Responses to Sexual Violence by Blue-Helmets in Peacekeeping Missions

Hausarbeit, 2015

16 Seiten, Note: 1,7




1 Introduction

2 Factors promoting the continuance of SEA

3 Responses by the UN
3.1 Important Documents addressing SEA
3.2 Prevention Measures
3.3 Reaction Measures
3.4 Remedial Measures

4 What more needs to be done?
4.1 Prevention Measures
4.2 Reaction Measures

5 Conclusion


1 Introduction

Children, women as well as men in conflict areas are not only affected by the more obvious forms of violence, but too often also have to face all forms of gender based violence including rape, prostitution, trafficking etc. (Dahrendorf 2004: 8). Although the United Nations (UN) send their peacekeeping troops with the goal to establish and maintain peace and the well-being of the local civilians, some blue- helmets use their position to sexually violate the vulnerable population. However, as worse as only these violations might be, often the negative effects do not stop with the mere act. A whole range of problems is closely related to sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA): infections of HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancies and abandoned children (Dahrendorf 2004: 8f), making the victims suffer double.

Although there exists a comprehensive legal framework regarding sexual violence (to name a few, e.g. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute of the ICC, several resolutions by the UN Security Council e.g. Resolution 1379, Resolution 1460, Resolution 1325) the problem obviously continues to exist as statistics of the number of allegations per year reveal: 105 in 2004, 340 in 2005, 82 in 2006, 136 in 2007, 111 in 2008; 154 in 2009 (UN General Assembly: Secretary-General Special Measures Reports 2003-2008). In the light of this shocking high rates of assaults, one must not forget however, that only the officially registered allegations are enlisted, the dark figure is estimated to be even several times higher if one considers the chronic under-reporting in post-conflict areas.

Bearing in mind, this thesis focuses on the responses given by the UN to the problem of sexual abuse and exploitation of women, men, girls and boys by blue- helmets during peacekeeping missions. The central question is therefore: What has been done so far and what else needs to be done? Since it is essential to first try to understand why violations of sexual nature continue to occur in the first place to be able to derive possible responses and solutions to combat this problem, chapter 2 “Factors promoting the continuance of SEA and under-reporting” will focus on the context conditions that foster the increased likelihood of assaults. In the next chapter, this thesis will give an overview of the major responses given by the UN. Due to a lack of concrete and detailed statistics as well as deeper and comparative case studies, it won't be able to determine the effectiveness of these measures implemented until now. However, some obvious flaws will be pointed out and further necessary actions and measures presented in chapter 4 “What more needs to be done?”.

On the basis of the UN Secretary-General’s Bulletin, I will use the following definition of SEA:

“sexual exploitation” means any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another. Similarly, the term “sexual abuse” means the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions“ (United Nations Secretariat 2003: Section 1)

2 Factors promoting the continuance of SEA and under-reporting

This chapter does not try to give reasons for explaining why violations of sexual nature occur, as this can not be achieved by a thesis in the field of political science. Rather, in the following an account of conditions that foster situations in which the likelihood of SEA may increase. Researchers have identified several determining factors, that may contribute for the high prevalence of SEA in the context of UN peacekeeping missions. The three main important factors will be briefly presented:

Simic suggests that “chronic poverty and lack of economic and livelihood options” (Simic 2009: 9), in the aftermath of a conflict may lead to an increase of prostitution. According to the author, women are forced into commercial sex work (referred to as “survival sex” by Bellamy/Williams/Griffin, 2010: 571) as this is sometimes the only way to earn an income for themselves or their families.

Another reason, that contributes to an obviously low threshold for peacekeepers to commit sexual violence are the different standards military personnel are held to (also in direct comparison to civilian personnel employed in the missions). Unlike civilian personnel, peacekeeping troops are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the respective troop contributing country (TCC), i.e. their country of origin. Thus, they are not subject to criminal prosecution by any international court authorized by the UN. However, in hardly any case they have to face discipline at home. Therefore, peacekeepers have been held less accountable in cases of SEA, in fact the most severe punishment for a peacekeeper guilty of SEA is repatriation. (Spencer 2005: 168, 177).

Defeis describes a “hyper-masculine culture” (Defeis 2008: 191) that prevails in peacekeeping missions and might lead to the among peacekeeping personnel widespread attitude of “boys will be boys”. This is due to the fact that the bulk of personnel in peacekeeping operations are men, which allows for a “wall of silence”, a bond that protects the members inside from outside accusations. In this context, cases of SEA often remain unreported for two reasons: first, not to deteriorate the reputation of the peacekeepers and second, “whistle-blowers” would fear negative repercussions from breaking this bond (Defeis 2008: 191f).

