Allegations of Sexual Abuse, Exploitation Spotlight Increasingly Complex Nature of United Nations Peacekeeping, Speakers Tell Fourth Committee

GA/SPD/621
26 October 2016
Seventy-first Session, 16th Meeting (AM)

Allegations of Sexual Abuse, Exploitation Spotlight Increasingly Complex Nature of United Nations Peacekeeping, Speakers Tell Fourth Committee

Delegates also Spotlight Threats to Safety, Security of Personnel Already Tasked with Protecting Civilian Human Rights

Allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation underscored the complexity of United Nations peacekeeping during the course of which peacekeepers were required not only to protect civilians, but themselves needed protection from attacks, speakers said today as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) concluded its annual general debate on the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.

Algeria’s representative noted that acts of sexual abuse and exploitation perpetrated by peacekeepers had become a source of further suffering for those whom they were supposed to protect.  As indicated in a report by the Secretary-General, immediate response teams had finally been established within peacekeeping missions to gather and preserve evidence, and Algeria welcomed that step as well as continuing efforts to improve the speed and quality of investigations, he added.

However, Togo’s representative said that despite measures to tackle the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation, the number of allegations had increased.  He went on to point out that peacekeeping operations were also becoming increasingly complicated to craft and frame.  Additionally, Togo had recently lost five men deployed in Mali, he said, adding that they were part of a long list of peacekeepers whose lives had been lost in various operations to date.

Indeed, peacekeepers faced many challenges, noted the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, not least ensuring their own safety and security while protecting civilians.  Agreeing, Nigeria’s representative, declared:  “Peacekeepers must be protected before they can offer protection.”  Host authorities must do much more to ensure their safety, he said, adding that such an effort would entail regular consultations between missions and host countries, as well as adapting modern technology to the gathering of information, aerial surveillance and the detection of landmines.

While the Security Council had primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, regional interventions were regularly undertaken on its behalf, he said, calling for a joint United Nations-African Union review and assessment of mechanisms currently available to finance and support peace operations.

Jordan’s representative added that greater cooperation among the Security Council, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and personnel-contributing countries was important in meeting goals and improving mandates.  The creation of a triangular coordination mechanism would ensure greater transparency in implementing peace operations, he said, while stressing that the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations must not be overlooked.

Also speaking today were representatives of Singapore, El Salvador, Brazil, Peru, Poland, Eritrea, Senegal, Russian Federation, Haiti, United Kingdom, Mongolia, Republic of Korea, Fiji, Rwanda and Turkey.  Speakers representing the Holy See, International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Organization of la Francophonie also addressed the Committee.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 27 October, to begin its comprehensive review of special political missions.

Statements

LIM MUN PONG (Singapore) said technology could play a vital role in helping peacekeepers stay ahead since it facilitated access to information and uninterrupted communications.  Singapore was currently working with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to develop an integrated information technology application that would allow the timely reporting of casualty information in field missions, a tool that would also strengthen the data-collection and reporting capacity of United Nations peacekeeping operations, and enhance effectiveness.  He also pointed out that Singapore had chaired and coordinated the development of the United Nations Peacekeeping Missions Military Maritime Task Force Manual in 2014, which set the standards and operating parameters for the conduct of maritime-related operations.

RUBEN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIVAS (El Salvador), noting that his country had provided thousands of personnel for 12 different peacekeeping missions since 1956, said that in light of the evolution of peacekeeping, it was essential to design and implement realistic mandates while ensuring coordination among the Security Council, Secretariat, troop-contributing and host countries.  In order to achieve lasting results and reduce casualties, it was critical to provide missions with adequate human, financial and logistical support.  He voiced concern about sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers, expressing support for the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy in that regard.  Rapid investigation of such allegations was essential, he said, emphasizing that perpetrators must be brought to justice.

SONIA ISHAQ AHMAD SUGHAYAR (Jordan), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that while peacekeeping operations had made great forward strides recently, certain gaps remained to be bridged.  Increased cooperation between the Peacekeeping Department and troop-contributing countries was important in meeting goals and improving mandates, and peace operations must react rapidly to new conflicts by ensuring adequate training before and during missions, using capacity-building mechanisms.  With regard to sexual abuse and exploitation, she emphasized that all contributing countries must accept the zero-tolerance policy and take drastic measures to ensure that perpetrators were prosecuted and held accountable, without tarnishing the image of the entire mission.  The creation of a triangular coordination mechanism would ensure greater transparency in implementing peace operations, he said, while stressing that the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations must not be overlooked.

