USG Lute and Defence Chiefs discuss sexual exploitation and abuse

Thursday, 13 July 2017

New York | iSeek

The Secretary-General’s priority of addressing sexual exploitation and abuse across the UN system was the topic of discussion with leaders at the Chiefs of Defence Conference, held on 7 July at UN Headquarters in New York.

In her remarks, Jane Holl Lute, Special Coordinator on improving the United Nations response to sexual exploitation and abuse, emphasized that addressing sexual exploitation and abuse was a top priority for the Secretary-General and that the UN needed to get its house in order.

“On his third day in office, I was called to the Secretary-General’s Office,” Ms. Lute began. “He made it very clear that addressing sexual exploitation and abuse would be a top priority and then outlined his strategy with me. He has set the tone at the top, and our job is to connect the tone at the top with the mood in the middle and the buzz at the bottom.”

She reminded the Chiefs of Defence present, “Soldiers answer to you.”

This strategy, outlined in the report of the Secretary-General entitled Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse: a new approach, consists of four focus areas: putting the needs of victims first, ending impunity, engaging civil society/external partners and improving strategic communications for education and transparency.

Although the United Nations has no jurisdiction over military personnel, the Secretary-General will work with Member States to end impunity for charges of sexual exploitation and abuse against personnel serving under the UN flag. He will also engage with the civil society community to establish an advisory panel and ask them for advice. Getting the word out through strategic communications will also be a focus.

Ms. Lute, who spent the first part of her career in the military, said that soldiers go to places expecting the worse, while serving side by side with civilians who are expecting the best.  She asked the leaders to channel the professionalism and dedication they bring to their jobs towards ending this scourge.

“We can’t turn a blind eye to it and say it is someone else’s responsibility”, she cautioned. “We are the help, and I need your help. I want everyone in this room to look at their neighbour to the right, to the left and pledge that you will do your part.”