Victims in mind in UN plan to combat peacekeepers' sex abuse

Source UN News

Source UN News

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein called such abuse a "scourge on the UN" and put the onus also on countries to help: "It's the member states that can exercise criminal jurisdiction and not the United Nations".

The UN rights chief says "transparency and victim support" will be part of a new strategy laid out by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to fight sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers.

"Such acts of cruelty should never take place".

The allegations in 2016 came from 311 accusers, nearly all of them women and girls, but Guterres said he was certain many cases were unreported.

He also called for setting up a team of special investigators to better respond to allegations, stronger vetting of United Nations personnel, "prohibitions on alcohol consumption" and new guidelines for peacekeepers on non-fraternisation.

During his first week in office, in January 2017, the Secretary-General established a diverse High-Level Task Force, led by his Special Coordinator Jane Holl Lute, to develop as a matter of urgency a strategy to achieve visible and measurable improvements in the way the Organization prevents and responds to sexual exploitation and abuse.

In addition, India designated the Ministry of Women and Child Development to give assistance in paternity cases and shared the applicable legal framework governing paternity claims with the Secretariat.

The United Nations has been badly shaken by the wave of allegations of sex abuse by the troops it deploys in missions with a clear mandate to protect civilians.

One major factor in the increase is thought to be more people choosing to come forward, according to the report.

The largest number of cases have been recorded in four missions: Minusca in the Central African Republic, Monusco in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Minustah in Haiti and Minuss in South Sudan. The Secretary-General is convinced that increasing the number of women throughout United Nations activities, including service as uniformed peacekeepers, would help advance the United Nations efforts to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse.

Amnesty International responded positively to Mr Guterres' proposals but said it was "concerned, however, by the lack of pressure on member countries to ensure that incidents of sexual abuse are investigated and prosecuted fairly".

The resolution stressed prevention and accountability as key for the UN and its member states to demonstrate their commitment to a zero-tolerance policy for SEA and to providing justice for victims, read a press statement from the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday.

"Let us do so in the name of all who look to the United Nations for life-saving protection and support - and on behalf of the tens of thousands of United Nations personnel around the world who deliver that assistance with courage and commitment to the highest ideals", he stressed.

Sexual exploitation and abuse are deeply rooted in gender inequality and discrimination.

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