All these factors contribute to a context which promotes the occurrence of SEA in blue-helmet operations. As described in the introduction, there have already been years with as many as over 340 allegations. However, one still needs to keep in mind, that actual numbers are much higher in reality. A variety of factors discourage many victims of SEA to speak out about violations. A publication by Save the Children UK gives an insight in the causes of high rates of under-reporting, which includes fear of stigmatization, threats of retribution or retaliation made by their abusers, lack of faith in the ability of authorities, lack of knowledge on how to report etc. (Save the Children Fund 2008: 12ff). Thus, as chronic under-reporting obviously also promotes the impunity of perpetrators and therefore abets the prevalence of SEA (Ndula 2009: 127). It should undoubtedly also be addressed by the response by the UN to create a confidential atmosphere, in which victims are able to report possible allegations.

3 Responses by the UN

Although the first allegations about the involvement of peacekeepers in sexual violence were made public in the 1990s, it was not until 2002 that the UN began to address this issue (Simic 2009: 2), following the publication by the UNCHR and Save the Children UK concerning sexual violence against children committed by peacekeepers in three West African Countries, namely Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia (Simic 2009: 5). This chapter is going to give an overview of the major responses given by the UN.

3.1 Important Documents addressing SEA

Prior to the broad public pressure hold up by several NGO's there were two main documents in which the standards of conduct for military peacekeepers were set out: First, Ten Rules: Code of Personal Conduct' for Blue Helmets. Article 4 of this document states: “Do not indulge in immoral acts of sexual, physical or psychological abuse or exploitation of the local population or United Nations staff, especially women and children.” (United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations Training Unit

a) Second, We Are United Nations Peacekeepers, which prohibits: “Commit any act that could result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to members of the local population, especially women and children“ and „Become involved in sexual liaisons which could affect our impartiality, or the well-being of others“ (United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations Training Unit b). However, these two documents do not have any assertive character, but rather appear like a set of guidelines, trying to regulate the conduct of the peacekeepers. But after all it is the TCC who is responsible for the discipline of their troops.

As a direct response to the publication by UNCHR and Save the Children UK in the year 2002, one year later the Secretary General released a Bulletin on Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. This bulletin condemns all forms of SEA and sets forth a code of conduct for all United Nations staff. This document also became known as the 'zero tolerance policy', as it bans almost all sexual activity between UN peacekeeping personnel and local women. The idea behind this is to prevent any form of sexual exploitation, assuming that sexual relationships between United Nations staff and beneficiaries of assistance „are based on inherently unequal power dynamics“ (United Nations Secretariat 2003: Section 3.2 (d)).

In the period of 2003-2008, there were annual reports published by the UN, giving detailed overview of the involvement of UN staff in sexual violence. A next important step as a response by the UN to address the problem of SEA committed by peacekeepers is the Zeid Report (official name: “A Comprehensive strategy to eliminate future sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations peacekeeping operations“). Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein was tasked with investigating the issue of SEA committed by blue-helmets and to develop solutions for the disposal of this problem. Zeid made recommendations in the fields of modernized standards of conduct, advanced investigation procedures, new forms of organizational responsibility and accountability for perpetrators (Zeid 2005).

As a consequence of all the findings, the United Nations has developed a threepillar strategy to eliminate SEA: prevention of misconduct, enforcement of UN standards of conduct and remedial action, as will be presented in the following.

3.2 Prevention Measures

Prevention of SEA comprises training, awareness-raising activities and preventative measures at mission level. Concerning the training, the first responsibility lies of course with the TCC for its military personnel. In this task, the UN's Conduct and Discipline Unit (CDU), established in 2005, is helping TCCs to improve their pre- deployment training on the prevention of SEA by developing and providing training modules and advice. Since 2005, training on preventing SEA has been made mandatory for all personnel on arrival in a peacekeeping mission. The training in missions covers a range of topics including “the Conduct and Discipline Team mandate and functions; Code of Conduct and core values; definitions and types of misconduct; examples of sexual exploitation and abuse and consequences; individual and management responsibilities; obligations to report misconduct; disciplinary and administrative procedures; and the rights and responsibilities of the peacekeeping personnel.” (UN Conduct and Discipline Unit a)

Mission-based awareness-raising initiatives form another significant part of the strategies of the Conduct and Discipline Teams to prevent SEA. The teams seek to raise awareness by reaching out to the local populations, including government officials, civil society organizations, international organizations and non-governmental organizations. Concrete measures to rise awareness compile poster campaigns, newsletters, brochures, websites and radio broadcasts. However, many of these campaigns are limited in time and regionally, e.g. in the period of one year, during 2008-2009, in six missions there was conducted a campaign to combat prostitution/transactional sex involving UN personnel (UN Conduct and Discipline Unit a).

