31/05/2005
Press Release
SC/8400


Security Council

5191st Meeting (PM)*


SECURITY COUNCIL CONDEMNS ‘IN THE STRONGEST TERMS’ ALL ACTS


OF SEXUAL ABUSE, EXPLOITATION BY UN PEACEKEEPING PERSONNEL

 


In Presidential Statement, Council Recognizes Shared Responsibility

Of Secretary-General, All Member States to Prevent Abuse, Enforce UN Standards


While confirming that the conduct and discipline of troops was primarily the responsibility of troop-contributing countries, the Security Councilrecognized this afternoon the shared responsibility of the Secretary-General and allMember States to take every measure within their purview to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by all categories of peacekeeping personnel, and to enforce United Nations standards of conduct in that regard.


In a statement read out by Council President Ellen Margrethe Løj (Denmark) -– following its first-ever public meeting devoted exclusively to sexual exploitation and abuse -- the Council condemned, in the strongest terms, all acts of sexual abuse and exploitation committed by peacekeepers and reiterated the importance of ensuring that they were properly investigated and appropriately punished.  The Council was deeply concerned that the distinguished and honourable record of accomplishment in United Nations peacekeeping was being tarnished by the acts of a few individuals and underlined that the provision of an environment in which sexual exploitation and abuse were not tolerated was primarily the responsibility of managers and commanders.


The Council would consider includingrelevant provisions for preventing, monitoring, investigating and reporting misconduct cases in its resolutions establishing new mandates or renewing existing mandates.  In that regard, it called upon the Secretary-General to include, in his regular reporting of peacekeeping missions, a summary of the preventative measures taken to implement a zero-tolerance policy and of the outcome of actions taken against personnel found culpable for sexual exploitation and abuse.


Briefing the Council earlier, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein (Jordan) the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, compared a peacekeeper who exploited the vulnerabilities of a wounded population, already victimized by war, to a physician who violated the patient entrusted to their care or the lifeguard who drowned the very people in need of rescue.  Actions of that sort punctured violently the hope embodied by the very presence of the person who was there to help those in need.


However rare they may be, such repugnant abuses struck at the very credibility of both the peacekeeping operation in question and the United Nations as a whole, he said.  Sexual exploitation and abuse would not be eliminated from United Nations peacekeeping so long as some among the general United Nations membership and the Secretariat would have it believed that the furore regarding sexual exploitation and abuse was an over-exaggeration, a media-inspired public-relations issue, and nothing more -- one that would surely soon lapse into the past.


Also briefing the Council, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said his Department treated the issue as a matter of the highest priority.  Since 1 December 2004, investigations had been completed into allegations involving 152 peacekeeping personnel (32 civilians, 3 civilian police and 117 military) and five United Nations staff members had so far been summarily dismissed.  Nine more were undergoing the disciplinary process, and four had been cleared.  Two uniformed police unit members and 77 military personnel had been repatriated or rotated home on disciplinary grounds, including six military commanders.


Regarding the enforcement on standards of conduct, he said that missions in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kosovo and Timor-Leste had established lists of premises and areas frequented by prostitutes, which were now out of bounds to all personnel.  There was a network of focal points on sexual exploitation and abuse in all missions to facilitate receipt of allegations, as well as telephone hotlines in Sierra Leone and Liberia.  At Headquarters, the Department had established a task force to develop guidance and tools for peacekeeping operations to address sexual exploitation and abuse effectively.


The meeting began at 3:50 p.m. and ended at 4:20 p.m.


Presidential Statement


The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2005/21 reads as follows:


“The Security Council recognises the vital role that UN peacekeeping operations have played for decades in bringing peace and stability to countries emerging from war.  The Council further recognises that, with few exceptions, the women and men who serve in UN peacekeeping operations do so with the utmost professionalism, dedication and who, in some cases, make the ultimate sacrifice.


“The Security Council is deeply concerned with the allegations of sexual misconduct by UN peacekeeping personnel.  The distinguished and honourable record of accomplishment in UN peacekeeping is being tarnished by the acts of a few individuals.


“The Security Council condemns, in the strongest terms, all acts of sexual abuse and exploitation committed by UN peacekeeping personnel.  The Council reiterates that sexual exploitation and abuse are unacceptable and have a detrimental effect on the fulfilment of mission mandates.


“The Security Council, while confirming that the conduct and discipline of troops is primarily the responsibility of Troop-Contributing Countries, recognises the shared responsibility of the Secretary-General and all Member States to take every measure within their purview to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by all categories of personnel in UN peacekeeping missions, to enforce UN standards of conduct in this regard.  The Security Council reiterates the importance of ensuring that sexual exploitation and abuse are properly investigated and appropriately punished.


“The Security Council underlines that the provision of an environment in which sexual exploitation and abuse are not tolerated is primarily the responsibility of managers and commanders.


“The Security Council welcomes the comprehensive report on sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations Peacekeeping Personnel (A/59/710), prepared by the Secretary-General’s Adviser on this issue, H.R.H. Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, Permanent Representative of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United Nations.  The Council also welcomes the report of the resumed session of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping (A/59/19/Add.1).


