Peacekeeper Fathered Children in Haiti

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: History and Cultures


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 proposed study addresses this critical knowledge gap through the following original contributions:

- Theoretical contribution - analysing the lack of accountability of the UN and its personnel for children fathered by UN peacekeepers by introducing a victim-centred approach;

- Empirical contributions: i) exploring the gender norms, and the socioeconomic, cultural and security circumstances that contribute to unequal power relations between UN personnel and local civilians; ii) mapping the whereabouts of 'peace babies' in Haiti through a situational analysis of the areas surrounding six UN bases and exploring the circumstances around their conceptions; and iii) investigating the life experiences of women raising children fathered by peacekeepers; and

- Methodological contribution - using an innovative mixed quantitative/qualitative research tool, Cognitive Edge's SenseMaker, to provide a more nuanced understanding of these complex issues.

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 this 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.

Planned Impact

This research project's theme and concerns are highly relevant to policy makers, practitioners in development policy and practice, and for civil society actors in the areas of security, governance, justice and equality. They are equally salient for in-country policy makers in Haiti as they are for other hosts of peace support operations (PSOs) in the global South and those who provide the support from the Global North.

The project's particular strength lies in drawing together previously separate disciplinary work and debating this with key stakeholders interested in the areas of UN peacekeeping and life-courses of those affected by PSOs. A particular concern of this project is the collaboration of academic and third-sector partners in the lessons to be learnt from the comparative historical and social science contextualisation of questions of accountability in post-conflict and post-PSO situations globally. These lessons are of particular significance to hosts of PSO missions globally, all of which except Cyprus are Low and Middle Income Countries and as such Overseas Development Assistance-recipient countries.

Who will benefit?

Immediate beneficiaries among the non-academic stakeholders are the BAI (Bureaux des Avocats Internationeaux - a public interest law firm of Haitians and for Haitians) and the Institute of Justice and Democracy in Haiti as the main partners; MINUSTAH; the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office of Internal Oversight Services; as well as human rights, women's rights and child rights organisations whose capacity to understand and deal with the complexities of the issue of 'peace babies' will be enhanced through the specific third-sector activities during the lifetime of the project.
Through inclusion of third-partner stakeholders from at least five PSO host counties in the final project conference, research results will feed into national discourses of several countries who will benefit both from a better understanding arising from the research itself as well as their participation in the wider research network emenating from the project.

How will stakeholders benefit?

The project will influence policy debate and policy making as well as the public discourse. New knowledge co-created by in-country partners and academics from the UK and Canada through this research and the insights generated through collaborative multi-disciplinary cross-sectoral dialogue will inform policy makers with the goal of improving existent policies and creating new policies surrounding children fathered by UN peacekeepers.
Research outcomes will also be useful to NGOs, informing their programs, helping to make their services more relevant for affected women and children. Furthermore, findings will be of direct interest to international security organizations such as the UN and the European Union.
Contacts at the UN are informed about this project and we anticipate that there will be opportunities to share results directly with UN leaders. Results will also be useful for developing training materials for national militaries of TCCs and for predeployment training of peacekeeping personnel. Conversations are ongoing with instructors at the Peace Support Training Centre of the Canadian Armed Forces, who have expressed interest in learning about the best practices involved in gender and peacekeeping, as well as building awareness of abuse by peacekeepers and discussing mechanisms for preventing such abuse. ZEBIS, the Centre of Ethical Education of the German Armed Forces, has expressed interest in the joint development of an online curriculum based on output from this project.


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Lemay-Hebert N (2017) Normal Peace: A New Strategic Narrative of Intervention in Politics and Governance

Description Initial findings suggest a diverse range of consequences of children being fathered by peacekeepers. There have been follow-on qalitiative interviews which are currently being analysed and first papers with results are in the process of being drafted and submitted.
Exploitation Route This is not yet applicable, as we are still interpreting material from the initial data collection. A SSHRC project is currently carrying out follow-on qualitative data collection to supplement our mixed methods approach.
Sectors Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

Description Partnership Development Grant
Amount $199,930 (CAD)
Organisation Government of Canada 
Department SSHRC - Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Sector Public
Country Canada
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2020
Description Exploring the Borderlands: Academic-artistic collaborations 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact 40 academic participatns performance artists, producers and fil-makers met for a two-day impact-focussed exchange, around the planned performance of In the Name of the Father - a codumentary dance theatre about Children born of War.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019