Monday, October 27, 2008

The Role of Governments

As it was the case in other aspects of the agenda setting process, identifying the states who acted as norm leaders in the issue of SEA is difficult. Nonetheless, two states can be highlighted as potentially important contributors of the issue. Although I was not able to locate specific information about the role that the USA played in UN documents, I nonetheless came across with articles that highlight the active role that the US has played in urging the UN to take significant steps towards dealing with SEA. Another state who arguably has played a significant role was Jordan whose Permanent Representative to the UN, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, was assigned by Kofi Annan as his “Adviser on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN Peacekeeping Personnel”. States where UN Missions were deployed understandably played an active role in for instance, conferences and workshops such as in the case of Sudan. However, it is difficult to interpret their involvement as attempts to become a norm leader.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Role of UN

The UN has been playing a central role in the issue of SEA in conflict zones. Given its central role as the main violator of the norm, on the one hand and its role as the main provider of global norms, on the other, UN was put into a very difficult position, which triggered immediate response from the organization at multiple levels.

Reinicke and Deng (p.103) argues that “the United Nations must approach networking soberly. It must consider in every instance whether there is sufficient interest and whether it has sufficient capacity and comparative advantage to play a productive and worthwhile role in the network”. The very nature of the issue not only enabled the UN involvement to be productive but also made its involvement a “necessity”.

The central role that the UN has been playing dates back to the initial concerns that are raised about SEA. The first step that brought SEA in conflict zones into attention was based on a report prepared by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Save the Children-UK. Therefore, UNHCR is one of the important UN agencies that took a prominent role in the very beginning of the issue.

Following the initial attention that the issue attracted, the UN took another step and established “The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Task Force on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Humanitarian Crises” (IASC) which was composed of number of UN agencies and NGOs in 2002. In 2005, “The Task Force on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of the Executive Committees on Humanitarian Affairs and on Peace and Security (ECHA/ECPS) and NGOs took up the work of the IASC Task Force”. (OCHA) Many UN agencies take active part in these committees such as FAO, OCHA, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP.

However, the issue does not get UN’s attention only at agency level. At the highest level, – given the severity of the claims and its potential damage to the UN – in 2004 Secretary General Kofi Annan took a special interest in the issue invited H.R.H. Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, the Permanent Representative of Jordan to the UN, to act as his Adviser on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN Peacekeeping Personnel. (OCHA)

The case of SEA in conflict zones exemplifies Reinicke and Deng’s argument which suggests that “UN agencies and staff may play various roles at the same time in a network, or the same agency may play various roles in various phases of the policy cycle” (p.99) For instance, in this case, the UN agencies were not only played the role of a provider of a platform and safe space (Reinicke and Deng, p.98) but also played the role of a norm entrepreneur (p.99) and a capacity builder (p.100). The UN involvement in this issue area also exemplifies the need for UN agencies to be specialized and coordinated for reaching better results, as it was argued by Reinicke and Deng (p.104).

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Role of Media: A Driving Force or a Mere Follower?

The issue of sexual exploitation and abuse in conflict zones has found media coverage from the beginning of the issue. As the UN itself cites, “it [the issue of sexual exploitation] was brought to the forefront of public attention in 2002 following allegations of widespread sexual exploitation and abuse of refugee and internally displaced women and children by UN workers and peacekeepers in West Africa.” (OCHA) The issue was “brought to the public attention” through international news sources after the release of a supposedly classified report prepared by UNHCR and Save the Children UK (which was also the first major step taken in this issue area).

The very nature of the issue and especially the actor who is the ‘violator’, the UN in this case, had an effect on how this issue was elaborated in media. The initial coverage of the issue had a more neutral tone and was limited to repeating what has been said in the report prepared by the Save the Children-UK.

Since the UN was actively involved from the beginning of the issue, it is difficult to identify whether the media was deliberately urged by the activists to put emphasis on the issue. However, it could be argued that the existence of the UN as the central actor in the issue may have been sufficient enough reason for the media to pick up on the issue.

