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Official Pledges Further Effort to Fight Sex Abuse

Top UN Peacekeeping Official Pledges Further Measures to Fight Sex Abuse

New York, Oct 19 2005 6:00PM

Combating sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeepers, currently some 80,000-strong around the world, will require a continuous effort, and more needs to be done, the head of the world body’s peacekeeping operations said today.

“This is an issue that we’re not going to resolve quickly,” Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) told reporters. “We’re fighting. We were behind. We are, I think, catching up.

“There is more to be done because it’s a cultural shift that is really taking place… with some 80,000 people deployed around the world to make sure that in each and every mission there is the right attitude, that the zero tolerance policy that is clearly decided at Headquarters really is understood and applied and implemented in each and every mission. That is something that requires a continuous effort.”

Mr. Guéhenno’s comments came a day after the head the UN Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), Inga-Britt Ahlenius, reported to the General Assembly that the increase in reports of sexual exploitation and abuse at peacekeeping missions and duty stations had led to new procedures and more resources to conduct investigations, detect cases, and train personnel.

The issue came to fore last year with allegations against peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), when an OIOS report cited payments ranging from two eggs to $5 per encounter. Some victims were abandoned orphans who were often illiterate. Secretary-General Kofi immediately instituted a policy of zero tolerance.

In response, the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) implemented a number of robust measures, including a strict curfew and non-fraternization policy for all military contingents and “off-limits areas” for all UN personnel including civilian staff. These measures are being vigorously enforced.

The UN has dispatched three different teams of investigators to look into all outstanding allegations, and their work has resulted in criminal and disciplinary action in several cases, as well as the creation of improved measures of prevention and enforcement. Reports on 50 military personnel have been sent to their national authorities for action, including prosecution. One civilian is in prison awaiting trial and disciplinary action has been initiated against four others.

UN officials and a special adviser named by the secretary-general are working with the governments of troop-contributing countries, which are ultimately responsible for the discipline of their personnel, to ensure effective follow-up and to prioritize concrete ways they can assist in combating the problem.

A number of countries contributing personnel have already begun to take action on this front and have filed criminal charges against individuals alleged to have committed sexual exploitation or abuse while serving with MONUC.

Mr. Guéhenno praised Nigeria’s recent decision to withdraw a unit from the DRC recently because of the problem. “Nigeria made the right decision and pulled the unit out and they took some very strong decisions. That is exactly what needs to be done. That’s the kind of message that gradually will really transform the attitude of the forces in all our missions.”

He also praised the insistence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the issue. “You’ll say I’m a masochist but actually when I see that NGOs are continuing to press on the issue, I think it’s actually good because it does keep the pressure and we need to keep the pressure if we are to have results.”

ENDS

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