No formal outcome is expected. It will be the second ever Council meeting on this matter. It has been proposed by the President of the Council and is meant to serve as a stock taking exercise but it comes up in the context of an increasingly bitter confrontation between the Security Council and the General Assembly over the appropriate role of the Council in the management of peacekeeping operations. The scheduling by the President of an open meeting on procurement in peacekeeping in the same week there is a separate Update Report on this issue has prompted accusations from members of the Non-Aligned Movement and the G77 a block of developing nations and China of encroachment on the purview of the General Assembly by the Council.
Key Facts Reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel of vulnerable people-often the very people that these UN workers were supposed to protect-have been surfacing for years.
The report was presented to UNHCR in January and soon after was leaked to the press, resulting in wide coverage by international media. The resulting report made public in October , stressed difficulties involved in conducting the investigation given both the nature of the alleged abuse as well as the environment in which it occurred, yet it confirmed the existence of the problem of sexual exploitation of refugees and identified specific cases of misconduct by at least one UNHCR volunteer and one UN peacekeeper, as well as several NGO workers.
Reacting to this disturbing information, when the Security Council renewed the peacekeeping mandate in Sierra Leone, it included a reference to the need for the prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation in resolution A year later, the Secretary-General issued a policy Bulletin on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.
It contained definitions of such acts, classified them as serious misconduct for all UN staff, including UN agencies, and stressed that these rules should also apply to entities and individuals working in cooperative arrangements with the UN. Despite the stated policy banning any form of sexual contact by UN personnel with local population whether consensual or coerced and regardless of the age of persons involved, cases of sexual abuse continued.
The allegations included rapes, having sex with children, as well as wide spread coercion of vulnerable women and children into sex in exchange for food or money. Similar allegations surfaced also with regard to the peacekeeping operation in Burundi, and subsequently in other missions, including Haiti and Liberia.
It also urged training about and implementation of a code of conduct regarding sexual misconduct. The Secretary-General submitted his report in February Prince Zeid conducted an in depth investigation of the overall problem affecting peacekeeping operations and prepared a report that was published in March The report was the first comprehensive analysis of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeeping personnel and presented an alarming picture of a wide spread and largely tolerated phenomenon.
The report put forward a series of concrete recommendations dealing with definitions, rules, training, accountability as well as disciplinary and criminal measures. Starting in mid, the Council has also made sexual exploitation one of the issues covered during its missions to peacekeeping operations around the world. This may play out in difficulties over the adoption of the agenda for the open meeting, in particular, how to style the agenda item so that the General Assembly is not disempowered by virtue of the operation of article 12 1 of the Charter.
A further major issue will be whether there should be a debate at all or whether the meeting should simply include reports from the Secretariat and perhaps Prince Zeid. And a related issue will be if there is to be a debate, whether members of the General Assembly should participate under rule Council Dynamics There has bee a general consensus within the Council about the need for serious preventive measures to thwart misconduct and for accountability where it has occurred.
The United States and Denmark have taken the lead in getting the Council to devote specific meetings to the issue.
While the meeting on 23 February will be the first Council debate specifically on this issue during the May meeting members did not speak and only received a briefing , in the course of the past year, several Council members-in particular Argentina, Denmark, Japan, Tanzania and the United Kingdom-have been outspoken about this problem in their interventions during open debates on children in armed conflict and women, peace and security.
While there is a common approach on the substance, significant differences on the wisdom of raising the issue in this way and over the procedural handling of it seem likely. Options Limiting the meeting to a briefing by Secretariat officials and perhaps by Prince Zeid. A briefing followed by statements by Council members. A debate involving member states currently not on the Council, under rule 37 of the Council provisional rules of procedure.
A presidential statement is a possibility mentioned by some members, though as of this writing no draft has been circulated. Underlying Problems The change that has occurred in the approach to sexual exploitation in the context of UN peacekeeping over the last few years has been significant, though it took a serious crisis and extremely damning international publicity to trigger resolute action. Sexual contact by peacekeeping troops and UN civilian personnel with local populations existed for decades and were tolerated either implicitly or explicitly.
And even once it was issued; it took another many months and more adverse publicity, for the UN to begin to implement the new rules. A further problem was that many incidents involved personnel from other agencies, not just UN peacekeeping personnel.
Laws differ from country to country and certain acts and practices may be perfectly legal in one place while they constitute a serious crime in another jurisdiction. Some troop contributing countries TCC were slow to take appropriate measures, both preventive, consisting of training of troops prior to deployment, and punitive, when personnel are repatriated because of misconduct.
For many years, the UN has been reluctant to press for either, not wanting to diminish the pool of available peacekeepers. The record of TCCs in addressing these matters has been very mixed. Troop contributors have also been slow in accepting the need for training and enforcement of the uniform UN designed rules due to cultural differences in the acceptance of certain types of behaviour.
Some of the criticisms of UN investigations have been unjustified. Investigations of allegations of sexual misconduct are always very difficult, under any circumstances, in any country, because of the nature of the problem which often results in the reluctance of victims and witnesses to provide testimony but also because it frequently rests on reports that cannot be independently corroborated.
In the peacekeeping context these difficulties are additionally exacerbated by the environment in which these alleged acts have occurred, such as refugee camps or war torn areas with extremely vulnerable and often transitory populations and because the UN lacks any sort of criminal jurisdiction to compel testimony under oath.
There is also a growing political concern amongst General Assembly members that the focus on sexual abuse has been allowed to overshadow other equally grievous offences by troops deployed by the UN or in associated coalitions. August Conduct and Discipline units began to be deployed within peacekeeping missions. It also asked him to issue a bulletin on sexual exploitation and abuse and to maintain data on all investigations and actions taken regarding the matter. It also called on member states to bring to justice those responsible.