“The Security Council urges the Secretary-General and Troop-Contributing Countries to ensure that the recommendations of the Special Committee, which fall within their respective responsibilities, are implemented without delay.


“The Security Council will consider including relevant provisions for prevention, monitoring, investigation and reporting of misconduct cases in its resolutions establishing new mandates or renewing existing mandates.  In this regard, the Security Council calls on the Secretary-General to include, in his regular reporting of peacekeeping missions, a summary of the preventative measures taken to implement a zero-tolerance policy and of the outcome of actions taken against personnel found culpable for sexual exploitation and abuse.”


Briefing by Secretary-General’s Special Adviser


PRINCE ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan), Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, noted that for the first time in history the Council was holding a public meeting devoted exclusively to that subject.  Over the past several months, and in reaction to first reports from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, some Council members had felt the need for an immediate and open discussion, but after some reflection, they had deferred to the General Assembly, so that a broad strategy for dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse could be put in place; a strategy based on consultations between all the major troop- and equipment-contributing countries, the Secretary-General, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Office of Legal Affairs.  The contributions of all those separate components, together with the opinions offered by colleagues in the field had enabled the investigating team to respond promptly to the Secretary-General’s request for a report, which had been entitled, “A comprehensive strategy towards the elimination of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations”.


When the team had begun to take a close look at sexual exploitation and abuse, he said, it had become obvious that sexual exploitation, predominantly prostitution, in at least some United Nations operations appeared widespread.  The scale of sexual abuse –- when the exploitation became criminal -– had been somewhat more difficult to gauge.  It was inferred, however, that given the apparently prevalent nature of the exploitation, both by civilian, as well as military personnel, the levels of abuse had probably been more serious than previously thought.  Some of the possible reasons for that were enumerated in the report.  In reviewing all the information gathered for the report, the team had begun to grasp the complexity of the attendant legal questions; so much so that it had become concerned at how certain United Nations civilian personnel could enjoy, by virtue of a specific set of circumstances unforeseen at the creation of the United Nations, complete impunity, even when committing such frightful offences as murder.


He said that for a peacekeeper to exploit the vulnerabilities of a wounded population, already the victim of all that was tragic and cruel in war, was really no different from a physician who would violate the patient entrusted to their care or the lifeguard who drowned the very people in need of rescue.  Actions of that sort punctured violently the hope embodied by the very presence of the person who was there to help those in need.  However rare they may be, abuses by peacekeepers were, therefore, not only repugnant, but struck at the very credibility of both the operation in question and the United Nations as a whole.


Member States had refrained from opening the subject up to public discourse over the last 60 years because pride, mixed with a deep sense of embarrassment, had often produced in them only outright denials, he said.  And yet, almost all countries that had participated in United Nations peacekeeping operations had, at one stage or another, had some reason to feel deeply ashamed over the activities of some of their peacekeepers.  If all were therefore guilty, should it not then be easier for each MemberState to visit the transgressions of its own personnel openly, with some measure of honesty and humility?  Surely that was owed to the victims of abuse.  And naturally, if one was to propose such a change, to the manner by which to confront the problem, then one was obligated to set a good example.


He said that having served as a United Nations peacekeeper, he had worked in the field and seen his military and police compatriots perform extraordinary feats of courage and kindness with an unswerving sense of dedication to the Organization.  But on occasion, the Jordanian Government had had to confront some appalling cases of criminal conduct by few of its own peacekeepers, including a brutal rape of a local woman by a Jordanian in what had then been East Timor, and more recently in Kosovo, when a Jordanian civilian police officer had murdered a fellow officer.


Only days ago, he recalled, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) had adopted a significant number of recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) for posts submitted by the Secretariat relating to sexual exploitation and abuse in follow-up to the adoption by the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations of the first set of recommendations contained in the comprehensive report.  That was all very encouraging, and the Secretary-General was expected to announce soon the appointment of a group of experts required by the Special Committee to, among other things, advise on the best way to proceed in ensuring that the original intent of the Charter could be achieved, namely that United Nations staff and experts on mission would never be effectively exempt from the consequences of criminal acts committed at their duty station, nor unjustifiably penalized in accordance with due process.


In the meantime, he said, despite the progress made, it would be prudent to expect that further allegations would emerge over the next year and beyond, due to the Secretariat’s strengthening of the system by which complaints could be lodged in United Nations operations.  It could also be expected that DPKO and the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) would continue to coordinate smoothly on developing a standing procedure for how investigations were to be launched and, in due course, the relationship between the OIOS and the troop-contributing countries would also need further refinement.  Similarly, it was hoped that the Special Committee would next year take up those recommendations and ideas found in the comprehensive report which it had not addressed in its April session.  In that context, he proposed the holding of in-mission courts martial for the worst offences.


