The UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) has issued a program evaluation report that identifies a variety of weaknesses in the system for dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in peacekeeping operations. A link to the report can be found here. For military personnel provided by troop-contributing countries (TCCs), the report notes these challenges:
· Unauthorised investigative activity by missions prior to United Nations Secretariat notifying the TCC
· Time consumed by following prescribed referral procedure
· Delays in starting TCC investigations
· Successive investigations by different investigative bodies
· Differing investigative standards used by TCCs
· Risk of loss of evidence/witness tampering caused by delay in starting investigation
· Departure of personnel from mission against whom allegations have been made
Since 2003, the United Nations has developed and implemented a three-pronged strategy of prevention, enforcement and remedial action to address sexual exploitation and abuse (henceforth SEA) by military, police and civilian personnel of peacekeeping missions. This evaluation assessed the results achieved in the enforcement and remedial assistance prongs of the above-mentioned strategy.
Despite an overall downward trend since 2009, SEA allegations persist. In 2013 they increased slightly to 66 from 60 the previous year. SEA allegations involving minors accounted for over one third (36 per cent) of all allegations from 2008-2013. Four missions have accounted for the highest number of allegations: the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and United Nations Missions in Sudan and South Sudan (UNMIS and UNMISS). The largest number of allegations involved military personnel, followed by civilians and then the police. While civilians constituted 18 per cent of mission personnel, they accounted for 33 per cent of allegations.
The Organization’s SEA enforcement architecture involves multiple actors having distributed responsibilities, with each considering the other as causing performance deficits. Enforcement delays are common and confusion is often apparent on the ground. The architecture is heavily process-oriented, requiring extensive referrals both within the United Nations and to Member States.
Under the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), troop-contributing countries (TCCs) have the primary responsibility to investigate alleged misconduct by their military personnel. Country-specific data shows higher number of substantiated allegations against uniformed personnel from some Member States. While overall response rates of TCCs to requests from the United Nations for information about SEA allegations are improving, some responses remain outstanding, and there have been attempts to weaken enforcement. Missions view TCCs’ investigations as unreliable because of a perceived conflict of interest and concerns about quality in investigative standards. Within missions, senior leadership considers itself excluded and powerless in SEA enforcement.
Excessively long delays in completing investigations by the Investigations Division, Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS-ID) (average length 16 months) have severely undermined enforcement. A case study demonstrated that a joint OIOS-led investigation using mission resources successfully reduced the time taken. It also showed the difficulty the United Nations faced in trying to apply the provisions of the Status of Forces Agreement between it and the Host State of a peacekeeping mission.
Wide variations in sanctions weaken the commitment to zero tolerance. Civilian staff against whom allegations of SEA are substantiated are most commonly dismissed from service. Disciplinary repatriation has been the most common action of military and police along with disbarment of individuals involved from future peacekeeping operations. Prison terms are reported almost exclusively as imposed upon military personnel, though their duration is often unknown. The accountability of contingent commanders for SEA violations has been insufficiently emphasised, acknowledged or reported by both the TCCs and by the United Nations.
Evidence from two peacekeeping mission countries demonstrates that transactional sex is quite common but underreported in peacekeeping missions. There is also confusion and resistance to the 2003 bulletin of the Secretary-General with respect to its provision that strongly discourages sexual relations between United Nations personnel and beneficiaries of assistance.
Lastly, remedial assistance to victims is very weak. Very few victims have been assisted due to lack of dedicated funding and the slow enforcement process. Mapping of remedial assistance services has not been undertaken in all missions and informal immediate assistance has been required to partially bridge the gap.
OIOS made six recommendations including: revising the MOU to enhance its effectiveness; proposing a funded Comprehensive Strategy on Assistance and Support to Victims of SEA; analysing differences in discipline across uniformed contingents; strengthening follow-up protocols with TCCs and PCCs; reporting on whether contingent commanders have fulfilled their command responsibilities in preventing and addressing SEA; and clarifying certain provisions within the 2003 Secretary-General’s bulletin relating to SEA.