The General Assembly today adopted a resolution committed to a zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse throughout the United Nations, stressing the importance of States holding perpetrators accountable.
In adopting draft resolution A/71/L.59 on “United Nations action on sexual exploitation and abuse”, the Assembly also stressed that prevention and accountability were critical for the United Nations and its Member States to demonstrate their collective commitment to the zero-tolerance policy and for providing justice for victims.
The Assembly, by the text, called upon Member States deploying non-United Nations forces authorized under a Security Council mandate to take appropriate steps to investigate allegations and to hold perpetrators accountable. It also urged all such non-United Nations forces to take adequate measures to prevent, and combat impunity for, sexual exploitation and abuse by their personnel.
“We owe it to the world to adopt this resolution,” said Egypt’s representative, introducing the text. While acknowledging that the action of the few should not be allowed to tarnish the achievement of the whole, the presenters of the draft text, being major troop- and police-contributing countries, for the first time since its adoption, had recognized Security Council resolution 2272 (2016). That resolution had authorized the Secretary-General to repatriate troops who had not taken appropriate prevention measures and hold accountable their personnel.
“The troop- and police-contributing countries presenting this draft resolution took it upon themselves to lead this effort in order to send a strong, unequivocal message that it is our responsibility to combat sexual exploitation and abuse, not just among uniformed personnel, but across the United Nations system,” he said.
Speakers commended the text, with many agreeing that the Assembly should be at the forefront of uprooting sexual exploitation and abuse. Some speakers from troop-contributing countries highlighted elements that could have been stronger. Brazil’s delegate said the text had not placed enough emphasis on prevention and the Philippines’ representative said his delegation would have wanted it to highlight the protection of children, especially in conflict situations. Ethiopia’s delegate underlined an urgent need to review and standardize procedures for verifying allegations before informing concerned troop-contributing countries and prior to public reporting.
Some delegates said that while the resolution’s message sent a strong message, the process of achieving consensus on it had lacked a truly collaborative spirit. Malta’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said partners had been forced into a negotiating process that had not been ideal and had missed an opportunity to take important steps forward on the issue at a time when there was a need for the Assembly to unify around a drive to achieve the highest standards.
In a similar vein, Australia’s delegate, speaking also for Canada, New Zealand and Switzerland, said the Assembly was capable of so much more with regard to creating a strong, effective resolution. The current text had been produced through a rushed process, she said, hoping that, going forward, stakeholders could work together to reach a point beyond a zero-tolerance policy to achieve a zero-case situation.
In other business, the Assembly took note of documents A/71/764/Add.1 to 4, which indicated that Cabo Verde, Djibouti, Dominica, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea and Yemen had made payments necessary to reduce their arrears, according to Article 19 of the United Nations Charter.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, Uruguay, Ukraine, Norway, Senegal, El Salvador, Argentina, China, Russian Federation, Pakistan and Bangladesh.