24 February 2006
Problem of Sexual Abuse by Peacekeepers now Openly Recognized, Broad Strategy in Place to Address It,Security Council Told
Head of Peacekeeping, Adviser to Secretary-General Brief
NEW YORK, 23 February (UN Headquarters) -- Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, briefing the Security Council today on steps taken to address accusations of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeeping personnel, said peacekeeping was a dangerous business. "We dishonour these brave men and women when we fail to prevent or punish those from within their ranks who victimize the very people peacekeepers are meant to protect and serve."
Mr. Guéhenno said that neither the Department of Peacekeeping Operations nor the Member States had discussed the matter until the revelation that a shockingly large number of United Nations peacekeepers had committed such misconduct in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Today, with the severity of the problem openly recognized and a broad United Nations strategy in place to tackle it, concrete meaningful progress was being made.
To be "clear and up front", however, there was still a considerable way to go, he continued. Not all troop contingents or staff on the ground fully supported all aspects of the "zero tolerance" policy, particularly as it pertained to prostitution. He sought cooperation to address that particular point, and he called for the strengthening of peacekeeping operations and the Office of Oversight Services' (OIOS) capacity to investigate violations, while respecting due process. Once those hurdles were overcome, it should be possible to significantly narrow the gap between zero tolerance and full compliance, he said.
The Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, warned that allegations against United Nations peacekeeping personnel would remain unacceptably high until all four corners of the strategy were secured. Moreover, with every improvement in the mechanisms designed to facilitate complaints, there would likely be occasional spikes in accusations. Nevertheless, and despite that, the numbers of allegations currently being registered in some locations was still cause for considerable concern.
He said that Member States, together with all personnel in the field, should exert even greater efforts in all the missions concerned to draw down those numbers. Ultimately, the sexual exploitation and abuse issue must be viewed, not as some ephemeral issue of passing importance, but as the serious topic it was. It was difficult to change a culture of dismissiveness, long developed "within ourselves, in our own countries and in the mission areas". Because peacekeepers and their colleagues were performing a service of immense worth for the world community, it was all the more urgent to remove the blight of sexual exploitation and abuse on what was otherwise a distinguished and appreciated performance.
Calling the sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers "one of the greatest stains on UN history", the United States' representative, whose delegation holds the Security Council presidency for the month, said it was absolutely unacceptable that horrific crimes of sexual abuse and exploitation had been committed by United Nations peacekeepers against individuals they had been assigned to protect. In his national capacity, he urged speakers to act now, not only to pursue justice and a resolution to crimes already committed, but to set up the necessary institutions, mechanisms, training, and oversight procedures to ensure that they were not repeated in existing and future peacekeeping operations.
He said that failure to act on the matter would have profound implications for both existing and potential future peacekeeping missions. As the next operation was planned in Darfur, he did not want to worry about possible headlines of United Nations peacekeepers there raping the very population they were entrusted to protect. He concurred fully with Under-Secretary-General Guéhenno when he said last May that it was precisely the United Nations image and reputation that gave it the credibility and reputation to work so effectively in war-torn countries and bring peace and stability to millions across the world. Eliminating such misconduct was integral to the success of peacekeeping. Resolving and preventing future acts of sexual exploitation and abuse called for the same fundamental shift in the culture of the way the Organization operated, he said.
Speakers voiced broad agreement that only by holding itself to the highest standards of ethical conduct could the Organization preserve the credibility and moral authority necessary to carry out its mission in societies already vulnerable and deeply wounded by the turmoil and brutality of war. They rejected the behaviour of those individuals within the peacekeeping operations that threatened to tarnish the name and image that had allowed the United Nations to work effectively in war-torn countries and echoed their support for the United Nations zero tolerance policy.
They also noted the considerable efforts that had been made recently by the Secretary-General and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to ensure progress in that regard. For example, more than 221 peacekeepers had been investigated, 10 civilians had been fired, and more than 88 uniformed personnel had been repatriated. Conduct and discipline units had been established in some peacekeeping missions and the number of gender and children advisers in United Nations peace support missions had increased. It was generally acknowledged, however, that the problems persisted in several missions. Troop-contributing countries, therefore, were urged to ensure that their deployed personnel were appropriately trained and held to the highest standards of conduct. Continuing to tear down the "wall of silence" was deemed imperative to restoring the reputation of the United Nations and all those who represented it.
Representatives of the following countries also participated in the discussion: France; China; Russian Federation; Ghana; Congo; United Kingdom; Greece; Slovakia; Peru; Denmark; Japan; Argentina; Qatar; United Republic of Tanzania; Brazil; Singapore; Austria, on behalf of the European Union; and Canada.
The meeting, which began at 10:17 a.m., was adjourned at 12:58 p.m.
The Security Council today met to consider sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations.
On 31 May 2005, the Council issued a presidential statement (document S/PRST/2005/21) on the subject and heard briefings by Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein (Jordan), the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, and Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno (see Press Release SC/8400 of 31 May 2005).
The issue has been addressed in a report from Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, Permanent Representative of Jordan, entitled "A comprehensive strategy to eliminate future sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations peacekeeping operations (document A/59/710). The report was written at the request of the Secretary-General. (For a summary of the report, please see Press Release GA/PK/186 of 4 April 2005 that covers a meeting of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations on the issue.)
The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) issued a report entitled "Investigation by the Office of Internal Oversight Services into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo", dated 5 January 2005. (For a summary of the report, see Press Release GA/AB/3677 of 20 May, covering a meeting of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on the subject.)
JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, expressed deep appreciation for the amount of time, energy and political attention Member States had invested recently in seeking solutions to the problem of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping. The troop-contributing countries deserved special praise for engaging with the Secretariat and the membership at large on issues of extreme sensitivity and of great importance to their national honour. He stressed the word "honour" because it had been earned at the cost of the lives of some of their finest uniformed personnel.
