. Brazil is participating in eight of them: the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO, per its French acronym), the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO, per its French acronym), United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei, in Sudan (UNISFA), the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA, per its French acronym), in addition to MINUSTAH and UNIFIL.
Out of a total of 1,283 Brazilians participating in these missions, five are police officers, and they are stationed in Haiti and South Sudan. The rest are military service members who are participating in two ways: within the troops that are formed, as in the cases of Haiti and Lebanon, or individually, as in Western Sahara, Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, and Central African Republic, when the Brazilian service members or representatives from the Joint Staff are on loan from the Ministry of Defense to carry out specific actions in the mission. Since 1948, Brazil has participated in more than 30 UN peacekeeping operations, with more than 24,000 personnel.