Global Violence Against Women

U.N. Report Shows Increase in Sexual Misconduct Claims

A United Nations report released on Friday showed that accusations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) rose significantly in 2019.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that, despite progress and policies in place to prevent sexual misconduct, “significant challenges” persist.

In 2019, there were 80 allegations of SEA in U.N. peacekeeping and political missions, an uptick from 56 in 2018. 41 of those were related to a peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic, and 15 were related to a mission in Congo. Three-fourths of the remaining 24 allegations are from peacekeeping missions in Darfur, Lebanon, Liberia and Haiti. Allegations involving civilian personnel numbered 25 (up from 13 in 2018), and allegations involving military personnel numbered 49 (up from 39 in 2018). There were 95 allegations involving staff working for U.N. agencies (up from 93 in 2018), as well as 37 related to paternity claims.

More than 190,000 uniformed and civilian personnel serve in more than 30 bodies in the U.N. system. In 2017, Guterres shifted the international organization’s SEA focus from conduct and discipline of officers to victims’ rights, focusing on practical assistance for victims and speeding up investigations of allegations.

The first Victims’ Rights Advocate, Jane Connors, described a major component of the work of herself and her four field-based Victims’ Rights Advocates who support her as dealing with paternity claims: “They often involve several jurisdictions, require us to work with Member States, so we are working on ways for the women to gain access to the legal support they need to pursue those claims.” A report about U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti shed unfavorable light on such claims in December, with claims of girls as young as 11 years old being paid with small amounts of money and food in exchange for sex.

Paula Donovan, the co-director of AIDS-Free World and the organization’s Code Blue campaign on stopping SEA by the U.N., said, “The U.N. is failing, […] the secretary-general’s new approach is not succeeding.”

Connors emphasized the fact that progress had been made to support victims, but not nearly enough: “There have been some positive outcomes, but there is a lot more work to do.”

Sources: Washington Post 03/13/20; United Nations 03/13/20; Washington Post 12/18/19.