Security Council members well knew that peacekeeping was a dangerous business, he said, recalling the tragic incidents that had claimed the lives of peacekeepers, most recently in Haiti and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as deaths, injuries or threats against the lives of mission personnel from Peru to Pakistan, Ireland to India and Bolivia to Brazil. And while peacekeepers worldwide got the job done, despite the risks, Mr. Guéhenno said: "We dishonour these brave men and women when we fail to prevent or punish those from within their ranks who victimize the very people peacekeepers are meant to protect and serve. I'm not so sure this was fully understood a few years ago as clearly as it is today."
While neither the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) nor the Member States had discussed the matter until the revelation that a shockingly large number of United Nations peacekeepers had committed sexual exploitation and abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, today the severity of the problem was openly recognized. Indeed, the General Assembly had adopted a comprehensive strategy to tackle it, which focused on prevention, enforcement and will -- upon the Assembly's approval of a policy on victim's assistance -- incorporate remediation as well, he said.
"We have already made concrete meaningful progress to implement that strategy...but I want to be clear and upfront that we still have a considerable way to go", he said, adding that it must be said that not all troop contingents or staff on the ground fully supported -- even after all the negative publicity and attention -- aspects of the "zero tolerance" policy, particularly as it pertained to prostitution. He sought cooperation to address that particular point, and called for the strengthening of peacekeeping operations and the OIOS capacity to investigate violations, while respecting due process. Once those hurdles had been overcome, he expected to be able to significantly narrow the gap between zero tolerance and full compliance.
"Until then, as we even more aggressively seek out non-compliance measured against a higher standard than ever before, the progress being made will not seem obvious, nor will it be enough", he said. Turning to progress that had been achieved thus far, he said that, while two years ago the Organization did not even have a uniform standard governing what sexual abuse and exploitation was and was not, today, thanks to the Assembly's efforts, all United Nations civilian staff members, military personnel, contingents, volunteers and contractors were bound by the same very strict standards outlined in the Secretary-General's prohibitions on sexual exploitation and abuse.
Further, between 70 and 90 per cent of civilian police and military personnel received mandatory training on sexual exploitation and abuse. The aim was 100 per cent, he added. The Organization had also developed tools to reinforce that training and its underlying message of the duty of care every peacekeeper had to the people they were meant to help. He said that other innovative tools had been developed and were being used, including training materials to educate personnel such as online e-learning standards of conduct, mission readiness booklets, security briefings and anti-sexual-abuse and anti-trafficking posters. He added that host populations were also being targeted in that campaign.
But, prevention could not be achieved through training, information and public outreach alone: welfare was another important part of the equation, as armed forces throughout the world knew too well. That was especially true when uniformed personnel, as well as civilian personnel, were deployed in quasi-war zones in some of the most remote regions of the world. Most missions were now creating constructive recreational outlets, and several had even established, from existing resources, multi-purpose sporting, socializing and dining facilities. He added that in its discussions with the Assembly, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations would encourage troop-contributing countries to make use, in the mission area, of the welfare stipend paid by the Organization of every military peacekeeper.
Turning to enforcement, he said that, during 2005, investigations had been completed into allegations of sexual exploitations and abuse involving 296 peacekeeping personnel -- 84 civilians, 21 police and 191 military personnel. So far, 17 civilians, 16 police and 137 military personnel had been dismissed or repatriated. Those numbers included six commanders. The Department had also sought and received cooperation from two Member States in repatriating entire units for misconduct -- in part related to sexual exploitation and abuse, and in part related to other misconduct.
He said that one of the main reasons significant headway had been made in the areas of enforcement and prevention had been because Member States had endorsed Price Zeid's call for the creation of a multidisciplinary conduct and discipline team at Department of Peacekeeping Operations headquarters. In addition, eight such teams had been established in peacekeeping missions in Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Timor-Leste. All those teams developed policy and provided oversight of disciplinary issues and ensured the coherent application of United Nations standards and conduct.
He called for the strengthening of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations' partnership with the OIOS and the wider United Nations system. As for the Member States, he urged the Organizations wider membership to adopt a revised memorandum of understanding to incorporate the standards of conduct contained in the Secretary-General's prohibitions. He would also urge States to firmly endorse the creation of fully fledged conduct and discipline units at Headquarters and in the field, and to establish such units in missions that were not currently served by them. He would also urge States, including troop contributors, to send an uncompromising message against prostitution in peacekeeping missions.
"Indeed, today, the single measure that would do the most to reduce the level of allegations and strengthen the policy of zero tolerance against sexual exploitation and abuse is if all troop contingents had an active and effective policy against all prostitution in mission areas", he declared. He added that he would also appeal to Member States not to conflate the issues of procurement procedures being stretched by honest peacekeepers trying to get the job done, with financial fraud, and with sexual exploitation and abuse.
Finally, he said he would also be seeking support on a longer-term reform agenda for peacekeeping in general, which would address the underlying structural weaknesses that gave rise to the acts of misconduct under review today. "We have tens of thousands of extremely competent, honest and courageous personnel in the field. These are your nationals -- uniformed and civilian personnel, alike. We cannot allow acts of serious misconduct by some to betray their good work and tarnish the reputation of the United Nations peacekeeping. It is an indispensable instrument, it is effective, and it is helping to maintain peace for tens of millions of people around the world."
Prince ZEID RA'AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN, Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, said that, of the items on the reform agenda, sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeepers had been able to be treated quietly, without much fuss, and with some measure of success. That assessment might seem out of place, in view of the continued receipt by the Peacekeeping Operations Department of a high number of allegations relating to sexual exploitation and abuse. Nevertheless, he believed that was the correct assessment. The Secretariat and Member States, by and large, had completed, or were about to complete, the changes called for by the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, following its review of the report of the Prince's team, entitled: "A comprehensive strategy toward the elimination of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations" (document A/59/710).
