The United Nations (UN) has revealed that it has this year received 44 allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers and staff in UN missions.
According to UN spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, 29 of those allegations were reported in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, seven in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and two in the mission in Haiti.
Rights groups (Human Rights Watch) have previously called for troops to be “vetted” prior to serving in UN missions to prevent rights abusers from serving as peacekeepers.
Following the recommendations from rights groups, the UN says it is working on “key initiatives, including the vetting of all individuals being deployed for any prior misconduct and the establishment of Immediate Response Teams to gather evidence following reports of sexual exploitation and abuse”.
In terms of providing support to the victims, the UN says it has operationalised a Trust Fund (set up in March) for victims of sexual exploitation and abuse. The first pledge to finance the fund has been made by Norway, which promised $125,000, and the UN spokesperson called on other countries to also contribute.
Speaking at a UN General Assembly meeting recently held in New York, Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, said “The provision of assistance to victims is an area where…the United Nations needs additional resources and strong collaboration among peacekeeping, the United Nations and local actors to have a tangible impact”.
In the past year, the UN says it has made progress in facilitating paternity and child support claims against peacekeepers and the organisation was taking, “all action within its control,” to provide victims with support and assistance.
The UN has been under the spotlight to investigate and act on the reported cases of rape and sexual abuse of women and children in conflict zones, which it has missions. The recent initiatives, which include the ongoing investigations into reports of abuse, setting up of a trust fund to assist victims of rape and considerations to have individuals vetted prior to serving in UN missions are welcome and commendable measures.