IL Newswire

UN: Renewing Efforts to Combat 'Sexual Exploitation and Abuse'

Ms. Jane Holl Lute, the Special Coordinator on improving the UN's response to sexual exploitation and abuse, was made responsible in February 2016 for creating a more streamlined approach to resolving these issues when caused by UN peacekeepers. Ms. Lute has recently outlined the results of her efforts: a four-part approach aimed at "putting the victims first."

The necessary change is meant to occur both in how the UN handles such cases and in how its own peacekeepers act on the ground. In investigating existing situations, the UN strategy will be to first place utmost importance on the dignity and rights of the victims; second, the organization will end the policy of immunity given to UN peacekeepers found responsible for sexual abuses; third, the UN will consult third-party experts, which would ensure accountability; and finally, the organization will focus on raising awareness both in- and outside the UN itself.

In an effort to combine all of these steps into action, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres intends to call upon each of the four UN field missions that "account for the highest numbers of incidents" to appoint a victims' rights advocate "on the ground"; that is, an external advocate housed within each mission to ensure accountability and justice for the victims. The peacekeeping missions with the highest number of reported incidents are in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The UN's new approach is meant to focus both on prevention as well as response. Preventive measures include "mandatory training, sensitization, risk management and enhanced screening of all incoming personnel – be it military, police or civilian – for prior misconduct while serving with the UN." When responding to existing issues, efforts include the immediate deployment of response teams to "gather and preserve evidence", quick-moving investigations, and pursuing accountability measures within the Member States, including imprisoning peacekeepers that are found guilty.

Ms. Lute reaffirmed the need to address the issue as a crisis affecting the entire organization, and not just the peacekeeping missions directly involved: "This is a problem that all of us have to address, system-wide. And we need to begin by thinking through: how can we become a global example of a standards-based organisation of best practice?” 

Read more here. You may also access the "Peacekeeping Initiatives in Action: Addressing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse" fact sheet here.