UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres addressed the High-Level meeting on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse on September 18, 2018. Today, the UN said it received 70 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in the second quarter of 2018. (Richard Drew/AP Photo)

Sexual exploitation in the aid sector elicits call for UN reform

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The British Parliament issued a scathing report on “the horror” of sexual exploitation and abuse among charities, UN peacekeepers and aid agencies. It says the problem is endemic and has been going on for years. It cites a collective failure of leadership and self-delusion in the aid sector in tackling problems.

The advocacy group, AIDS-Free World has long campaigned against sexual exploitation within United Nations peacekeeping missions.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres addressed the High-Level meeting on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse on September 18, 2018. Today, the UN said it received 70 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in the second quarter of 2018. (Richard Drew/AP Photo)

Sex abuse ‘undermining’ UN efforts, says advocate

“It’s absolutely critically important. It’s undermining everything that the United Nations does well and wants to do better and wants to continue to get international support for,” says Paula Donovan, co-director of AIDS-Free World and its Code Blue Campaign. “The global public is simply outraged that these offences continue.

While Donovan is glad the report has brought attention to the issue, she says it does not offer systemic solutions to the UN sex abuse crisis. She says the UN sets the standards for the world’s humanitarian aid and development work, and it should be a gold standard. But she argues the UN has conflicting roles that must be addressed.

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UN in ‘a three-way conflict of interest’

“It’s supposed to be defending the people who are accused because they are…staff and they’re also supposed to be looking out for the best interests of the populations that are supposed to be served by the UN but are being exploited and abused by them. And then…United Nations officials have the mandate to defend the reputation of the UN. So that’s a three-way conflict of interest,” says Donovan.

Call for a neutral-third party panel

She says the UN must get out of the business of policing and judging itself and instead leave that to neutral third-parties. The Code Blue Campaign advocates the creation of a temporary independent oversight panel through which member states could monitor the UN response to allegation of sexual offences and make rapid recommendations on UN policies and procedures.

Canada could lead an effort for change

Donovan says Canada could ‘absolutely’ have a special role to play in leading such an initiative. She notes that Canada invented peacekeeping and is an ‘incredibly’ important player on the world stage well respected by both the global North and the South. “It’s going to take some leading governments to really push this issue.”

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One comment on “Sexual exploitation in the aid sector elicits call for UN reform
  1. Peter Ashcroft says:

    Sexual exploitation is abhorrent at all times, whether carried out by religious or secular people and organisations anywhere in the world.
    Punishment should be inflicted on all guilty parties without exception.