CARLOS DUARTE (Brazil) said his country had deployed more than 46,000 troops and staff in 50 missions since 1948.  Welcoming the concept of “sustaining peace” as a means to overcome the “illusion of sequencing” between peacekeeping and peacebuilding, he said the Security Council should look into the root causes of conflicts from the earliest possible stage of mission planning, including their economic and social dimensions, while incorporating key peacebuilding objectives into peacekeeping mandates.  In accordance with the report of the High-level Panel on Peace Operations, Brazil continued to advocate for the establishment of a special account for special political missions, separate from the regular budget, he said, adding that such a measure would boost efficiency and alleviate budgetary pressures on other crucial activities, such as development and human rights.  With the increasing complexity and danger of peacekeeping operations, Member States must continuously reflect on their evolution in conceptual and result-oriented terms, he said, while stressing the importance of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations in providing innovative approaches and ideas as a result of meaningful interaction among States.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said his country had provided more than 7,000 peacekeeping personnel since 1958, and its personnel were currently serving in seven different missions.  Noting the changing nature of operations since the first peacekeeping deployment, and the increasingly complex emerging challenges, he said current operations had a multidimensional character, with tasks ranging from providing humanitarian assistance to ensuring the protection of civilians.  To achieve successful outcomes, it was imperative to provide missions with adequate human, financial and military resources, as well as the latest technology and best training.  At the same time, for effective operations, it was crucial to establish clear guidelines and to strengthen coordination among the Security Council, the Secretariat, and troop-contributing countries.

MARGARETA KASSANGANA-JAKUBOSKA (Poland) said her country had provided liaison officers and explosive device disposal units to the Peacekeeping Capabilities Readiness System.  Welcoming the ongoing efforts by the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support to improve force mobility, she said that improving deployment capabilities must be a priority area in that regard.  Since successful conflict resolution required rapid response and the deployment of conflict-prevention and mediation teams, greater attention must be paid to the creation of tailored missions.  At the same time, a more human-oriented approach would bring long-term benefits for the United Nations and the host country, she said, emphasizing the need to establish good contacts with the local population, to ensure the protection of children and to fight sexual abuse and exploitation and abuse.

ELSA HAILE (Eritrea), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said peacekeeping missions required clear and achievable mandates, wide political support and clear exit strategies.  Greater attention must be paid to addressing the economic, social and political roots of conflict.  While the importance of regional organizations could not be overlooked, caution was needed when deploying troops from neighbouring countries, she said, adding that in her part of the world, such deployments resulted in national interests overshadowing regional and international peace and security concerns.  She said host Governments had the primary responsibility for protecting their nationals, emphasizing that civilian-protection mandates should not be used as the basis for military intervention by the United Nations.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that the security environment was becoming more complex and that United Nations forces, often deployed where no peace agreement or political process was in place, were frequently targeted by armed groups.  That represented a major challenge for peacekeeping mandates, especially in terms of protecting civilians, and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was the best example of the scope of prevailing threats.  Noting that the success of peacekeeping operations depended on their adapting to their environment, he said the police components initially tasked with monitoring, observing and reporting were now called upon to play wider roles.  Current missions extended beyond the security aspect of peacekeeping, moving towards peacebuilding, he added.  Greater synergy was needed, therefore, among the military, police and civilian components of peacekeeping missions.  Operations must be reinforced to ensure better adaptation to current and future needs and challenges, he emphasized, calling also for clear mandates and adequate financial resources and equipment.

MEHDI REMAOUN (Algeria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that acts of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers had become a source of further suffering for those whom they were supposed to protect, and the Central African Republic was the most affected.  As indicated in a report by the Secretary-General, immediate response teams had finally been established in peacekeeping missions to gather and preserve evidence, pending the initiation of investigations.  Algeria welcomed that step as well as continuing efforts to improve the speed and quality of investigations.  Peacekeepers needed quality training and adequate equipment to protect their own lives while fulfilling their mandates, he said, stressing, however, that while modern technology provided many instrumental assets for peacekeeping missions, they should be used in strict conformity with the United Nations Charter as well as with international and local laws

DINA GILMUTDINOVA (Russian Federation) said that peacekeeping was an important tool in the maintenance of global peace and security amid the rapidly changing international political order and the growing number of asymmetric threats.  In order to address those challenges, it was critical to strengthen the capacities of regional mechanisms, enhance coordination among all actors concerned and share best practices.  Citing the principles of impartiality, consent of the parties, and non-use of force except in self—defence, she said peacekeeping personnel must assist the efforts of local authorities to protect civilians and stabilize conflict situations.  Warning against the manipulation of peacekeeping mandates, she voiced opposition to the case-by-case approach, and emphasizing that interpretation should not be allowed.  “We need to give up on the unilateral and selective approach,” she reiterated, calling for strict adherence to the United Nations Charter.

