TRANSPARENCY: Independent panel urges changes in using UN soldiers

[ 18 June 2015 ] - An independent panel reviewing UN peacekeeping operations recommended sweeping changes on Tuesday to make the blue-helmeted soldiers more accountable for sexual abuse and other crimes, and urged that they no longer be used in counterterrorism operations.

The panel also said that countries that use child soldiers should be barred from participating in peacekeeping missions, and that rich countries — including the permanent members of the Security Council, which decides where peacekeepers are deployed and what they do — should contribute troops.

The panel was appointed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to evaluate the structure and performance of United Nations peacekeeping, which now includes more than 125,000 soldiers and police officers in 16 missions.

The counterterrorism recommendation refers to the problems that peacekeepers have faced for two years in the North African nation of Mali, where they have come under attack by Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

“The U.N. should not engage in military counterterrorism operations,” said a summary released by the panel, which submitted the full review to Mr. Ban on Tuesday morning. It was not clear when he would make the review public.

Mr. Ban created the 16-member panel last October as the size and budgets of peacekeeping missions swelled, concerns about their effectiveness rose, and tensions emerged between the mostly poor and middle-income countries that contribute peacekeeping troops and the permanent Security Council members that basically tell them what to do. The panel was led by José Ramos-Horta, former president of East Timor, who is a Nobel laureate and human rights advocate.

The panel was created against a backdrop of recurring allegations of sexual exploitation of civilians by peacekeepers and the failure to hold them accountable. United Nations peacekeepers in Liberia and Haiti have been implicated in sexual-abuse cases.

More recently, French soldiers, who were not deployed under a United Nations mandate, were accused of sexually abusing children in Central African Republic.

The panel’s recommendations for curbing sexually abusive behavior were among the most eagerly anticipated components of its review.

Mr. Ramos-Horta told a news conference that the United Nations had “zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse.”

Sexual abuse committed by peacekeepers, Mr. Ramos-Horta said, “rocks and undermines the most important power the United Nations possesses: its integrity.”

The review recommended more aggressive disclosure of information on disciplinary actions taken by contributing countries, including six-month deadlines for completing investigations.

It also recommended creating an “adequately resourced” victim assistance program and barring peacekeeping troops from any country listed on the secretary general’s annual report on children and armed conflict and on conflict-related sexual violence, until that country is removed from the list. Other recommendations included ways that peacekeepers might be deployed more rapidly.

The findings of the review are likely to come up this fall at a session of the General Assembly on peacekeeping changes sponsored by the United States, peacekeeping’s biggest donor.

The divide over peacekeeping runs deep between developed and developing countries. The wealthier members of the United Nations have stopped sending their soldiers to participate in missions, choosing instead to provide the money for the operations and set their mandates. Filling the gap are soldiers from poor countries, largely from South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, whose envoys complain that their troops are often treated like cannon fodder. Donor countries complain that the peacekeepers are failing in what they are supposed to do: save civilians from slaughter.

The summary of the review obliquely criticizes Security Council members. It not only urges them to send their own soldiers into conflict zones, but also suggests that they have been too keen to tell peacekeepers to use force rather than devote more resources to political solutions.

“It’s striking that the summary repeatedly urges the Security Council to invest more politically in supporting U.N. operations,” said Richard Gowan, associate director of the New York University Center on International Cooperation.


Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.