17 December 2015

Secretary-General Vows Fast Action after Report Finds Misuse of Authority in United Nations Response to Central African Republic Abuse Claims

The following statement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was issued today:

Today I received the Report of the External Independent Review of the United Nations Response to Allegations of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in the Central African Republic.  I thank the Chair of the Panel, Marie Deschamps, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and the other members, Yasmin Sooka, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa, and Mr. Hassan Jallow, the Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), for their important work.  I accept the broad findings of the Panel’s report.

The Report depicts a United Nations that failed to respond meaningfully when faced with information about reprehensible crimes against vulnerable children.  I express my profound regret that these children were betrayed by the very people sent to protect them.  Though the soldiers who committed the abuses were not under United Nations command, the Report shows that the United Nations, which uncovered the abuse, did not subsequently handle the case with the speed, care or sensitivity required.

The Report has found that three United Nations officials abused their authority.  Given the gravity of these findings, I will act quickly to determine what action might be necessary.  To uphold the fundamental principle of accountability, and in the light of the history of allegations of sexual abuse by troops in the Central African Republic, including the current allegations, I had previously asked one of them — my Special Representative for the Central African Republic — to resign.

The Report also found that, while there were some shortcomings in the performance of several other United Nations officials and offices, they had not abused their authority.  I believe that missteps by these individuals were largely a product of flawed systems.  I intend to study these cases further to ensure that all individuals and offices heed the lessons of this review.

The comments and statements of the United Nations officials mentioned are included in an appendix to the Report.

I intend to urgently review the Panel’s recommendations and act without delay to ensure that systemic issues, fragmentation and other problems are fully addressed.  I stress, however, that some of these recommendations will require the involvement and approval of Member States.

Over the years, the United Nations has put in place a host of measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeeping personnel, and to react robustly when violations occur.  This year, I further strengthened the zero-tolerance policy.  I met with all my Special Representatives, Force Commanders and Police Commissioners to underscore the importance of the United Nations zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.  I also met with the Security Council, and with troop- and police-contributing countries, to stress the central role of Member States in taking decisive preventive and punitive action.

Still, it is clear that we must do much more, especially to better align our peacekeeping and human rights systems.  As the report indicates, the handling of sexual exploitation and abuse is particularly complicated when, as in this case, troops are not under United Nations command.  The United Nations does not have authority over contingents of troops that operate outside United Nations peacekeeping.  This in no way diminishes the responsibility of the United Nations to speak out when other troops commit violations.  Yet too often, national responses to allegations of abuse are slow, muted or non-existent.  We must address this major weakness.  Victims do not care what colour helmet or uniform is worn by those who come to protect them.  Our duty is to uphold the trust that must underpin all international engagements.

United Nations staff are strongly committed to combatting sexual exploitation and abuse as a matter of basic humanity but also because we know that the appalling acts of a few can undermine the work of thousands of dedicated personnel.  For my part, while I may not agree with every assertion in the Report, I accept its broad findings.  Sexual exploitation and abuse of power has no place in the United Nations or in the world of dignity for all that we are striving to build.

For information media. Not an official record.