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UN Adopts Strategy To Aid Victims Of Sexual Abuse

UN forum adopts strategy to aid victims of sexual abuse by Organization's staff

In a major step forward in addressing sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations personnel, a working group of the General Assembly today agreed on a strategy to assist victims, ranging from medical treatment and counselling to social support, legal services and material care.

In addition, the strategy commits the UN to helping children born as a result of sexual exploitation and abuse.

"This is an important day for the victims, whose suffering can be reduced with the UN's support," the Chair of the working group, Costa Rica's Permanent Representative Jorge Urbina, said.

The UN, which fields nearly 200,000 people from over 100 countries in its peacekeeping missions, has instituted a policy of zero tolerance against sexual abuse and exploitation ever since the problem surfaced in 2004, when a UN report found that a "shockingly large number" of peacekeepers had engaged in such practices in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The report cited payments for sex sometimes ranging from two eggs to $5 per encounter. The victims included many abandoned orphans who were often illiterate.

Assistant Secretary-General Jane Holl Lute, Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Field Support, called today's agreement an important day for the UN. "This policy represents a long overdue measure to strengthen our policy of zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse," she said.

Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Margareta Wahlström noted that a comprehensive approach to victim assistance throughout the UN "will greatly enhance the efficacy of assistance efforts and therefore make an important difference in the lives of victims."

The strategy was developed in part as follow-up to the 2005 World Summit, during which Member States called for a comprehensive approach to victim assistance. The strategy is one arm of a broader UN effort to address sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel that includes prevention, enforcement and remedial action.

The adoption of the strategy today was undertaken by an ad hoc open-ended working group. The Assembly is expected to formally adopt the strategy before the current session closes.


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