He said that what remained was rounding out the work of the last 10 months by finalizing the revisions to the 1997 model Memorandum of Understanding to reach an agreement between Member States on the national investigations officer concept -- a concept being refined currently by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) -- and to receive two rather sophisticated documents: the product of the group of legal experts relating to the de facto impunity enjoyed by some civilian staff members; and the United Nations' policy statement and comprehensive strategy on assistance and support to victims. In April 2005, he said he had expected that the entire reform effort where sexual exploitation and abuse was concerned would last two or so years. He had advised the Special Committee then that it would be wise to treat the simpler, more practical proposals immediately, and to confront those more complex legal, technical issues at a later date, once the preparatory work had been achieved.
Proceeding soon to the second phase of work, the Special Committee would be invited to revisit the recommendation contained in the comprehensive strategy of having the troop-contributing countries conduct their courts martial in the mission area, itself, he said. That topic had not been given more than a cursory reading last year and had been put aside, because some countries had said they could not exercise their jurisdiction extraterritorially. Nevertheless, over the last few months, two major troop contributors had, in fact, completed courts martial in a mission area successfully and, as expected, the troop contributors and the United Nations had been able to retain the confidence of the local populations. More Member States should be encouraged to follow that example, and the Special Committee should, through the General Assembly, invite all those countries able to conduct courts martial in the mission area to do so, and for the Special Committee to establish modalities for that purpose.
Turning to individual civilian staff members and the question of impunity for crimes of a sexual nature committed in mission, he said the difficulty for the United Nations arose whenever grounds for an investigation into suspected criminal conduct began to emerge, but neither the host State nor the sending State were in a position to exercise their jurisdiction, either because of circumstance in theatre or because of legal constraints on the part of the State whose national was under suspicion. The Special Committee, therefore, should provide advice on the best way to proceed, so as to ensure that the original intent of the Charter could be achieved; namely, that United Nations staff and experts on mission would never be effectively exempt from the consequences of criminal acts committed at their duty station, nor unjustly penalized in accordance with due process.
As he understood it, the group had a full draft ready before it, requiring only its final review, he said. Once the experts had adopted their text, it would be sent to the Sixth Committee (Legal). The Special Committee also required the group of legal experts to answer the question about whether the standards drawn up in the Secretary-General's Bulletin could bind contingent members prior to their conclusion of a memorandum of understanding, and for the group to propose a way of standardizing norms of conduct applicable to all categories of United Nations personnel. Regrettably, the current experts were unable to assume that undertaking, owing to their other commitments. Thus, a new group of experts would be assembled shortly.
He noted that the Secretary-General was also about to release the United Nations' policy statement and comprehensive strategy on assistance and support to victims. That document was a thoughtful proposal, prepared carefully over the last nine months by members of the Secretariat. It would likely contain some bold recommendations. Once that was presented to the Special Committee sometime over the coming days, it would be important for Member States to remain cognizant, in the balance of their ensuing negotiations, of a sense of responsibility toward the victims of United Nations abuse.
Allegations being lodged against United Nations peacekeeping personnel remained high and unacceptably so, but that was not entirely unexpected, he said. Until all four corners of the strategy were secure, at least some allegations should be expected. Moreover, with every improvement in the mechanisms designed to facilitate complaints, "it is likely we will see occasional spikes in accusations", he warned. Nevertheless, and despite all of that, the numbers of allegations currently being registered in some locations still caused considerable concern. Member States, therefore, together with all personnel in the field, must exert an even greater effort in all the missions concerned to draw down those numbers. And more resources should be ensured for the OIOS to enable it to carry out its preliminary investigations efficiently, in conjunction with the troop contributors.
Ultimately, he stressed, sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations peacekeeping operations must continue to be viewed, not as some ephemeral issue of passing importance, but as the serious issue it was. It was difficult, however, to change "a culture of dismissiveness, long developed within ourselves, in our own countries and in the mission areas". A response could often be legislated swiftly when reacting to such crises, but the rate of absorption, of absorbing those changes to the point of being able to say that attitudes had changed, was a difficult proposition. Yet, that could not be held up as an excuse for the persistent nature of those alleged abuses, because there could be no excuse where such a phenomenon existed.
He said that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the OIOS and the Office of Legal Affairs had all responded to the challenges imposed by sexual exploitation and abuse in a manner deserving acknowledgement and gratitude. One could not, and must not, forget that there were peacekeepers representing all parts of the world who were dying every year in pursuit of the objectives being established by the Council. They, and their colleagues, performed a service to the international community of immense worth. Because of that, it was all the more urgent to remove the blight of sexual exploitation and abuse on what was otherwise a distinguished and appreciated performance.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France) said the Member States must implement the road map laid out by the Prince, in order to bring an end to sexual exploitation and abuse. Such implementation would reinforce the values of the Organization and reinforce the United Nations commitment to the protection of women and children. He said that France fully supported the policy of "zero tolerance", and reaffirmed the need to protect civilians and to pursue a policy of judicial sanctions against culprits. Nonetheless, it was true that most peacekeepers were honourable and dedicated workers. But, at the same time, shortcomings needed to be addressed and the culprits needed to be held accountable for their actions.
The United Nations should, therefore, seek to address the most heinous or prevalent forms of this crime: paedophilia, rape, trafficking and sexual violence or abuse. He suggested that the overall strategy might look at categorizing those acts. Another priority must be protecting and assisting complainants, and the idea of a voluntary trust fund for victims should be fully explored. The Organization must also consider a method of inquiry into allegations, in consultation with Member States. Overall, addressing the matter effectively and comprehensively required the determination of the Secretariat and complete commitment of the Member States in order to uphold the United Nations global moral duty.
