UNITED NATIONS, Jun 17 – To eliminate sex abuse from UN peacekeeping missions, the first major review of operations in 15 years recommends that countries which flout children’s rights be barred from blue helmet missions.
A panel headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta was tasked with rethinking peacekeeping at a time when UN missions are increasingly under threat and increasingly asked to manage conflicts.
Ramos-Horta was tapped to carry out the mission last year before recent allegations implicated UN peacekeepers in sexual abuse in Haiti and Liberia, and French troops in Central African Republic.
On Tuesday, he submitted his report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
A summary of the report, obtained by AFP, recommends that troops from countries that flout the rights of children in armed conflict be excluded from UN peacekeeping missions.
The United Nations publishes annual lists to shame countries with questionable records on children and armed conflict, and on conflict related sexual violence.
The report also recommends that disciplinary action — or the lack of it — taken by troop contributing countries be disclosed.
Six-month deadlines should also be imposed on investigations, compared to an average 16 months, and “an effective and adequately resourced victim assistance program” set up.
Peacekeepers’ immunity from prosecution must not mean impunity, and should not be extended to UN personnel alleged to have committed sexual exploitation and abuse, the summary recommended.
Ramos-Horta, a former president and resistance leader from East Timor, recommended that UN civilian staff could face local justice.
“No one should be above the law,” he told reporters. But he recognized that no soldiers of any country would accept being subject to national law. Instead, they could face justice at home.
– Undermines credibility –
Ramos-Horta said the recent UN troop scandals were “the worst thing that can happen to the UN” that “undermines its credibility.
“It will take enormous efforts to overcome this dark chapter,” he told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.
A draft UN report obtained by AFP last week showed that UN peacekeepers routinely buy sex with anything from jewelry to televisions in countries where they are deployed.
A third of sexual abuse allegations against UN personnel involved children and teenagers under 18.
There were 480 allegations of sexual abuse from 2008 and 2013 with the largest missions registering high numbers of cases, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Haiti, Sudan and South Sudan.
More generally, Ramos-Horta’s report recommends that the 16 UN peacekeeping missions adapt to new realities in which they are killed by extremist groups, as in Mali, or kidnapped, such as on the Golan Heights.
In the past 15 years, crises have multiplied and the number of UN peacekeeping troops has soared to nearly 130,000, up from 20,000, as part of a budget that has ballooned to more than $8 billion.
Their mandate is also more complex: they have to protect civilians but also help host countries prepare for elections.
The report called for a strong push on conflict prevention, for the Security Council to address emerging threats more quickly and use UN resources earlier to support prevention and mediation.
It called for the establishment of a “modest UN rapid deployment” to reinforce missions urgently but did not agree that the United Nations should get involved in military counter-terrorism operations.
It called on emerging and developed powers to contribute more cash and soldiers to missions, often supported by developing countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The report summary also called for greater women’s involvement in operations and the deployment of human rights experts and regular public reporting on the human rights situation.