The need of coordination with regional organizations to end sexual violence in peace operations – María Camila Alarcón

Allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) within the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations affect not only its credibility but also its ability to carry out its mandate. Numerous reports and recommendations have been issued and implemented in the past decade to address the problem. Despite this, the allegations continue to increase, which means that more needs to be done. Efforts to prevent new cases from occurring must be supported by a strong framework to ensure and increase criminal accountability of perpetrators. The gap between international law and domestic legislations of troop-contributing countries (TCC) needs to be addressed so the UN can play a more determinant role in investigating and prosecuting SEA allegations. Naming and shaming of TCCs that refuse to investigate and prosecute should be part of the UN strategy. The Security Council Resolution 2272, with its limitations, is an important step to review the relationship between the UN and the TCCs, and a key tool to put pressure on states that refuse to investigate. However, in order to be effective, the UN needs to coordinate its measures and mechanisms with other regional organizations that provide peacekeeping missions such as the African Union (AU) or NATO. 

The negative effect that SEA allegations perpetrated by peacekeepers have on a population that is already vulnerable and that the UN is supposed to protect, diminishes the legitimacy of the UN as an organization and impacts the authority of the peacekeeping missions in the eyes of the host state government and the local populations. How will a peacekeeping mission credibly advise a local government on adhering to international human rights standards while its peacekeepers are violating international human rights law? As stated in the Independent Review Report on Sexual Exploitation by International Peacekeeping Forces in the Central African Republic (2015), the persistence of these allegations puts at risk the sustainability of peacekeeping missions in the longer term. If the UN Peacekeeping Operations want to rebuild the trust of the victims, the local populations and the international community, it must take effective action to eliminate SEA allegations within its missions.

In addition to strengthening the prevention strategy, which includes the training and education programs and the Misconduct Tracking System (MTS), among other mechanisms, the UN needs to address the gap between international and domestic legislations in order to expand the UN jurisdiction over disciplinary and criminal matters and to get a stronger commitment of action from member states. The investigation processes also need to be strengthened to ensure that evidence can be preserved and used for prosecution. The near-total impunity that peacekeepers involved in SEA allegations still benefit from not only continues to affect the credibility of the missions, but also fails to set a precedent to stop new allegations from occurring. This is why the enforcement of criminal accountability needs to be a priority for the UN.

Even though the Security Council Resolution 2272 mainly targets the relationship between the UN and the TCCs and does not address the important issue of the enforcement of criminal accountability, it is an important step to put pressure of action on the TCCs. As mentioned by Neudorfer, the resolution has a lot of potential but its effectiveness will depend on how it is implemented. It will also depend on how well it is articulated with other mechanisms that ensure prosecution and accountability.

Neudorfer mentions the risk that the Security Council Resolution 2272 entails for the UN Peacekeeping Operations. If while implementing the resolution the UN has to exclude numerous countries from contributing troops, the organization could find itself in a difficult position to fulfill the demand of peacekeepers. Here is when the need to coordinate mechanisms and strategies with other organizations that provide peacekeeping missions becomes more urgent. If a country is banned from contributing troops to the UN because it fails to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators, but it is allowed to send troops to the AU or to NATO because those organizations do not have the same rules, then the Security Council Resolution will have little to no effect and will end up harming the UN Peacekeeping Program due to its lack of troops. However, if all the organizations with peacekeeping programs standardize their rules and strategies, there will be more pressure on the states to comply to the demands of more action to investigate SEA allegations and prosecute the perpetrators.

Hence, to have a larger impact and to be more effective, the UN should coordinate and cooperate with regional organizations not only in the Security Council Resolution 2272, but also in the implementation of all the other strategies and mechanisms to combat SEA allegations within the peacekeeping missions.


One thought on “The need of coordination with regional organizations to end sexual violence in peace operations – María Camila Alarcón

  1. Maria, your strategy recommendations to resolve allegations of SEA are, in my opinion, spot on. They are systematic and precise. The coordination and accountability you call for are simple steps the UN and their partners can take to ensure a greater impact on peacekeeping operations. All parties at play (the UN, regional organisations, TCC, local grassroots organisations, and the Security Council) should uphold and adhere to a standard form of conduct, rules, and regulations, that will encourage the enforcement of criminal accountability if they are dismissed.
    I agree that it is important that TCC are held to certain regard across the board and are pursued (named and shamed) if they do not comply. SEA is abhorrent and deeply disturbing, and obscenely inappropriate when they arise during peacekeeping missions and mandates. Rather than protectors of vulnerable populations in conflict-stricken areas, the troops turn into perpetrators. However, investigating TCC and their troops is a minor hurdle compared to the amount of money and resources it takes to investigate criminal charges, especially if required in local/regional courts. The Independent Review Report reads, “recommendations shall take into account,as appropriate, considerations of capacity, resources, and other
    constraints.” Will this be yet another drawback for TCC to commit troops to a peacekeeping operation, I wonder. Is this an expense that the UN or regional organisations would fund? Is this a clause that holds TCC accountable for the mal-actions of their troops? How do we require investigation into these allegations by TCC, and a use of resources for doing so, when that may not necessarily see themselves are guilty? How do we make individual offense at the troop-level a systematic concern? These are questions I believe the systems and agencies involved will begin to seek answers to as they adopt your thoughtful recommended strategy.


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