UN: Report on sexual abuse paves way for meaningful reform

In response to UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ annual report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, issued today, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser Joanne Mariner said:

“UN Secretary-General António Guterres rightly recognizes that sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers and other UN personnel is a cruel and inexcusable wrong that soils the reputation of the United Nations as a whole. Amnesty International welcomes his effort to institute a broad range of reforms to better address this scourge.

“Amnesty International’s research has convinced us that impunity is a core problem encouraging sexual abuse. Very few UN peacekeepers and other UN personnel suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes of sexual violence ever face a real threat of criminal prosecution for their crimes.

“Given this disheartening fact, we are encouraged by the Secretary-General’s proposal to stop paying countries that fail to investigate abuse allegations against their troops in a timely manner, and to put that money instead into a trust fund to assist survivors. We call on the UN General Assembly to endorse this proposal and for member states to implement it.

“We are concerned, nonetheless, that there is still insufficient pressure on member states to ensure that incidents of sexual abuse are fairly investigated and prosecuted.

“Amnesty International views other measures announced by the Secretary-General as positive, including the new orientation toward empowering victims of abuse, the stricter vetting of UN personnel, the creation of a new post of victims’ rights advocate, the development of a ‘special protocol’ to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation, the extension of the post of Special Coordinator on improving the UN’s response to sexual exploitation and abuse, the establishment of a ‘circle of leadership’ comprising heads of state, and the creation of a special advisory board made up of civil society leaders and experts to make recommendations for preventing such abuse.

“We look forward to engaging with the United Nations and member states to help ensure that this broad reform agenda is taken forward with the necessary resources and political will.”