ZHANG YISHAN (China) highlighted the significance of the Council's consideration of the issue. In recent years, parties had deepened their understanding of the positive role played by peacekeeping operations. While acknowledging their successes, however, instances of sexual exploitation and abuse had come to light, which had shocked and disgraced the operations. He was deeply concerned. "If we cannot find a proper and thorough solution to the problem, it will undoubtedly and seriously undermine the peacekeeping operations and seriously constrain the future deployment of new ones", he said.
Last year, he noted, the General Assembly's Special Committee on Peacekeeping had put forth a series of corrective measures, including on the investigation and punishment of suspected perpetrators and ways to revise the relevant code of conduct and strengthen pre-deployment preparations and training. Most of those steps had been implemented and the initial aims had been achieved. He resolutely supported the proposals submitted by Prince Zeid, especially the recommendation that the United Nations must formulate and implement a zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations. The next area of focus should be on prevention and on the response, specifically on punishment. At the same time, effective measures should be formulated to assist the victims and to reform the United Nations Memorandum of Understanding.
As was often said in his country about jade, one spotty flaw could not obscure the splendour of the jewel; compared with the entire contribution of the peacekeeping effort, the disgraceful members were only a handful of people. With the combined efforts of the Secretariat, the troop contributors and all concerned parties, the problem would find a proper solution, he said.
ANDREY DENISOV (Russian Federation) said, today, when peacekeeping activities were more and more the gauge of the Organization's effectiveness in matters of international peace and security, sexual exploitation and abuse by some peacekeepers could not be allowed to stain its reputation. The United Nations must undertake vigorous actions to combat that scourge and those steps must be comprehensive in nature. In that regard, he appreciated the measures proposed and undertaken thus far and he eagerly awaited the results of the work of legal experts on the seldom studied question of eliminating impunity among civilian personnel of peacekeeping missions.
He identified the following critical tasks to eliminate instances of sexual exploitation and abuse: unification of existing rules of conduct of peacekeepers in clear and accessible form for training purposes; the establishment of an effective and transparent mechanism for accountability of investigations conducted and measures taken; and the establishment of an organized system of interaction between the Secretariat, the troop-contributing countries and host States. In each step, the long-term effect must be secured. The Security Council could also play an important role in fighting such serious crimes, through drawing up clear mandates and reliable monitoring mechanisms. The missions must receive clear instructions regarding their jurisdictions and their preparation, and numerical support must be in line with their functions. Even more important was the rational organization of the on-duty time of the peacekeepers. There was an old saying in the military: a soldier's idle mind was the devil's workshop.
NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) said peacekeeping operations were, undoubtedly, the most tangible testimony of United Nations actions in fulfilling one of its important responsibilities of maintaining international peace and security. Indeed, the distinguished service of "Blue Helmets" over the years had been widely acclaimed. But, regrettably, that enviable pedigree had been sullied, albeit only partially, by recent dishonourable conduct perpetrated by a few misguided and undisciplined individuals. And while the revelations of sexual exploitation and abuse in peace missions had brought prompt action on the part of the Organization, it was clear that much remained to be done.
He called on the Secretariat to appraise Member States of the requisite statistics to facilitate a thorough review of the matter. And while he praised the initial stationing of conduct and discipline teams in eight missions, he stressed that it was important to understand what factors had led to that decision. Ghana hoped that efforts were under way to place such units in the 10 remaining missions, since undue delay to that end might be misconstrued as selectivity.
Ghana believed that the quest for a comprehensive resolution to the issue of the sexual exploitation and abuse could be improved by providing welfare and recreational facilities for troops. Further, he said that the matter of sexual misconduct was closely related to the wider issue of women, peace and development and the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000). In that regard, taking advantage of available gender expertise would help tremendously in gaining a better under understanding of the societies and people whom peace processes were intended to help.
BASILE IKOUEBE (Congo) said that while world leaders at the 2005 World Summit had expressed their support for the primacy of the United Nations peacekeeping activities, they had called for action to address the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse. Indeed, how could the Member States not work together in the face of such shocking allegations of actions that were contrary to the very principles of peacekeeping. Those principles were to save and rebuild lives in an already broken society, not to contribute to their degradation. He called for the further implementation of the Organization's zero tolerance policy and other measures under way.
He also called for breaking the culture of silence and complicity around the issue. That would require training and public information campaigns that were instituted with the support of the wider Organization and troop-contributing countries. It would also require raising awareness among civilian and local populations, including perhaps the establishment of an early warning mechanism. Justice mechanisms should also be made available, with particular concern being shown to those victims that might be illiterate of too afraid to come forward.
EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) recalled the overwhelming consensus that was reached by Member States at the last Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations to commit to implementing fundamental, systematic changes as a matter of urgency, drawing on recommendations in the comprehensive report. He stressed the importance of demonstrating that the United Nations was making real progress on the ground, as well as in the Committee. He also urged all members to maintain that consensus in the delivery of specific improvements within their respective States. Uniform standards had now been implemented for all civilian and uniformed personnel contracted by the United Nations. Also welcome had been Department of Peacekeeping Operations' efforts to finalize the draft model memorandum of understanding and the progress made in the area of training. Despite some progress in tackling that difficult and sensitive issue, however, sexual exploitation and abuse remained a significant problem in many missions.
He called on the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and troop-contributing countries to do "much more" to implement the decisions taken at the Special Committee in 2005 to enforce the Secretary-General's zero tolerance policy, with particular emphasis on effective prevention. The utmost must be done to solve the problem and be more transparent in the way it was handled. Failure to do so meant risking the success of the missions and putting the future of United Nations peacekeeping in jeopardy. A crucial factor in preventing misconduct was capacity-building in the area of human rights and the widespread mainstreaming of gender awareness across peacekeeping missions. Systematic change was needed, so that gender issues were included in pre-mission planning and mission implementation, as well as crucially continuing into the post-mission phase. He urged the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to work with the United Nations country teams to ensure that sufficient human rights and gender expertise remained in countries to assist the national Government when a peacekeeping mission withdrew.
