Thursday, August 24, 2017

Accountability and peacekeeping

Bruce Rashkow, who previously served both at the U.N. Office of Legal Counsel and the Department of State, has an important and timely new article: Above the Law? Innovating Legal Responses to Build a More Accountable U.N.: Where is the U.N. Now?, 23 ILSA J. Int'l & Comp. L. 1 (2017). Part III of the article traces the organizations efforts to address the problem of indiscipline on the part of U.N. personnel, including peacekeepers. Recent developments are significant -- notably the Secretary General's 2016 and 2017 reports on combating sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) -- but the author's conclusion is, at best, guardedly optimistic (pp. 30-31 (footnotes omitted)):
The situation regarding SEA is in a sense simpler and more complex. As the Kompass Report amply demonstrates, the problems that have arisen were primarily driven clearly by failures to timely and conscientiously follow existing mandates on U.N. offices and officials and the specific regime that governs SEA. While that Report concludes that “fragmented bureaucracy” contributed to the failure of the U.N. to prevent the sexual abuse of children in the CAR [Central African Republic], it also identified a “culture of impunity” and an “abdication of responsibility”. Thus, it is clear from the report that the primary cause was the failure of individuals with clear responsibilities and clear opportunities to act, failed to do so. It is extraordinary that three of the highest-ranking officials in the U.N. were found to have “abused their authority” and that seven other high officials were the subjects of “adverse observations” in this regard. A close reading of those findings must lead one to conclude that the failure in this instance was one of individuals to act conscientiously and timely under existing mandates and policies. 
That said, the SEA situation is more complex in that it must address the tensions between a vigorous and timely response to allegations of SEA and the reluctance of troop contributing countries to surrender the exclusive authority they have over their forces in a peacekeeping mission. This tension addresses the regimes that govern SEA, and particularly the response by troop contributing countries to allegations of SEA by their
troops. This tension became obvious with the Zeid report and is reflected again in the response of the Secretary General to the twelve Kompass Report recommendations, especially the three that were originally “under consideration” as well as some of the five that were originally “partially accepted.” 
The new Secretary General, in his February 2017 SEA report, seeks to resolve that tension, as did the Zeid and Kompass reports, in favor of greater protections and more effective and timely responses to SEA. Specifically, his proposals more fully reflect acceptance of the five recommendations that were previously only “partially accepted” as well as the three that were only “under consideration.” All eight of those recommendations, as previously noted, relate to the traditional exclusive authority of troop contributing states over their forces. There is no doubt that progress has already been made, and more will be made. However, it remains to be seen whether and to what extent the proposals relating to those eight recommendations in the Kompass Report will be accepted by the General Assembly, including most importantly by the troop contributing states who have resisted in the past serious inroads to their traditional exclusive authority.

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