WILLY LOUIS (Haiti) emphasized the need for holistic and integrated approaches in order collectively to address the increasingly complex challenges that threatened international peace and security.  It was of critical importance to establish a lasting mechanism, he said, describing regional and subregional efforts as complementary.  Turning to sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers, he noted that efforts to improve conduct and strengthen discipline had been intensified since 2005, yet such allegations continued, damaging the reputation of the United Nations.  The Peacekeeping and Field Support departments must redouble their efforts to revitalize operations and improve the technological capabilities of missions.  He expressed all efforts by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to improve security conditions on the ground, end the cholera epidemic and to provide humanitarian assistance to the local population.

PETER WILSON (United Kingdom) said his country remained firmly committed to peacekeeping, having recently doubled its troop contribution and dispatched new peacekeepers to South Sudan and Somalia.  The United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Meeting held in London had represented the first opportunity for defence ministers to discuss peacekeeping and make new commitments to reforming it, he said, adding that the reforms would focus on better planning, more pledges and stronger performance by all stakeholders.  That message had been echoed throughout the meeting and in the London Communiqué signed by representatives of 60 countries, he noted.  The Communiqué also stressed the importance of accountability, of training under-performing troops and of setting ambitious targets for increasing the number of women peacekeepers.  It called on the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to increase the number of women staff officers and military observers, with the goal of filling 15 per cent of such positions with women.  States had also committed to deploying police, military and civilian peacekeepers more quickly, he said.

KOMLAVI AGBENOZAN DEDJI (Togo), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that despite their important role, peacekeeping operations were becoming increasingly complicated to craft and frame.  Togo had recently lost five men deployed with MINUSMA, who had been blown up by a mine, he said, adding that they were part of a long list of peacekeepers whose lives had been lost in various operations to date.  Togo had lost 10 in Mali and two in Côte d’Ivoire.  Allegations of human rights violations by peacekeepers also underscored the complexity of peacekeeping operations.  Despite measures to tackle the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation, the number of allegations had increased, as demonstrated by the recent report of the Secretary-General.  Togo had established a centre tasked with training combatants in various technical areas, including respect for human rights, he said.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia) said the establishment of any peacekeeping operation or extension of mandate must strictly observe the purposes and the principles of the United Nations Charter, including the consent of parties, impartiality and the non-use of force except in self—defence.   Mongolia had become one of the active troop-contributing countries, sending 1,000 troops to various missions every year, and was concerned about the safety of its men and women serving in crisis-affected countries, he said, noting that the death rate among United Nations peacekeeping personnel had almost doubled.

KYEONGJIN CHEON (Republic of Korea) described peacekeeping as a flagship United Nations activity in the maintenance of global peace and security.  The continuous interaction and common understanding between the Secretariat and Member States over capacity requirements in the field were essential, as was applying information and communications technologies to peacekeeping operations.  Given the intertwined, complex nature of today’s challenges, the United Nations should forge more coherent, effective partnerships at all levels and take decisive steps to strengthen regional peace and security architectures, he said, noting that regional organizations, especially the African Union, were becoming prominent in the context of global security.

PATRICIA CHAND (Fiji), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, recalled her country’s long history of engagement in United Nations peacekeeping operations, emphasizing that, despite its small size, it was determined to play its part in furthering the cause of peace.  She urged the Secretariat to strengthen consultations with Member States and to ensure open and inclusive dialogue on all peacekeeping matters, including policy-formulation and decision-making, especially with troop- and police-contributing countries.  Greater coordination and information-sharing was also needed to mitigate threats to peacekeepers and to address safety and security concerns.  Fiji was encouraged by the partnerships forged by the United Nations with regional bodies to address common security challenges and wished to see them strengthened, she said.