As the time goes on, the media became more vocal about the newly revealed cases of exploitation and critical about the steps taken by the UN to deal with the issue. Most of the news were still based on the classified and public reports prepared by the UN (revealed either by the UN itself or the news sources) or statements made by UN officials. Although independent information collection was almost nonexistent, the media coverage put significant emphasis on the shortcomings of the UN actions and urged it to take more proper actions.

Again, the very central role that the UN has been playing in the agenda setting process makes it difficult to assess the contribution that media coverage made to this issue. However, I believe it is safe to argue that, their continued attention did not harm the cause but instead contributed to the issue by keeping people’s attention on the issue. Nonetheless, it is important to remind that most of the news relied on the information gathered from the UN and therefore, it is almost impossible to identify the net contribution that they made to the issue or whether media coverage was essential to the cause (or whether the media coverage was a mere reflection of what has been already done).

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Role of NGOs in Making the Protection from SEA in Conflict Zones a Norm

The nature of this issue area, the norm that is trying to be promoted and the actors who are blamed to be the ‘violators’ diverges the way in which this issue area has developed from many other issues that have found salience at the global agenda.

The issue became a part of the global agenda following a report prepared by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Save the Children-UK. This collaborative effort that initiated the process makes it difficult to identify the “political entrepreneurs” behind the agenda-setting process. Although it is difficult to isolate the level of NGO contribution, it is safe to argue that NGOs especially Save the Children-UK) played a role of “political entrepreneur” in this issue area.

Following immediately after the outburst of news on misconducts of UN personnel, a confidential report (which was released in the beginning of 2002) titled “Note for Implementing and Operational Partners by UNHCR and Save the Children-UK on Sexual Violence & Exploitation” was prepared by the UNHCR and Save the Children-UK.

According to the report, the assessment was initiated “due to growing concerns, based on their field experience, about the nature and extent of sexual violence and exploitation of refugee children and other children of concern to UNHCR in the countries of the Mano River Sub Region in West Africa.”1

The report mentions “allegations of sexual exploitation against 67 individual employees and “widespread” sexual abuse in the camps and surrounding communities, including by humanitarian workers, UN Peacekeepers, local national security staff, loggers and diamond miners, among others. Among “humanitarian workers,” the report said that most sexual exploiters were the locally hired employees of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations (IOs), including refugees and IDPs [internally displaced persons].”2

Since the very initiation of this agenda-setting process involved the UN itself (who is both responsible for the violations and the ultimate international organization that has the capacity to establish a norm) the questions of “to whom the idea was pitched” and “who the gatekeepers are” are difficult to answer in terms of identifying the role of NGOs. After the release of the report a UN Task Force was established, therefore, it can be argued that agenda-setting process continued within the UN and the UN institutions in general and the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, in particular assumed the role of the “gatekeeper”. However, as it will be explained, NGOs have also played and are still playing a central role in the process.

Following the release of the report, the InterAction – “a voluntary membership alliance of 160 US-based international development and humanitarian nongovernmental organizations – assumed a central role in the process. As an initial step, they established The Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation of Displaced Children in March 2002. The task force was not mandated to “investigate the allegations themselves but rather looked for actions that humanitarian agencies, particularly InterAction members, should take to prevent the abuse of displaced children.”3

With the idea of the need for “concerted efforts by all players in the international humanitarian community” the InterAction also took part in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Task Force on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Humanitarian Crises “whose members include the CEOs of sixteen UN and other international humanitarian agencies and several international non-governmental organizations (NGO) consortia (including InterAction).”4 More specifically, the Task Force is co-chaired by OCHA and UNICEF and comprises WFP, UNHCR, OHCHR, DPKO, UNOPS, UNDP, OSAGI, InterAction and SCHR (Oxfam and Save the Children/UK).5 which was also established in March 2002. The Task Force “advised the UN on specific measures, developed agreed definitions of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse and adopted six standards of behavior to be included in UN and NGO codes of conduct” (OCHA). Therefore, I believe it is plausible to argue that NGOs, especially InterAction, played the role of a “gatekeeper” although they are not the only ones who assumed this role.

