The US House International Relations Committee Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, addressed accusations this week concerning sex trafficking and child sex abuse committed by peacekeepers and relief workers. Specifically, at issue were allegations that peacekeepers were taking part in the trafficking of Eastern European women in the Balkans during the conflict there in the 1990s and allegations that relief workers were sexually abusing children in several African nations.
According to Nancy Ely-Raphel, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in the US State Department, “The misconduct of the few [in the Balkans] rather than the honorable work of the many has obviously raised concern about the integrity of the system.” The House panel therefore emphasized the United States’ “zero tolerance” policy on sexual misconduct and outlined briefings that the US personnel attend on trafficking.
As to child sexual abuse in Africa, Ely-Raphel assured the subcommittee that the State Department took “immediate measures” to address the allegations and “prevent any further abuse of children in West Africa or elsewhere in the world.” The State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have urged the creation of “an enforceable code of conduct, better training, better management oversight by all agencies, and a thorough review of staff and programs.” In February, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Save the Children uncovered widespread sex abuse of children in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea by aid workers. The aid workers come from a variety of international and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), UNHCR itself, government agencies, and UN peacekeeping forces.