We wanted to let you know about some changes to our campaign. We are expanding our approach to addressing sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (SEA) perpetrated by UN peacekeepers.
We firmly maintain our stance that some incidents of SEA by UN Peacekeepers constitute acts of sexual violence, acts which are crimes requiring a criminal justice response.
However, we acknowledge that prosecution alone will not provide a holistic resolution to this problem - it will not necessarily restore trust between host population and peacekeepers, or indeed between the global public and peacekeeping, nor will it remedy the harm done to victims and survivors.
Our updated campaign will therefore expand to consider the interrelated questions of accountability, of the role of peacekeepers themselves, and of the nature peacekeeping as a whole. In order to do this, we are joining forces with the Together First campaign, which is pushing for civil society to be given a seat at the table in the conversation on solving global problems.
In recent years the UN has evolved its approach to sexual exploitation and abuse through a series of reforms:
These initiatives are not an exhaustive list of all UN efforts, but they reflect an acknowledgement that much more is needed to effectively address the problem. However, the impact of these mechanisms is not yet clear. SEA continues, with impunity. The UN has considerably improved its transparency with respect to people like us and other stakeholders in New York, but very little is known publicly on what happens to victims and survivors.
Unfortunately Member States have not taken the opportunities presented to them for progress on SEA. This is indicative of a wider erosion of trust between Member States: particularly between Troop Contributing Countries and donor and Security Council states. Disgracefully, Member States on the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly passed a resolution demanding that the Secretary General not follow recommendations from the UN’s auditors (para 144) that the UN select forces on the basis of discipline and performance. This undermines the positive effects of Security Council Resolution 2272 which granted the UN Secretary General the authority to repatriate peacekeeping units where allegations of SEA are prevalent.
What we're doing and how we’re going to do it
We're building on Mission Justice in three particular directions.
Reimagining accountability While the UN has made welcome and necessary reforms in accounting for the abuses through activities aimed at prevention, transparency and monitoring mechanisms, they do little to remedy the harm done to those most affected by SEA-victims and survivors themselves. We see a need for a much more nuanced and robust approach to accountability, based upon the framework of human rights and criminal justice, and putting the needs and desires of peacekeeping at its very heart. This approach builds in our previous Mission Justice work, but is expanded to reflect accountability for the abuses, of perpetrators, and to victims and survivors.
We have developed proposals in all these areas and have written to the UK's Special Representative for Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, Lord Ahmad.
The UK government has taken a pleasingly open attitude to suggestions for improvement on this topic from representatives of civil society, academia, the charity sector and others. The UK will host a global Preventing Sexual Violence conference in November at which they will launch the "Murad Code" to improve protection of victims and survivors in evidence gathering. This is a positive step, albeit more work is needed to clarify how other proposed initiatives will work in practice. Our letter therefore urges him to use the opportunity of this conference to promote action on preventing sexual violence by peacekeepers.
We will also take these proposals forward through our partnership with Together First: a rapidly growing network of global citizens, civil society organisations, practitioners, parliamentarians, business leaders and activists from all regions of the world committed to fair, open and inclusive solutions to improve global governance. Throughout 2019 and 2020 Together First is leading a global campaign to:
Reimagining the peacekeeper has to do with changing the face of militarization in peacekeeping. Peacekeepers may be deployed from national military contingents, but their roles vary dramatically from what is expected of them at home. The push to include more female peacekeepers in missions, and to improve relationships with host populations and overall mission effectiveness marks the shift to a different kind of soldier doing a different kind of soldiering. We see a need to rethink what peacekeepers should be and what they should represent – removing the pall of toxic masculinity and replacing outdated notions of honour with those of service.
We are looking for partners, particularly in the academic sector, to further pursue this work and develop proposals for Together First. Please get in touch if you have an interest in this.
UN peacekeeping is under pressure. In all the UN’s major African missions casualties, both to the mission itself and among the civilians it is tasked to protect, have reached historic highs in recent years. Political processes are faltering, and resources are being further squeezed. Reimagining peacekeeping looks at how to bring the principles behind our suggested reforms on SEA to peacekeeping more broadly. Addressing SEA is not possible without addressing the trust deficit between the various stakeholders in peacekeeping, in particular between Troop Contributors and the wider system and between peacekeepers and the populations they serve. This likewise requires a detailed look at the power dynamics within and behind peacekeeping, the nature of the task itself, and the role of stakeholders and civil society in peacekeeping. Further, the issue presents a case study relevant to many of the issues the UN faces, especially surrounding the mismanagement of relations of power. If the international community can make headway on a topic which crosses so many issues and requires the management of so much nuance and complexity then it could set a precedent for how the UN might evolve to be fit for purpose in the 21st century.
We are looking for partners, particularly among current and former UN practitioners, as well as in the academic sector, to further pursue this work and develop proposals for Together First. Please get in touch if you have an interest in this.