Countries that send troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions must recognize the seriousness of sexual exploitation and abuse taking place in such operations and see that every effort was made to prevent such appalling conduct from happening again, according to a special adviser to Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
While peacekeeping achievements were a source of national pride for many nations, it was not surprising that accusations of sexual exploitation and abuse have stirred feelings of shame and embarrassment and sometimes even denial, the Special Adviser on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN peacekeepers, Prince Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, told the 113-member UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping yesterday.
"We must overcome this," he stressed.
In a specially convened session, the Special Committee was conducting a weeklong review of the UN's first comprehensive report on the sexual abuse problems in peacekeeping, written by Prince Zeid, himself a former peacekeeper and Jordan's Ambassador to the UN, along with his wide-ranging proposals for improvement.
Prince Zeid said the problems had occurred among the military and civilian personnel of a wide range of countries from all parts of the world and their representatives in New York had all too often maintained their silence because of their shame. The silence itself was shameful, he added.
He recommended taking action in four broad areas: standard of conduct rules; investigation procedures; organizational, managerial and command responsibility; and individual disciplinary, financial and criminal responsibility.
The chief of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno, told the Special Committee that inquiries had been completed into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by 19 civilian peacekeepers and 77 military peacekeepers.
On the civilian side, three UN staff had been summarily dismissed, six more were being disciplined and three had been cleared, while 66 military personnel, including six commanders, had been repatriated or rotated home on disciplinary grounds, he said.
Peacekeeping missions had instituted many measures over the past year to prevent misconduct and to enforce United Nations standards of conduct, Mr. Guéhenno said, including listing buildings and areas frequented by prostitutes and putting them out of bounds to peacekeeping personnel stationed there.
These were a first step along a "long and arduous path of systemic change and reform," he said, adding that as the complaint mechanisms and the disciplining of violators were tightened, the number of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse would probably increase, not decrease.