The widespread mainstreaming of gender into all policies and programmes at the international and national level was also crucial, he said. Since the publication of the comprehensive report, his country had worked with the Secretariat and the major troop-contributing countries to ensure implementation of all of its recommendations. It was systematically looking for opportunities to ensure that language against sexual exploitation and abuse was included in Security Council resolutions and in peacekeeping mandates and reports at both the United Nations and other international organizations. His country's Ministry of Defence Armed Forces provided training on gender, child protection and human rights issues to all its military personnel embarking on peacekeeping or similar overseas missions and, among other things, it was taking action against members of its military contingents alleged to have been involved in cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, and it encouraged other troop-contributing countries to consider similar action.
ALEXANDRA PAPADOPOULOU (Greece) said that peacekeeping operations were the most effective and successful means of dealing with threats to international peace and security. All personnel involved in those operations played an invaluable role, working under extremely difficult circumstances and putting their lives at risk. They were doing a truly remarkable job and they deserved our respect and deep gratitude. Unfortunately, the unacceptable behaviour of certain individuals within the peacekeeping operations threatened to tarnish the very name and image that allowed the United Nations to work so effectively in war-torn countries and bring peace and stability to millions around the world. Only by holding itself to the highest standards of ethical conduct could the United Nations preserve the credibility and moral authority necessary to carry out its mission in societies already vulnerable and deeply wounded by the turmoil and brutality of war.
She condemned in the strongest terms all acts of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeeping personnel, both military and civilian, and reiterated her strong support for the zero tolerance policy in such cases. The United Nations should undertake every effort to further identify patterns of abuse, record and report incidents, and ensure that justice was served. The misconduct of a few should not undercut the contributions of so many. Only an accountable and transparent response to prevent and protect local populations from sexual exploitation and abuse would send the message that the United Nations did not tolerate or condone such behaviour. Training programmes must make clear that the Ten Rules/Code of Personal Conduct for Blue Helmets and the zero tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse would be fully enforced. To implement those standards, a culture must be created that rejected and penalized such abhorrent behaviour at every level.
Close cooperation between the troop contributors and the OIOS in the conduct of investigations was crucial to ensure that any evidence collected was admissible in the relevant national jurisdiction, she said. It was also extremely important that managers and commanders were: held responsible for creating and maintaining an environment that prevented sexual exploitation and abuse; clearly directed to facilitate investigations; and held accountable for their failures in that regard. There must be no impunity for any individuals participating in peacekeeping missions who had committed a criminal offence, including United Nations staff and experts on mission, bearing in mind the principle that the same norms of conduct must apply to all categories of peacekeeping personnel. It was unacceptable that anyone connected with a United Nations peacekeeping mission -- the very people the world entrusted to protect civilians from harm - should prey on the very women and children seeking their help.
PETER BURIAN (Slovakia) agreed that urgent and ongoing attention should be given to the matter of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Organization's peacekeeping missions. It was inexcusable that persons charged with helping civilians overcome human rights violations and other ill-treatment were in fact participating in conduct that only added to their misery. Slovakia considered the comprehensive policy aimed at addressing victims of abuse to be of paramount importance. The creation of conduct and discipline units in all missions would also be a major way to address the issue. Slovakia also supported including national investigators in any judicial models.
He agreed that prevention was the best tool to deal with such misconduct and called for enhanced training in the areas for all mission employees. And while that and other efforts would not wipe out the scourge overnight, the dedication of the Secretariat was clear. Slovakia was certain that the more attention was paid to the issue, system-wide, the easier it would be to address allegations, identify perpetrators and draw up comprehensive solutions.
OSWALDO DE RIVERO (Peru) said that, to avoid recurrence of the crimes under discussion today, the Organization must implement comprehensive prevention strategies backed by real sanctions. The culture of silence must be overcome. To that end, a Code of Conduct must be annexed to the Memorandum of Understanding, so that troop-contributing countries and other Member States would be fully aware of their legal obligations. The Organization must also stress the primacy of international human rights law in this area, particularly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Organization must also seriously look at the reluctance of victims to come forward, either through ignorance or because of misguided reverence they had for what they believed to be international authority. To address that serious matter, he suggested the creation of an ombudsman at local and community levels to hear allegations of abuse. He also called for the creation of a database that would contain information of those that had been sanctioned, ongoing investigations, and allegations under review. Finally, he underscored that member States must cooperate and must reaffirm the zero tolerance policy for such abuse so that the overall image of the Organization, as well as that of dedicated and hardworking peacekeepers, was not denigrated.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark) said that sexual exploitation and abuse was completely unacceptable by all moral and ethical standards. It undermined the reputation of the United Nations and had devastating consequences for the victims. She was pleased, therefore, that the Organization had taken several important steps to fight it, and stressed that the policy of zero tolerance must be implemented. Her country had already initiated a national study on how to protect women and girls against sexual exploitation and abuse throughout the planning and completion of international operations. The study would, among other things, secure that the protection of women and girls were reflected in all the basic documents of any given operation and in the education of the Danish Armed Forces. It was of the utmost importance that a policy of zero tolerance went hand in hand with the implementation of awareness and accountability programmes.
She said that programmes to raise awareness should focus on pre-mission training, training upon arrival in the mission area, and training and awareness programmes throughout the deployment. Programmes on accountability should target, not only the individual soldiers and staff, but also the management, and all levels of staff must realize that sexual exploitation and abuse would not be tolerated and that such misbehaviour would be penalized. Succeeding in that field and changing the culture, the perception and the mentality to the point where that behaviour was no longer tolerated at any level would abolish the need for investigation teams. There would be no need for victims' assistance programmes and no more embarrassing news about misbehaved United Nations peacekeepers. That would only happen in a perfect world, and "we are not there yet, but let us together try to get as close as possible", she urged.
