U.N. Urged To Crack Down On Peacekeepers' Alleged Abuse | KUOW News and Information

U.N. Urged To Crack Down On Peacekeepers' Alleged Abuse

Mar 12, 2016
Originally published on March 12, 2016 6:31 am
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The U.N. Security Council is trying to confront a major problem in U.N. peacekeeping operations - the growing number of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. A recent report details 69 allegations last year alone, and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power points out those are just the cases have been reported. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Just after the Security Council passed a resolution she drafted, Ambassador Power offered this message to victims of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers.

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SAMANTHA POWER: We will do better to ensure that the blue helmets we send as your protectors will not become perpetrators.

KELEMEN: The Security Council resolution is meant to pressure countries that contribute troops to hold police and military personnel to account when they're found guilty of crimes. It also encourages the U.N. to withdraw units where allegations are widespread. One activist, Paula Donovan of AIDS Free World, calls this a no-brainer.

PAULA DONOVAN: If you contract soldiers to protect civilians and when they get there they begin to sexually abuse them, then of course you're going to send them home.

KELEMEN: Speaking in a Skype call from Geneva, she welcomed the Security Council action, but Donovan says there's a big piece missing in this. It doesn't cover international civil servants who work for the U.N.

DONOVAN: The U.N. should be the gold standard and if the U.N. bureaucracy, if the staff aren't treated in the way that the United Nations would like every troop-contributing country and police-contributing country to handle the cases that are alleged against them, then we have no hope of any progress.

KELEMEN: It was her organization that first put a spotlight on abuses by French and African troops in Central African Republic. There have been many more allegations in that troubled country since them. And Ambassador Power used CAR as an example when she made the case to the Security Council that it was time to act. She said it took the U.N. too long to send home one Congolese peacekeeping unit in CAR, and during that delay, more women and girls came forward to say they had been raped.

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POWER: Think about that - eight credible allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse reported against a single group of peacekeepers in just two months. And in seven of those incidences, the alleged victims were children. How could we let that happen? All of us - how could we let that happen?

KELEMEN: Ambassador Powers says it is time to end the impunity. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.