Report of the Secretary-General on Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse

Flickr/MONUSCO: Peacekeeper on duty in Kamako, the DRC
April 5, 2024

The report, published in March 2024, showed that more than 750 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) were received by the United Nations (UN) in 2023 – over 220 more than in 2022. The report divides these allegations into three categories.

Firstly, the report revealed 100 allegations of SEA in peacekeeping and special political missions in 2023. This showed an increase of 79 from 2022. Notably, this is only the second time in the past decade that 100 or more allegations of SEA have been recorded in a single year.

The increase is mainly attributable to allegations of incidents which took place more than two years before being reported, with 68 such reports in 2023. The number of allegations concerning incidents occurring in the same year as the allegation, or the year prior, is decreasing, with 26 such reports in 2023, compared with 31 in 2022.

The allegations recorded in 2023 identify 143 victims, comprising 115 adults and 28 children. This is similar to the 147 victims identified in 2022, with a decrease from the 35 child victims reported in 2022. Ten allegations received in 2023 involve multiple victims.

Ninety per cent of allegations were from two missions alone. MONUSCO, including the former United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), accounted for 66 allegations – two-thirds of the total – while the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic accounted for 24. The remaining allegations were recorded in three other peacekeeping missions, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (6), the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (1) and the former United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (1), and in two special political missions, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (1) and the recently closed United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan (1).

Secondly, 284 allegations relating to personnel of agencies, funds and programmes were reported, compared with 164 in 2022. Six allegations have been substantiated, 15 have been determined to be unsubstantiated, 45 are under investigation, 88 are under assessment and 130 have been closed due to lack of evidence and/or separation of the alleged perpetrators from the entity, either at their own initiative or by the entity on grounds of other misconduct. Of the 164 allegations reported in 2022, 48 were under investigation, 12 were substantiated, 8 were unsubstantiated, 43 were under assessment and 53 had been closed.

Thirdly, in 2023, 374 allegations relating to personnel of implementing partners not under the authority of the United Nations were reported, compared with 291 in 2022.

The report further highlights that SEA is rooted in power imbalances, often linked to inequality, notably gender inequality, thereby requiring a cultural transformation within the UN to address. The report then goes on to identify existing measures to prevent SEA:

  1. Screening using the ClearCheck system, training, awareness-raising, and risk assessments.
  2. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has strengthened its recruitment screening by piloting its participation in the Misconduct Disclosure Scheme, as a complement to its use of ClearCheck, and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) will pilot its participation in the scheme in early 2024.
  3. The Secretariat is finalizing improvements to its risk management tools, including guidance for peace operations, based on lessons learned.
  4. Enhancing the current training programmes on protection from SEA. The mandatory e-learning course for all Secretariat personnel, launched in 2016, has been updated and translated into all of the official languages of the United Nations. The updated version was released in February 2023.
  5. Strengthening engagement with communities as a key part of our prevention efforts. The “Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse at the Frontline – Together We Say No” tools are aimed at raising awareness among drivers, contractors, financial service providers, small NGO partners and others and are available in 22 languages.
  6. In 2023, the Secretariat piloted the reinforcement training package for uniformed commanders, in cooperation with several Member States. It provides targeted training support for commanders on conduct and discipline, with a focus on the prohibition of sexual exploitation and abuse. The package has been translated into the six official languages of the United Nations and will be rolled out in 2024.

To read the full report, see here

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