Sexual abuse and exploitation by staff and peacekeepers: let’s speak out!
June 23, 2016
Last year, 99 women, children and men were sexually exploited or abused by those working under the UN flag. Those who carried out these acts included military personnel, contractors, and shamefully, our own colleagues.
Faced with lives broken and intense media criticism, the leaders of our organizations and member states have rightly condemned this.
A recent General Assembly resolution stated that “one substantiated case of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse is one case too many.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council he would name the countries of alleged perpetrators.
But despite these fine words, allegations continue to go un-investigated, high profile cases remain unprosecuted, member states continue to argue how best to prosecute guilty peacekeepers, and many staff feel too scared to report abuse for fear of retaliation.
That is why the staff unions of the UN common system, grouped under the staff federations decided to speak out and issue this statement as a wake-up call to colleagues, our organizations and member states.
We call for:
a stop by all to sexual exploitation and abuse;
a single and fair investigation process for both staff and military personnel, so no-one can claim an opt-out;
better reporting mechanisms for victims and staff, and more effective protection for whistleblowers;
zero tolerance not just for those who commit such acts but also for those in positions of responsibility who turn a blind eye or cover up;
a culture change at headquarters so that military forces with records of abuse aren’t contracted to peacekeeping missions; and
accountability for all, including through national judicial systems.
Each case of abuse and rape, whether committed by military personnel or our own colleagues, tars all staff with the same brush and damages the trust we have worked so hard to build with the communities we serve.
It is in the interest of all, most importantly those we serve, that this behavior, including all tacit tolerance, be stopped.