The United Nations is nowadays one of the most important and resourceful organizations that exists worldwide when it comes to matters of security and peace. The Security Council is a strong authority in the global arena that tries to work accordingly to its zero-tolerance policy. However, even with such strong organizations, when power and ideals are intertwined it is naïve to believe everything works according to plan. In 1992 the first official allegations about peacekeeper’s involvement in sexual misconduct were recorded during the UN mission in Cambodia. Unfortunately, this was not and hasn’t been an isolated case: there are now around 2000 allegations for sexual abuse and exploitation around the world.
Reports show that perpetrators in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), East Timor, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have engaged in different activities that include, but are not limited to: sex trafficking, exchanging food for sexual pleasure, rape, establishing sex-rings, prostitution and the production of pornography; targets are mainly women and children under the age of 18. Legally, the United Nations do not possess any type of jurisdiction over peacekeeping forces, which leaves punishment in the hands of the authorities of UN member states that sent those soldiers. Over the years, there have been many cases reported but most were never persecuted, neither by local nor international authorities claiming there was no enough evidence.
It took time for the UN to understand how serious and recurring the issue was. Not until 2015 with the case of sexual exploitation of children in the Central African Republic did the Security Council adopt Resolution 2272. In this document it was indicated that the Secretary General had been granted the authority to repatriate peacekeeping units against whom they possess evidence of their sexual misconduct. Likewise, in the same year, the UN began to publish the nationalities of soldiers that were accused of sexual exploitation, established a trust fund, created programs for the psychological care of victims and implemented job training for soldiers. Nevertheless, this is just the begging of a long road.
Furthermore, also in 2015, Aids free World launched the Code Blue Campaign to end impunity of sexual abuse committed by UN personnel. They advocate for a new and independent Special Court Mechanism in peacekeeping countries and propose that member states appoint a Temporary Independent Oversight Panel. Even so, a still present issue is what is going to happen to the women that were raped and now are mothers in consequence of those attacks; these women end up displaced and disgraced from their communities. Approximately, from 1992 till this year, around 25000 children have been conceived in this way. Victims keep being left high and dry without the assurance of having their aggressors held accountable. The question of true accountability is still unanswered specially since the UN is usually reluctant to offend its member states because they depend on them for sending peacekeepers and funding.
Another reason why this keeps happening lies within the dynamics of racism, sexism, and the patriarchal system. Peacekeepers are often seen as saviors, the hold power over everyone, especially over sexed bodies that are seen as a small price to pay; a price to keep those saviors happy. In 2004 a civilian peacekeeper who admitted to raping 24 underage girls said during his investigation “over there, the colonial spirit persists. The white man gets what he wants”. Thus, damaging even more the social tissue because sexual exploitation is normalized, and impunity is institutionalized. The relationship between both groups should be of mutual respect and trust. Unless the way the UN functions changes little can be truly done. Therefore, if power imbalance is not corrected from within, true reparations will never be achieved.