Denmark had agreed to sponsor a "train the trainer" workshop in Italy, organized by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, entitled "Capacity-building on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse in UN Peacekeeping Operations", she announced. It also supported the ongoing work in the Special Committee's working group, where several of Prince Zeid's recommendations would be further discussed. She was well aware, however, that in attempting to implement those various initiatives, many complex legal aspects had surfaced. Legal obstacles, however, should not prevent the international community from continuously striving to make progress. The fight against sexual exploitation and abuse must continue, she emphasized. All troop- and police-contributing countries should contribute actively with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations on the issue, and the Secretariat should not hesitate to return to the Council for further guidance, if necessary.
KENZO OSHIMA (Japan) acknowledged that, since the serious problem had come to light, considerable efforts had been made by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the missions deployed in the field and troop-contributing Governments to address the issue and take the necessary remedial measures. He fully supported the Secretary-General's zero tolerance policy in striving to "stamp out" that inexcusable misconduct. He particularly appreciated the highly valued report and recommendations submitted last March by the Special Adviser. As part of the follow-up on implementation, the Council's working group on peacekeeping, which he chaired, had taken up the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse cases last June, with a focus on the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). The meeting was updated by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and troop contributors on how the preventive measures for the sexual exploitation and abuse cases in MONUC were being implemented, and there had been an active exchange of views on how those steps could be further improved. It was a useful exercise, and the working group stood ready to be proactive in motivating implementation.
He said that the international community expected a high standard of responsibility and discipline from the United Nations peacekeeping missions and from troops and staff deployed. In most situations, they had lived up to those expectations and they deserved praise for their dedication and hard work, often under difficult circumstances. Every peacekeeper, every troop-, police- and civilian-contributing country was expected to maintain high moral, ethical and professional standards while deployed under the United Nations flag. Unfortunately, the good name and credibility of the peace operations had been tarnished by the serious allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. Again, the peacekeeping procurement services had undermined the credibility of peacekeeping operations. No effort should be spared in restoring that credibility and good name, and all necessary measures should be taken with the same rigour and spirit of zero tolerance. Member States would accept nothing less.
CÉSAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said his country had always condemned cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, which always tarnished the image of peacekeeping and the wider United Nations. Member States must stand firm against such misconduct, while reaffirming their full support for the importance of peacekeeping in general. What was required was firm action and comprehensive strategies devised by the United Nations and implemented at all mission and field levels. The strategy, as presented by Prince Zeid and supported by the Secretary-General, must lay out the rules, norms and expectations to be followed by all Blue Helmets. It must be translated into the Organization's six official languages, as well as most of the languages of the troop-contributing countries. He also supported updating the 1997 Memorandum of Understanding on the matter.
He said there must also be clear terms of reference for carrying out investigations, and that basic principles of due process must be respected at all times. Troop-contributing countries must react responsibly, in order not to leave unpunished such crimes that had been proved. He also called for a rapid strategy to provide assistance to victims, including access to reproductive health services, psychological care, legal support and, when necessary, financial compensation. The Assembly had an indispensable role to play in the discussion of these matters. He hoped that ongoing negotiations would lead to the eradication of sexual misconduct, which severely undercut worldwide faith in the Organization.
JAMAL NASSER AL-BADER (Qatar) said his delegation vigorously condemned the "shameful and completely unacceptable" behaviour that was being discussed today, particularly because the acts were perpetrated against the very people the Organization was bound to help. Sexual misconduct and abuse also stained the reputation of the United Nations and peacekeeping in general.
There was no doubt that investigations needed to be conducted after the allegations had surfaced, but the Council must ensure that proper training was introduced at the time a mission was established. The Organization should work to establish a climate on the ground that did not tolerate sexual exploitation and abuse. Finally he praised the honest and dedicated workers on the ground and urged the wider international community not to allow the behaviour of a few to tarnish the reputation of the many.
AUGUSTINE MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said that the issues at stake were not only the breach of trust for the hosts, but also the reputation of troop-contributing countries. The challenge now was to take action to eliminate and then prevent such acts from ever happening again. He welcomed the various measures being taken and urged their mainstreaming into the management culture of the United Nations and troop-contributing countries. While measures were taken to end sexual exploitation and abuse among peacekeeping personnel, the underlying factors that made communities vulnerable should also be examined. The demeaning nature of poverty and deprivation must be addressed, and everyone should strive to understand the psychological and social impact of conflict on affected societies. Efforts should also be made to understand the cultural and national sensitivities of receiving Governments and communities. Each peacekeeping mission had its own unique characteristics, which should be respected. Sensitization programmes for peacekeepers should be integral and continuous components in the missions.
He said that, while he appreciated the difficulties involved in investigating allegations of sexual misconduct, he urged that all such allegations be duly investigated and reported. More work was needed to synchronize the United Nations ethics and administration guidelines with the judicial systems of host countries and troop contributors. He reiterated the importance of increasing the percentage of women in peacekeeping operations, in order to facilitate contacts with the vulnerable groups. He also reminded members of their obligations to increase women's role in conflict management and resolution, as per Council resolution 1325. His Government strongly condemned all acts of sexual exploitation and abuse, and it supported the zero tolerance policy. There should also be a "zero complacency" and a "zero impunity" approach, to borrow a phrase from Mark Malloch Brown's presentation yesterday on procurement fraud.
JOHN R. BOLTON (United States), in his national capacity, commended the important work done by Prince Zeid to shine light on what was arguably "one of the greatest stains on UN history". It was absolutely unacceptably that horrific crimes of sexual abuse and exploitation had been committed by United Nations peacekeepers against individuals they had been assigned to protect. Having an open briefing on the subject was important because, while speakers rightly expressed their moral outrage, they must take firm and decisive action. They must take action now, not only to pursue justice and a resolution to the crimes that had already been committed, but to establish the necessary institutions, mechanisms, training, and oversight procedures to ensure that they were not repeated in existing and future peacekeeping operations. "We cannot wait months and years while more children are exploited and the reputation of UN peacekeepers continued to decline", he warned.
