27 May 2008 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed his deep concern over a new report issued by the non-governmental organization Save the Children (UK) that spotlights the under-reporting of child sexual exploitation and abuse by aid workers and peacekeepers.
“The abuse of children by those sent to help is a significant and painful issue and one that UN peacekeeping has and will continue to address candidly, comprehensively and robustly,” Mr. Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson. “Even one incident is one incident too many.”
He noted that the UN is committed to training and monitoring its civilian staff and working with troop and police contributing countries so that all personnel are trained in and are accountable for the highest standards of conduct.
As the report cited, the UN has already taken several steps to address the problem, including setting up conduct and discipline units in all missions to boost training for all personnel.
“We are determined to redouble our efforts in this regard and to work with all of our partners to implement fully our policy of zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel,” the statement said.
The Secretary-General said that the UN will continue to depend on its troop and police contributing countries to investigate and discipline their national personnel found to have committed acts of misconduct – such as sexual exploitation and abuse – while serving in the world body’s operations.
Despite having 200,000 peacekeepers, military police and civilians rotating through missions in over 20 locations worldwide, “we do not believe that it is plausible for anyone to claim they do not know what the standard is,” Jane Holl Lute, Assistant-Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support (DFS), told reporters in New York today.
She called for an intensification of messaging and boosting the responsibility of leadership in the field, along with improving investigative capacity.
“But we’re not going to run peacekeeping though investigation and fear,” Ms. Holl Lute noted. “We’re going to run it on purpose and pride.”
The Assistant-Secretary-General acknowledged that “a functioning, adequate investigative mechanism” is needed when allegations are brought, as the Save the Children report cited.
Characterizing today’s report as “important,” she said that it not only draws attention to gaps – in particular, the weaknesses in the reporting system – that continue to exist, but also stresses that while some steps have been taken, more needs to be done.
Ms. Holl Lute said that the recommendations made by Save the Children, including the creation of a global watchdog, have merit and will be taken very seriously.
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