Remarks by UN Chef de Cabinet, Edmond Mulet, to the General Assembly on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

By United Nations - Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretar

Thank you for this opportunity to brief you, on behalf of the Secretary-General, on recent disturbing developments with respect to reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeepers.

On 10 March, the Secretary-General briefed the Security Council and expressed his despair at the damage that occurs when United Nations personnel commit sexual exploitation and abuse against people who should see them as a beacon of hope. When abhorrent actions such as we have seen are carried out by the personnel authorized to protect them, it further victimizes and violates them and damages fragile communities. As stated by the Secretary-General, these horrific acts undermine the trust between the United Nations and its beneficiaries, betray the values and principles that the UN purports to advance, and tarnish the credibility of United Nations peacekeeping operations and the United Nations as a whole. Mr. President, Excellencies, The allegations that have come to light in recent weeks, and over the past year, show the importance of our shared efforts to address this scourge. Last June 2015, we were all deeply distressed to hear of the alleged sexual exploitation and abuse of children by foreign military forces in the Central African Republic. Unfortunately, reports of sexual exploitation and abuse have continued to come to light in the Central African Republic and in other countries. On 24 March, UNICEF informed the Secretariat and MINUSCA that they had received reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations and non-UN troops. These acts are alleged to have been committed between 2013 and 2015 in Kemo prefecture. We immediately took steps to ensure that, in spite of the time that had elapsed, the victims were provided with the protection and assistance they need. UNICEF is taking the lead in providing this support to victims, and has allocated additional resources to those efforts. We have also instructed the Mission to re-direct some of its funds to cover urgent needs. The information available so far indicates that there are more than 100 victims who have made allegations against both United Nations and non-UN forces. Tragically, the vast majority of the victims are children. I must stress that at this stage, these remain reports. We need to verify and investigate them swiftly and professionally. The Member States have been advised that if there is credible evidence to support the reports, their number would constitute widespread or systemic sexual exploitation and abuse. Under Security Council resolution 2272, this would trigger a decision by the Secretary-General to repatriate the units in question. Mr. President, Excellencies, I am sorry to further inform you that we have also received a report from MONUSCO of 11 alleged acts of sexual exploitation and abuse, all of which involve paternity claims. The concerned Troop Contributing Country has been formally notified of the reports and asked to take immediate steps to investigate. As information becomes available, the Secretary-General will consider whether these circumstances should trigger any of the measures called for in Security Council Resolution 2272. Following my remarks, Under-Secretary-General Atul Khare will give more information on the actions being taken in response to these recent allegations. Mr. President, Excellencies, Over several years, the General Assembly has approved many measures to help address the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse. The recent adoption by the Security Council of Resolution 2272 (2016) represents a further significant step in our collective efforts to prevent and combat sexual exploitation and abuse and the damage it causes. The focus of our efforts remains that of seeking to prevent such abuses; to respond quickly and effectively to allegations that come to light; to protect and support victims; and to demand zero impunity — recognizing that in the case of uniformed personnel, accountability is a shared responsibility requiring action by Member States. The Secretary-General outlined a robust programme of action in his latest annual report to the General Assembly on Special Measures on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. First, our main efforts must be to protect and support victims. As I have noted, UNICEF is playing a critical role in supporting these efforts. In addition, the Secretary-General has recently established a trust fund in support of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse that will help provide them with the medical, psychosocial and legal services they need. The Secretary-General strongly urges all Member States to urgently make financial contributions to the fund to strengthen our capacity to provide victims with the necessary assistance needed at this time. We are also painfully aware that some of this assistance will be needed on a long-term basis. As such, Member States are encouraged to pledge financial contributions on a sustained basis into the future. Secondly, we must ensure zero impunity. It is only by working with Member States, especially Troop Contributing Countries, that we will be able to ensure accountability and justice for the victims. The Secretary-General remains committed to working closely with you to ensure that the perpetrators of such abuses are held accountable. Doing so demands the conduct of solid investigations that can withstand judicial scrutiny in disciplinary and criminal proceedings. It demands that all Member States live up to their responsibility to bring to justice those who have committed crimes while serving with the United Nations. Where individuals are found guilty, it requires the imposition of sanctions that are commensurate with the seriousness of the offences committed. Civilian personnel who commit abuses must be similarly held accountable. As such, where United Nations personnel are alleged to have committed sexual exploitation and abuse, we will suspend the payment of certain funds due to them. The Secretary-General has asked Member States to agree to this money being transferred to the trust fund in support of victims, if the allegations are substantiated. I urge the General Assembly to agree to this proposal. This year, for the first time, the Secretary-General's report on sexual exploitation and abuse names the countries of alleged perpetrators. This transparency will help us collectively ensure that every allegation of sexual exploitation or abuse is addressed quickly and thoroughly. That is the only way in which we can begin to rebuild the trust of fragile communities and societies that have suffered so terribly from the criminal actions of a relatively small number of individuals. Mr. President, The Secretary-General's recent appointment of Ms. Jane Holl Lute as Special Coordinator on improving the United Nations response to exploitation and abuse, is a further reflection of his determination to tackle these crimes head-on. Ms. Holl Lute will support the Secretary-General in strengthening the response of the United Nations to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. She will identify further measures to reduce incidents of sexual exploitation; to organize the fast provision of aid and other services to victims; to establish mechanisms for timely and effective investigations; and to improve public accountability. Ms. Holl Lute is here today to respond to your questions and discuss the priorities she has identified, and how she intends to implement her mandate. Mr. President, Excellencies, This is a global issue. It is not confined to any one region, mission or nation. The United Nations must lead by example in confronting this criminal conduct, supporting victims and ensuring that blue helmets remain a beacon of hope for the people we serve. While we continue to do everything we can to address SEA, we must also maintain the focus on the implementation of our peacekeeping mandates. Just last week, Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous was in the Central African Republic to represent the Secretary-General at the inauguration ceremony of the newly elected President, Faustin Archange Touadera. The United Nations is unwavering in its commitment to working in partnership with Member States to ensure that we take care of the victims, and ensure zero impunity. We are convinced that only determined collective action will bring results. Thank you.