He said that failure to act on the matter would have profound implications for both existing and potential future peacekeeping missions. As the next operation was planned in Darfur, he did not want to worry about possible headlines of United Nations peacekeepers there raping the very population they were entrusted to protect. He concurred fully with Under-Secretary-General Guéhenno when he said last May that it was precisely the United Nations image and reputation that gave it the credibility and reputation to work so effectively in war-torn countries and bring peace and stability to millions across the world. Eliminating such misconduct was integral to the success of peacekeeping, he said. Resolution and prevention of future acts of sexual exploitation and abuse called for the same fundamental shift in the culture of the way the Organization operated.
The United States took its responsibility as a Member State seriously in that regard, he said. Among its many actions at the nation level, it also strongly endorsed the recommendations of the Special Committee to strengthen enforcement of a uniform United Nations code of conduct for peacekeepers, improve the United Nations capacity to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, establish assistance to and compensation for victims and enhance pre-and post-deployment training for United Nations peacekeepers. It also welcomed the creation of personal conduct units within the United Nations missions in Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Timor-Leste, Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Sudan to address allegations and assist victims. It was critical that all United Nations missions adopt similar units in each of its peacekeeping missions. He would strongly encourage other Council members to continue to support the inclusion in resolutions establishing peacekeeping operations of specific and strong language towards that end. He also took special note of efforts to increase the number of female uniformed personnel in peace operations.
He said he was concerned, however, about the status and progress of the investigations into past cases of abuse. The OIOS took over all investigations last October and would report in May. He expected the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to cooperate fully with it in its investigations of past abuses and in providing access to all information on new allegations, as those surfaced. That was a daunting task and the OIOS had only "begun to scratch the surface" of the problem. To date, the United Nations had investigated 295 personnel, resulting in 137 repatriations and 16 dismissals of soldiers, commanders, police and United Nations staff. Also critical was that the OIOS operate with complete autonomy to investigate those matters. That would help all parts of the Organization by insulating it from accusations of trying to cover up the scope and magnitude of the problem.
Those vitally needed reforms must also be matched by resolve on the part of troop-contributing countries to prevent and punish crimes by their personnel who participated in United Nation peacekeeping missions, he said. Pre- and post-deployment training compliance, adequate living standards for troops, discipline, and compensation for victims required commitment and action by troop-contributing countries. No system would be perfect, and there would be instances that required Member States to prosecute their citizens in their own courts. For those countries that had repatriated alleged perpetrators of those heinous crimes, he encouraged them in the strongest terms to follow the lead of countries such as Morocco and be transparent and forthright in their judicial proceedings. The international community expected no less.
He said that two years ago the world began to wake up to the reality confronting it today -- that the sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children at the hands of United Nations peacekeeping was not an isolated incident, but a widespread scourge creating lasting victims scarred for life. The "boys will be boys" attitude, which too long pervaded peacekeeping operations, must correctly be met with a zero tolerance policy. It was time now to take the recognition of the problem and translate it into decisive action without delay. "We should do so not just because we recognize the impact of such crimes on the success of a particular Mission, but because it is our moral and ethical responsibility to do as much as possible to prevent the sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children wherever it may exist", he said.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said misconduct by those expected to bring peace and justice to people emerging from conflict and strife could not be tolerated. Indeed, all sexual misconduct and abuse on the part of United Nations peacekeepers required swift and comprehensive action. Measures had to be taken before, during and after deployment, and Brazil believed that the United Nations could do more to train troops before they were deployed. When on the ground, proper training and raising awareness should be continued.
It also seemed appropriate to establish a set of binding rules that were clear, concise and consistent. Brazil supported revitalizing the 1997 Memorandum of Understanding on this matter, as long as member States maintained jurisdiction over their nationals. The revised Memorandum of Understanding should be accompanied by other comprehensive measures outlined by the General Assembly. He went on to say that commanders must act in a firm and decisive manner whenever allegations surfaced concerning their troops. Alleged offenders should be immediately repatriated to face the charges under the auspices of their national authorities, and due process should always be followed. The Organization's overall strategy should apply equally to all mission staff. It was unacceptable that measures aimed at wiping out sexual exploitation and abuse varied between civilian and military staff.
VANU GOPALA MENON (Singapore) said the notion that not all managers, commanders and mission personnel were vigorously pursuing the United Nations zero tolerance policy towards sexual exploitation and abuse in the Organization's peacekeeping operations was a moral outrage. "People in war-torn lands see blue helmets and expect their lives to improve", he said, adding that when sexual abuse occurred, it was a total betrayal of trust such people had in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the wider United Nations. He did not mean to embarrass the Peacekeeping Department, and while he praised the Department's crucial role in managing and resolving conflicts, it pained him to see a small minority sully the reputation of the dedicated majority. "To save the main body, I say we need to deal with this cancer, this minority, without remorse", he declared.
For Singapore, the matter boiled down to three critical issues: clear responsibility and accountability; the need for a system-wide approach; and the need to evaluate the efficacy of the Organization's measures and question whether it had provided itself with the proper tools to root out the problem. The United Nations could not champion the rule of law, while having its peacekeepers break it, he said, adding that the fact that the abuse had been going on without censure for a long time was unacceptable. Therefore, special representatives and commanders needed to send a message to the units and entities under their commands that such behaviour was intolerable. Just as a peacekeeper would be held accountable for his or her actions, commanders and senior staff would also be held accountable for the misconduct of personnel under their command.
He said that a preliminary look at available data suggested that the number of allegations in 2005 had increased. Singapore would, therefore, urge the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to analyse that data and evaluate the effectiveness of the measures introduced over the past 12 months. The damage to the image of peacekeepers and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations must be repaired, he said. "With clear accountability, optimization of resources, and a tough clear-headed approach, we can do this. Our dedicated peacekeepers deserved no less."