He said in conclusion that sexual exploitation and abuse would only be eliminated from United Nations peacekeeping operations if most, if not all, the recommendations were put in place over the next two years.  However, that would not be possible so long as there were colleagues, both in the general membership, as well as in the Secretariat, who would have it believed that the furore regarding sexual exploitation and abuse was an over-exaggeration, a media-inspired public-relations issue, and nothing more -- one that would surely soon lapse into the past.  Sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations was a most serious and tragic issue, especially for the victims, many of whom were young women living in the most difficult conditions.  And it carried with it the most serious consequences for the future of peacekeeping if Member States proved themselves incapable of solving the problem.


Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO, said that sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeeping personnel represented an abhorrent problem -- a violation of the duty of care owed by peacekeepers to the local population that they had come to serve.  Sexual exploitation and abuse threatened to tarnish the very name of the United Nations and undermine its ability to implement the Council’s mandates.  Eliminating such misconduct was, therefore, integral to the success of peacekeeping.


Stopping sexual exploitation and abuse would not happen overnight, but he took courage from the shared sense of urgency and determination of the Secretariat and MemberStates to address it, he continued.  He welcomed the importance given by the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations to the issue this year.  Prepared on the Committee’s request, the report by the Secretary-General’s Adviser on the matter provided a candid account of the problem, as well as a clear framework for effective action by both the Secretariat and MemberStates.  The report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations on sexual exploitation and abuse, once approved by the General Assembly, would provide his Department with a clear and comprehensive strategy for moving forward.


His Department treated the issue as a matter of the highest priority, he said.  Significant progress had been made in investigating allegations and putting in place wide-ranging measures to prevent such misconduct.  Since 1 December 2004, investigations had been completed into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse involving 152 peacekeeping personnel (32 civilians, 3 civilian police and 117 military).  So far, five UN staff members had been summarily dismissed, nine more were undergoing the disciplinary process, and four had been cleared.  Concerning uniformed personnel, two members of police units and 77 military personnel had been repatriated or rotated home on disciplinary grounds, including six military commanders.


Over the past year, field missions had put in place a wide array of measures to prevent misconduct and enforce United Nations standards of conduct.  For instance, on the prevention side, missions in Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Liberia provided induction training on United Nations standards of conduct relating to sexual exploitation and abuse.  His Department intended to make such training mandatory for all peacekeeping personnel on arrival in a mission.  Late last year, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had issued a policy on human trafficking, which was now accompanied by a resource manual on the issue, which included a training module and practical guidance for peacekeeping operations on how best to prevent human trafficking.  Early this year, awareness-raising posters on sexual exploitation and abuse and brochures on human trafficking had been distributed to all missions and were now displayed in offices in capitals and in the field, as well as in military barracks.


Regarding enforcement on standards of conduct, he said that missions in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, the Congo, Ethiopia, Kosovo and Timor-Leste had established lists of premises and areas frequented by prostitutes, which were now out of bounds to all personnel.  There was a network of focal points on sexual exploitation and abuse in all missions to facilitate receipt of allegations, as well as telephone hotlines in Sierra Leone and Liberia.  The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) had put in place a number of mission-specific measures to minimize misconduct, such as a requirement that contingent members wear their uniforms at all times.  The Mission was also strengthening managerial accountability by requiring regional heads of office to come up with concrete workplans on how they would prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.


At Headquarters, the DPKO had established a task force aimed at developing guidance and tools for peacekeeping operations to address sexual exploitation and abuse effectively, he continued.  For instance, the Department was developing a database, in coordination with the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), to track and monitor allegations and investigations, as well as follow-up action.  Among other measures, he mentioned the development of internal communications messages to remind peacekeeping personnel of their duty of care; and efforts to elaborate common policies and guidance on such issues as victim’s assistance.  Together with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the DPKO was co-chairing an inter-agency task force aimed at creating an organizational culture throughout the United Nations system that would prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.  His Department was cooperating closely with the OIOS, which was in charge of investigating allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping missions.


The problem of sexual exploitation and abuse was likely to look worse before it looked better, he said.  As the Organization improved its complaints mechanisms in the field and as people started to trust that action would be taken against those who violated United Nations standards of conduct, the number of allegations would probably increase, not decrease.


Various measures undertaken over the past year at Headquarters and in the field had shown the enormity of the task ahead, he added.  Deep, systemic change was needed.  He would do his utmost to implement such recommendations with due haste, as would managers and commanders in peacekeeping operations.  He commended the resolve the Council was showing through the presidential statement under consideration today.  He also welcomed the reference in that document to the need for specific provisions to be included in missions’ mandates to address misconduct by peacekeeping personnel.  Indeed, DPKO hoped to establish a dedicated capacity to address conduct issues in the form of personnel conduct units at Headquarters and in the field.  Those units would be an essential tool for preventing misconduct, monitoring compliance with United Nations standards and ensuring swift follow-up on disciplinary cases.  In an organization that aimed towards professional standards, that was no longer a luxury, but a must.


Sexual exploitation and abuse did not occur in a vacuum, he said in conclusion.  Those acts took place where there was a general breakdown in good conduct and discipline.  The DPKO was ready to address the problem in a comprehensive manner.  However, it could not solve the problem alone.  It was necessary to create a culture and environment in peacekeeping operations that did not permit sexual exploitation and abuse.  That required joint action by the Department and MemberStates.


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