Ban addresses top peacekeeping officials amid allegations of sexual abuse by UN 'blue helmets'

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (top right) convenes a video conference with his Special Representatives, Force Commanders and Police Commissioners in all UN peacekeeping operations. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

13 August 2015 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon conducted today an urgent video conference with the heads of United Nations peacekeeping operations, Force Commanders, and Police Commissioners following a series of revelations alleging abuse by UN 'blue helmets' in the field, Including, most recently in the Central African Republic.

Addressing the regular press briefing at the Organization's Headquarters in New York, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric confirmed that the Secretary-General had gathered the senior leadership “to speak directly to them” about reports of ongoing sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers while underlining the UN's policy of “zero tolerance.”

“He stressed that zero tolerance means zero complacency and zero impunity and that when allegations are substantiated, all personnel – whether military, police or civilians – must be held accountable,” reported Mr. Dujarric.

“The Secretary-General expressed his resolve to help the affected individuals [and] preserve the integrity of the UN flag,” he added.

In addition, explained the UN Spokesperson, Mr. Ban told the peacekeeping officials that, under the existing guidelines, Heads of Mission were directly accountable for maintaining conduct and discipline within their mission, with the support of the senior mission leadership.

The UN chief's conversation with his senior mission leadership follows a series of recent allegations – revealed earlier this week by the human rights group Amnesty International and concerning actions by UN 'blue helmets' serving with the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) – of sexual abuse committed by MINUSCA peacekeepers.

According to Mr. Dujarric, in today's meeting, the Secretary-General also discussed the importance of prevention, training, risk assessment and risk mitigation, continuous education for and awareness-raising in local communities to stop this problem while calling on the senior leadership of missions to use “every opportunity to reinforce the message that the United Nations will not abide any misconduct, including sexual exploitation and abuse.”

Furthermore, he reportedly noted that Mr. Ban stressed that Troop and Police Contributing Countries are responsible for ensuring that their personnel are properly trained and on mandatory standards of conduct and discipline, and that their peacekeepers will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law if found to have committed abuse.

As part of the UN's increased scrutiny into the global scourge of sexual abuse in field missions, the Secretary-General also addressed a special session of the Security Council, later in the afternoon in which he told Council members of his “distress and shame over reports of sexual exploitation and the abuse of power by UN forces, police or civilian personnel.”

“Even a single allegation represents a serious strike at our institution,” Mr. Ban declared. “We must also bear in mind the profound damage done to credibly carry out the mandates entrusted to us by this very Council.”

The UN chief voiced his frustration with what he described as “far too lenient sanctions for such grave acts affecting men, women and, all too often, children” and stated that the failure to pursue criminal accountability for sexual crimes was “tantamount to impunity.”

As a result, he told the 15-member Council that he proposed that his report next year to the General Assembly include country specific information on credible allegations that are being investigated and added his suggestion that sexual exploitation and abuse and other misconduct be placed on the agenda of the meetings of the Security Council with the troop-contributing countries.

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Central African Republic: Ban vows ‘decisive action’ on allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers

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