The new chief of the United Nations has vowed to combat sexual abuse by UN “peacekeepers” around the globe, declaring plans to devise a fresh “game-changing” approach to address the issue.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who succeeded Ban Ki-moon on January 1, designated a nine-member task force on Friday to come up with a new strategy aimed at enhancing the response to the string of damaging and growing reports of sexual abuse carried out by UN peacekeeping forces.
According to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, the task force will “report fairly quickly on how we can move forward in new ways, in ways that are more bold, that may break some china.”
Dujarric further stated on Friday that the task force will present a “clear, game-changing strategy to achieve visible and measurable further improvement in the organization’s approach to preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse.”
UN peacekeeping missions have been struck by dozens of reports pointing to sexual abuse and exploitation, but troop-contributing states have been reluctant to prosecute those accused.
The new approach will form part of a report that Guterres is due to present to the UN General Assembly in February on the measures taken to address the scandal.
In 2016, the annual report presented by Ban detailed 69 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against UN troops from 21 countries.
That number climbed to 82 claims by mid-December, according to UN peacekeeping department’s website, the majority of which involved the forces of MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic).
Human rights groups have complained about the lack of accountability for peacekeepers serving in UN missions. Many have avoided investigation altogether or received light punishment.
Under UN rules, it is up to those countries to take action against their nationals who face credible allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation while serving under the UN flag.
The UN spokesman further underlined that the world body was under no illusion that it could “wipe out” such misconduct, but he emphasized that Guterres wanted to strengthen the response.
“It’s about how we react, how we put the victims at the center and it’s about accountability,” Dujarric said.
Nearly 100,000 troops and police forces from 123 countries serve in UN peacekeeping missions.