JOHN EJINAKA (Nigeria) called for measures to minimize risks to contingents and mission facilities.  “Peacekeepers must be protected before they can offer protection,” he said, emphasizing that host authorities must do much more to ensure their safety.  That would entail regular consultations between missions and host countries, as well as adapting modern technology to the gathering of information, aerial surveillance and the detection of landmines.  While the Security Council had primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, regional arrangements intervened regularly on its behalf, he said, calling for a joint United Nations-African Union review and assessment of mechanisms currently available to finance and support peace operations.

RAOUL BAZATOHA (Rwanda) said her country had witnessed the United Nations failing to act at first hand and had learned lessons from it.  In the short term the Security Council should deliver mandates tailored to the particular situation on the ground, and troop- and police-contributing countries must take on a robust mentality.  An additional endeavour would be effective and informative pre-deployment and in-mission training focused heavily on the protection of civilians, including by preventing gender-based violence and protecting children.  Protection of civilians could be improved by acting robustly, but also by helping civilians rebuild their homes and lives, she said, adding that by expanding short-term actions, peacekeeping would also be successful in the long term.

GEORGE MWITA ITANG’ARE (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that increasingly complex peacekeeping dynamics in recent years called for greater flexibility and resilience.  Peacekeepers faced many challenges, not least ensuring their own safety and security, protecting civilians, obtaining effective field support, and winning enhanced regional cooperation, national capabilities and ownership.  The United Republic of Tanzania currently ranked seventh among troop-contributing countries, with personnel deployed in six peacekeeping operations, he said, adding that it took all allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation seriously and had taken prompt measures, in collaboration with the United Nations, under the zero-tolerance principle.  “Severe disciplinary measures will be taken at national level.”

EFE CEYLAN (Turkey) said triangular cooperation and enhanced consultations among the Security Council, troop- and police-contributing countries and the Secretariat was the key factor in better design, planning and execution of peacekeeping mandates as well as other features to boost operational efficiency.  There was a tendency to give missions additional mandated tasks, including the protection of civilians, which was seen as more of a moral responsibility for the United Nations, but had become a central component of some peacekeeping missions.  Turkey considered that primary responsibility for protecting civilians rested with host States, and that United Nations efforts should always be based on the core peacekeeping principles — consent of the host country, impartiality and non-use of force except in self-defence or when defending the mandate as a last resort.  However, those principles did not preclude the protection of civilians, he emphasized.

ELIZABETH F. DEFEIS, observer for the Holy See, said the protection of civilians should be a central element of peacekeeping mandates, which should be considered within the framework of the responsibility to protect.  States and the international community had a grave responsibility to defend those exposed to war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing.  Due to the unacceptable human costs of inaction, it would be useful if the General Assembly, Security Council and other United Nations bodies discerned clear and effective criteria for applying the principle of responsibility to protect, and for the corresponding integration of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.  She called upon States to impose strict limits on the manufacture, sale and gifting of weapons that fuelled conflict, emphasizing that they must also consider more preventive measures to deal with sexual abuse and other forms of exploitation by United Nations peacekeepers.

ERNESTO GRANILLO, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the important issue of detention was sometimes overlooked and under-funded.  While capacities in terms of logistics, infrastructure and trained human resources may not be adapted to reality on the ground, detention facilities must operate in accordance with the relevant international laws and standards, including international humanitarian law where applicable, he emphasized.  Ensuring respect for international humanitarian law was a challenging task, and the United Nations must exercise due diligence when deciding how to promote compliance.  Recalling that the ICRC had held a multi-stakeholder round table in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in May, he said it had been intended to ensure compliance during multinational operations in Africa.  It was also vital for the ICRC to continue to be perceived and understood as strictly neutral, independent and impartial, considering that peacekeepers and humanitarians worked so closely in the field, he stressed, warning that any confusion or blurring between the peacekeeping mandate and ICRC principles could jeopardize access to those in need and affect the protection and assistance provided.

PATRICIA HERDT, Deputy Permanent Observer for the International Organization of la Francophonie, drew attention to the increasing volatility of peacekeeping environments, emphasizing the need to pay further attention to engagement with local authorities.  In that regard, she called for partnerships with international and regional organizations, particularly for the sharing of knowledge.  For its part, the International Organization of La Francophonie had provided pre-deployment training, organized capacity-building programmes and raised awareness through public information campaigns in French, she said, adding that it had also disseminated information about job openings in the missions, and taught French to members of security services.

For information media. Not an official record.