UN in Liberia report shows decline in sex abuse allegations; envoy says some progress
As part of continuing efforts by the United Nations to stamp out sexual exploitation and abuse wherever it occurs, the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) today released its latest report on the problem which shows a fall in the number of allegations against its own staff last year compared to 2005.
Thirty allegations were reported last year compared to 45 a year earlier, according to the report, which is released annually as part of UNMIL’s efforts to implement the world body’s policy of keeping the public informed about efforts being made to eradicate any incidents of such abuse by UN personnel.
“We have made some progress in our prevention efforts and we will continue our efforts to reinforce the UN’s zero tolerance policy, because even one incident of sexual exploitation and abuse is one too many,” says the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Alan Doss, who is also the head of UNMIL.
Ten of the reported cases under investigation allegedly involved sex with minors; two are of sexual assault and rape of adults; one is in connection with prostitution; and 17 involved consensual relationships with members of the local population. These independent and thorough investigations are conducted by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) which reports directly to its New York Headquarters.
The 2006 UNMIL Report on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse shows that the decrease in the number of allegations compared to the previous year was mainly due to preventive measures taken by the Mission, and its Conduct and Discipline Unit, which became fully operational last year. Such preventive measures include a compulsory induction course for all military and civilian staff members to raise awareness about the effects and consequences of sexual exploitation and abuse.
UNMIL has also adopted a collective approach to prevention by involving Liberia’s Government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the local communities in various programmes aimed at raising awareness. So far, 35 local NGOs have been trained to spread the UN’s zero tolerance message on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse, the Mission said in a press release.
UNMIL currently has over 15,200 uniformed personnel, along with around 500 international civilian personnel, almost 1,000 local staff and 220 UN Volunteers.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other top officials have declared that any form of sexual exploitation will not be tolerated and the UN has set up conduct units in all of its major peacekeeping operations to address the problem.