Furthermore, at field level a wide range of additional prevention measures were introduced, including restriction of movement, curfews, requiring soldiers to wear uniforms outside barracks, designating off-limits areas, non-fraternization policies, increased patrols around high risks areas and decentralization of Conduct and Discipline Teams into locations with a potentially high risk of misconduct (UN Conduct and Discipline Unit a).

3.3 Reaction Measures

When it comes to the enforcement of UN standards, the main actor is the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the independent investigative department of the UN. They will carry out an administrative investigation, once an allegation about a SEA-related offense is received. Provided that allegations of serious misconduct occur, the UN may repatriate the respective offenders and ban them from any future peacekeeping operation. However, as has already been mentioned above, disciplinary sanctions and any other judicial decision remain the responsibility of the national jurisdiction of the TCC (UN Conduct and Discipline Unit b).

Another part of the enforcement of UN standards is, that UN personnel are obliged to report all concerns or suspicions of SEA. Therefore, Conduct and Discipline Teams provide information to UN personnel on how to report allegations of misconduct. Several reporting mechanisms have been introduced, e.g. locked drop-boxes, private meeting rooms to allow reporting in a confidential setting, telephone hotlines, secure email addresses etc. Concrete information, however, about how to disseminate sufficient knowledge about reporting mechanisms particularly in the local host population have not been found on the website of the UN Conduct and Discipline Unit during the research for this thesis.

3.4 Remedial Measures

The third pillar, remedial action, focuses on relief measures for victims of SEA. In the Statement of Commitment on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN and Non-UN Personnel (UN Conduct and Discipline Unit 2006), the United Nations covenants to provide assistance to the victims in question. This commitment was reinforced one year later by the General Assembly Resolution on the UN Comprehensive Strategy on Assistance and Support to Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by United Nations Staff and Related Personnel (UN General Assembly 2007), which determines the establishment of a Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Victim Assistance Mechanism (SEA/VAM). Each country, in which the UN operates, is to develop its own SEA/VAM adapted to the national context. The goal of these SEA/VAMs is to provide assistance and support in form of medical, legal, psychosocial and immediate material care to complainants, victims and children born as a result of sexual exploitation and abuse. Further, in cases of abandoned peacekeeper's babies, they are to offer facilitation of the pursuit of paternity and child support claims. Direct financial assistance/ compensation is not provided under the SEA/VAM.

4 What more needs to be done?

As described in the previous chapter, the UN has developed a lot of ideas and policies in order to combat the problem of unacceptably high numbers of SEA committed by blue-helmets. On the website of the UN's Conduct and Discipline Unit a detailed overview of the various SEA/VAMs for each respective mission is given. The most common measures are partnerships with hospitals providing emergency medical services or psychological counseling, shelter homes for victims of SEA, immediate material care (food, clothing), child support, legal assistance centers, testing for paternity claims, awareness and advocacy development programs as well as programs for economic reintegration (UN Conduct and Discipline Unit c). However, a comprehensive implementation on the field level is given in hardly any operation: Many missions concentrate on just one or two areas or measures than offering the whole range.

Furthermore, it is difficult to determine the effectiveness of these measures. With regard to the statistics, a decline of new allegations of SEA in peacekeeping operations can be observed: While in the years 2003-2009 the average annual number of new allegations was even higher than 150 cases, the reported number of fresh allegations has dropped to 60 fresh allegations in 2012 (Ferstman 2013). This gives a positive indication, that the measures undertaken by the UN are actually working and do have an impact, although no direct causal link between the measures undertaken by the UN and the numbers of allegations can be derived from the pure statistics.


Ende der Leseprobe aus 16 Seiten


Responses to Sexual Violence by Blue-Helmets in Peacekeeping Missions
Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
601 KB
Sexual Violence, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Exploitation, Blue-Helmets, Peacekeeping, Gender based violence
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Anonym, 2015, Responses to Sexual Violence by Blue-Helmets in Peacekeeping Missions, München, GRIN Verlag,


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