On behalf of the European Union, ALEXANDER MARSCHIK (Austria) said it was vital that none of the momentum generated last year in tackling the problem was lost. The time line had been set for full implementation of the recommendations, no later than 1 June 2007, and that must be respected. The Secretariat had already taken some of the steps that fell within its purview and it had set in motion measures to implement others. He welcomed the Secretariat's work on a revised model memorandum of understanding for troop contributors and hoped that those efforts would lead to its adoption by the General Assembly before the end of its current session. He was pleased to see the progress made by the United Nations in establishing a professional and independent investigative capacity in the OIOS. It was crucial that effective cooperation was assured between the OIOS and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Given the importance of keeping victims' interests at the forefront of all efforts, the Union warmly welcomed progress at developing bold and comprehensive policy support in that and looked forward to further discussion.
He stressed that high standards of conduct and discipline must be applied to all categories of peacekeeping personnel. A particular responsibility rested with Member States to train, prepare and hold accountable members of national contingents, including at the very senior level. Managers and commanders had the responsibility to create and maintain an environment that prevented sexual exploitation and abuse and they must be clearly directed to facilitate investigations and be held accountable for failures in that regard. He also encouraged troop contributors to share best practices in their use of United Nations welfare payments aimed at providing for the recreation of troops. For its part, the Union had taken measures to ensure a policy of zero tolerance in its own European Security and Defence Policy operations. It had taken steps to standardize the norms of behaviour of all categories of participating personnel through the adoption of generic standards of behaviour covering all relevant areas, including sexual exploitation and abuse. The Union remained fully committed to intensifying its efforts in that regard and encouraged the Secretariat and the wider United Nations members to redouble theirs.
ALLAN ROCK (Canada) said that sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping missions was among the most appalling forms of breach of trust. "It diminishes us all", he said. "It undermines the United Nations as an institution. It causes incalculable harm to some of the most vulnerable people in the world." Although those crimes were committed by a small number of people, their abuse tainted the loyal and professional service of valued United Nations peacekeepers who put their lives at risk on a daily basis for others. In the past year, the Secretary-General and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had made considerable efforts to ensure that progress was made on the issue. Ultimately, however, the responsibility to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse and ensure that those who perpetrated such acts were held accountable lay with Member States. It was a collective duty to ensure that the policy was enforced and that peacekeeping and civilian personnel better understood zero tolerance.
He said that significant steps had now been taken to bring the alleged abusers to account. As of October 2005, more than 221 peacekeepers had been investigated, 10 civilians had been fired, and more than 88 uniformed personnel had been repatriated. The establishment of conduct and discipline units in some peacekeeping missions and at United Nations Headquarters was another very positive development. There was an increased number of gender and children advisers included as part of United Nations peace support missions, although more were necessary. While their mandate was to focus on gender mainstreaming, they had been involved in training for mission staff on gender-based violence, and particularly, on sexual exploitation and abuse. Beyond training, they had also been collaborating with conduct and discipline units.
While he welcomed the efforts of the Secretary-General and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations towards zero tolerance and zero impunity, he said he remained extremely concerned that problems persisted in several missions. The policies and measures would only succeed if the Member States took appropriate steps to ensure that their deployed personnel were appropriately trained and held to the highest standards of conduct and discipline. He urged all troop-contributing countries to incorporate training on sexual exploitation and abuse in their pre-deployment training programmes. Canada would ensure that all military, police and civilian personnel sent by its Government on United Nations missions were well trained, professional and fully aware of their responsibilities and codes of conduct. Tearing down the "wall of silence" when broaching the topic must continue; rapid and effective action had never been more critical to protecting those in vulnerable situations and restoring the reputation of the United Nations and all who represented it.
Wrapping up the debate, Mr. GUÉHENNO said that it was clear that without long-term and consistent commitment to tackling sexual exploitation and abuse, the problem would not be resolved. And while the Department of Peacekeeping Operations certainly would continue to pursue the matter aggressively, he warned that the deeper the investigations went, undoubtedly more allegations would surface. And although that would be unpleasant, the Department hoped to leave no stone unturned.
As to how his Department was addressing the two serious charges against it pertaining to, respectively, sexual misconduct of peacekeepers and mismanagement in peacekeeping procurement -- which had been the topic of the Council's meeting yesterday -- he said handling the allegations of sexual abuse would be particularly difficult because the Department was pursuing what was essentially a change of culture that went beyond the United Nations and affected all armies and militaries around the world. That was why he had called for strong partnerships between the Secretary-General, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Member States and troop contributors.
The issue of irregularities in peacekeeping procurement was complex because it dealt with three issues -- fraud, mismanagement and lax rules -- which would need to be addressed across three United Nations divisions. To a speaker who had said he "did not envy" the position Mr. Guéhenno had been in over the past two days, Mr Guéhenno urged the delegate not to worry, because although the serious allegations that surfaced had hurt him deeply, when he went to a mission and saw the expectations of the people in affected communities and the hard work being done by the dedicated and committed peacekeepers on the ground, it was well worth the effort to get to the bottom of the issues regarding procurement mismanagement and sexual misconduct.
Prince ZEID welcomed the many constructive thoughts and observations, especially in the context of the deliberations currently under way in the General Assembly. The representatives of the Congo and Brazil had mentioned the acute sensitivity accompanying any discussion of the subject. Five years ago, this sort of debate would have been impossible. So, he paid tribute to the Permanent Representative of Denmark for having arranged last year the Security Council's first formal session dedicated to the subject. While the Council had issued a presidential statement at that time, individual members had refrained from speaking. So, today, they were breaking new ground and that had been welcome. There must be an open and responsible discussion of that troubling subject in all forums, without prejudice to the leading role played by the General Assembly.
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