USGs, Member States discuss sexual exploitation and abuse

Monday, 24 July 2017

New York | iSeek

High-level UN officials and representatives of Member States came together recently to discuss the Secretary-General’s priority of addressing sexual exploitation and abuse. Co-chaired by the Under-Secretaries-General for Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Atul Khare, the meeting took place on 13 July at UNHQ. More than 60 delegations attended, including troop and police contributors.

As part of the Secretariat’s ongoing engagement with Member States, the meeting discussed ongoing proposals relating to enhancing investigations and cooperation between Member States and the United Nations, promoting greater accountability, and strengthening support to victims. The meeting also addressed uniform standards of investigations and operational guidance on UN Security Council Resolution 2272 (2016) on sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers.

Opening the discussion, Mr. Khare emphasized that “sexual exploitation not only caused terrible damage to the victims but also to the reputation of the Organization and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Mr. Lacroix said that “the Secretary-General has made it clear that no stone will be left unturned with regards to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse.” The Secretary-General’s policy applies to all staff members system-wide and is not limited to blue helmets.

One of the difficulties the Organization faces in punishing perpetrators is that legal jurisdiction lies with Member States. The Secretary-General has asked all Member States to explore how ending impunity could be achieved under different legal systems and enter into a voluntary bilateral compact with him, to be presented at the High-Level Meeting on sexual exploitation and abuse that will be held on the margins of this year’s General Assembly debate on 18 September.

“Criminal accountability rests exclusively with you,” Lacroix emphasized. “If we don’t hold perpetrators accountable, the reputation of impunity will persist.”

“As we demand accountability on Member states, we need to strengthen our own internal measures,” said Khare, stressing that the UN continued to impose sanctions on civilian personnel alleged to have engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse. This includes placing staff on administrative leave without pay and withholding pay, medical coverage, and other benefits.

Member States were unanimous in their pledges to uphold the UN's zero tolerance policy and many highlighted their efforts in the fields of prevention, investigation, and victims' assistance.

This meeting comes in the aftermath of the recent Chiefs of Defence Conference, where some 100 national Chiefs of Defence collectively addressed peacekeeping issues, including conduct and discipline.

For more information, see the iSeek page: The UN response to sexual exploitation and abuse.