17 September 2015

Secretary-General Tells Troop Contributors No One with Past Record of Abuse Can Ever Serve United Nations, Outlining Plans for Victim Trust Fund

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s remarks at a meeting with Permanent Representatives of troop- and police-contributing countries on sexual exploitation and abuse, in New York today:

Let me to begin by thanking you for your contributions to global and regional peace and security.  You are here because your countries are the most generous in providing police and military personnel to UN peacekeeping.

Your sons and daughters risk their lives in some of the most troubled parts of the world to protect the vulnerable while advancing the cause of peace.  Over many decades of service, their efforts have meant the difference between life and death for millions of people.  I commend all those who each and every day live up to the ethical standards we have to defend.

Yet, as we have regrettably seen, the integrity of their mission can be called into question — indeed undermined — by flagrant cases of sexual exploitation and abuse.  One terrible act can wipe out a thousand noble sacrifices.

We are all too familiar with the recent reprehensible allegations of misconduct by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic.  Sadly, I need not remind you that this is not a new phenomenon.

I know you share my anguish, anger and shame.  This is a violation of everything the United Nations stands for, and the culture of accountability we are trying to promote.

As you know, I have taken difficult, but necessary, decisions to demonstrate our resolve.  Much more needs to be done to stamp out sexual exploitation and abuse in our missions.

I cannot do it alone.  This is also a core responsibility for Member States.  Just as we cannot field successful peacekeeping missions without you, stopping sexual exploitation and abuse depends on your full engagement and support.

That is why I am asking you today to join me in doing more — much more — to end this unacceptable conduct.  Allegations must be reported. Investigations must be speedy and thorough. Perpetrators must be punished.  Zero-tolerance must be the rule.

I welcome your statements against sexual exploitation and abuse.  I also want to thank you for endorsing my 2014 report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Today, I would like to briefly highlight seven specific actions that require your urgent and unqualified support.  First, we must work to prevent misconduct even before personnel are on the ground.  Pre-deployment education and human rights training must be enhanced.  Troops and police must be made fully aware of what constitutes sexual exploitation and abuse, and the importance of upholding the zero-tolerance policy.  Commanders must be warned that they, too, will be held accountable for serious misconduct by their troops or police.

On this point I have already reported to the Security Council as early as 2008, in June 2008, you may check this record of Security Council, in an open, public meeting.

That is why I am now calling on Member States to certify that all uniformed personnel have completed United Nations-required pre-deployment training.   We will provide targeted support to interested Member States to meet this requirement.

Second, we must properly and fully vet personnel.  No individual with a past record of sexual exploitation and abuse can ever be allowed to serve the United Nations in any capacity.  The Secretariat is working to expand vetting mechanisms for civilian personnel, to also cover military and police personnel.  I need your cooperation in this regard.  If someone is found to have been deployed who does not meet the certification which you have provided, he or she will be repatriated at your expense.

Third, rapid and effective investigations.  Far too often, investigations into allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation are not conducted quickly enough.  This weakens evidence, jeopardizes the right to due process, undermines accountability and promotes a culture of impunity.

Our goal is to conclude thorough United Nations-led investigations into sexual exploitation and abuse within six months.  I call upon Member States to ensure the same.  I also appeal to you to include experienced women and men to serve as national investigation officers to examine alleged misconduct by contingent members.  This will be part of future Statement of Unit Requirements for all contributors.

As we all know, DNA samples are critical to the effectiveness of investigations of sexual exploitation and abuse.  As such, the Secretariat will explore with Member States the feasibility of collecting DNA samples of uniformed personnel.

All contributing countries must notify the Secretariat of progress on investigations of serious misconduct, including on the outcome of each case.  Any delay or silence contributes to an appearance of impunity.  Rapid and effective investigations will also help dispel allegations against United Nations personnel that prove not to be substantiated.  Everyone who serves under the blue flag deserves due process, as well as due diligence.

Fourth, we must ensure justice.  I am frustrated that too few cases are prosecuted and sanctions are not nearly strong enough.  I urge Member States to take prompt and determined action to ensure that personnel found guilty of sexual exploitation and abuse are brought to justice.

I also appeal to you to institute on-site court martial proceedings to preserve chains of evidence and allow justice to be done and witnessed by the communities and individuals whose trust has been shaken.

Fifth, financial accountability.  I have committed to ensuring consistent measures for all categories of personnel, including the option to withhold payment.  That is why I have begun suspending payments to alleged perpetrators and individual experts on mission if there is credible evidence of sexual exploitation and abuse.

I am pursuing a number of equally strong measures against civilian personnel — including administrative leave without pay pending the investigation and disciplinary process and dismissal from service in substantiated cases.

Sixth, we must boost assistance to victims.  This is critical.  Behind every substantiated case is a vulnerable and traumatized victim.  I will establish a trust fund to strengthen victim assistance programmes and support awareness-raising and community outreach.

I look forward to Member States coming forward with donations that show victims that we are serious about their well-being.  I will also be asking Member States to agree that the funds withheld from individuals in connection with imposed sanctions be diverted to this trust fund.

Seventh, stronger reporting.  As you know, I will include country-specific information in my future reports to the General Assembly concerning the number of credible allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse involving military and police personnel.  This will be in addition to the status updates on allegations, which I currently provide.  My decision to name specific countries is not designed to create public embarrassment, but to demonstrate transparency and promote accountability.

There is no shame for a Member State that takes decisive action against alleged perpetrators of sexual exploitation and abuse.  On the contrary, this is a matter of honour, for both the United Nations and Member States.

We must also realize that scrutiny is unavoidable.  Everyone has a mobile phone.  Everyone can be a human rights monitor.  Information will get out.  And it should.  There should be no impunity in principle because there is no invisibility in practice.

Finally, I will not hesitate to repatriate entire contingents or terminate deployments where there are failures in command and control, evidence of widespread or systematic violations, or when Member States fail repeatedly to respond to requests for investigations or to investigate promptly.

Together with my Under-Secretaries-General for Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, I count on your full commitment and support.  I look forward to concrete and immediate action as an outcome of our discussions today.

We simply cannot afford to falter in our obligations.   Let us work together, without excuses, to protect the good name of peacekeeping and uphold the trust placed in us by the people who need us most.  And I thank you for your attention, commitment and leadership.  We deeply appreciate your contribution and sacrifices — sometimes — and I hope this meeting will provide another momentum that we work much better, with a sense of accountability and with, ultimately, a sense of honour.

For information media. Not an official record.