In addition to those widely cited efforts, I come across with information about another contribution that NGOs made to the issue. In 2003, according to a magazine article “a coalition of religious organizations sent a letter to Secretary of Colin Powell urging the United States to send more human rights monitors into Congo”. It is argued that “the U.N. then [following this letter] introduced a "code of conduct" to help prevent future abuses, including prohibitions against sexual activity between staff and children and the exchange of money or food for sex”. Thus, it is possible to suggest that the NGOs also followed a “boomerang” pattern to advocate the issue. (However, I am cautious about reaching this conclusion based on this information, since it did not appear in any other document that I have covered so far).

Although the protection of civilians from sexual exploitation and abuse in conflict zones is a norm that is accepted, promoted and investigated by the UN itself, the NGOs are still playing active roles both through working on developing measures to hold NGOs accountable and through following the UN actions closely to make sure that the codes of conducts are followed. The repeating outbursts of news regarding violations in multiple of cases such as humanitarian missions in Burundi, Haiti, Liberia and Congo6 encouraged continues NGO involvement.

The Building Safer Organizations (BSO) project is an example of active NGO involvement. It “is an important collaborative effort by nongovernmental organizations to address the problem of SEA. The BSO project strengthens NGOs’ capacity to receive and investigate allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse brought by persons of concern – including refugees, displaced persons and local host populations. To achieve this, BSO, which is housed by the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) in Geneva, developed learning materials and field-based trainings. In March 2005 it began pilot skills-building trainings.”7

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom for instance, keeps track of steps taken by the UN and NGO under the title of “Peacekeeping Watch: Monitoring Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN Peacekeepers and the Efforts of the International Community to Respond”.8 Although these kinds of attempts illustrate continues active NGO involvement in the issue area, it is important to note that, the earliest reports are dated only back to the report prepared by UNHCR and Save the Children-UK.

It can be concluded that it is difficult to decide the extent to which NGOs played the role of ‘political entrepreneur’ in isolation from the initiation of and/or contribution from the UN. The active involvement of the UN in general and the Kofi Annan in particular made it easier for the issue to be ‘pitched’ into the international agenda. It can be argued with more certainty that NGOs especially InterAction acted as a ‘gatekeeper’ with its active involvement in the process. However, again, active UN involvement makes it difficult to assess the extent to which NGOs played a crucial role in this issue area.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Do we need to “go glam” to be on the agenda?

It is fair to suggest that many issue areas that find saliency on the global agenda are associated with a famous face such as Angelina Jolie, Richard Gere and George Clooney. Literature seems to agree that those celebrities provide extensive media coverage to the issue if nothing else (although some authors such as Dieter and Kumar argue that they damage causes more than they contribute to them). However, the issue area of sexual exploitation and abuse in conflict zones illustrates us that firstly, it is not a necessity to have a celebrity figure to find political saliency. Secondly and more importantly, it illustrates us that some issue areas by nature may not be open to celebrity activism.

As a result of my research, I believe it is safe to conclude that there is no strong celebrity presence in this particular issue area. There are many celebrities who are vocal on relevant issue areas such as displaced children (Angelina Jolie – Brad Pitt), human trafficking (Ricky Martin, Emma Thompson) and child exploitation (Charlize Theron). However, I was not able to identify any celebrity who is vocal about sexual exploitation and abuse conducted in conflict zones by UN personnel.

Although the particularities of this issue area make it difficult to reach generalizations, it nonetheless, provides some insights on the role of celebrities. Firstly, although there was no significant celebrity presence, the issue achieved to secure a significant place on the agenda. The short causal chain that was apparent between the violator and the violated as well as the clarity of the harm it causes (as it was suggested in the previous entry) helped the issue to become a politically salient one in a relatively short period of time. Pointing the UN as the violator also contributed to the efforts since the misconducts presented a clear contrast to the norms that the UN tries to promote. The questions that were already raised about the legitimacy of UN missions also urged the UN to take action and assume a central role in dealing with its personnel’s misconducts. Therefore, I believe it can be said that celebrity support is not a “must” for an issue to find a place on the global agenda, especially if other factors (such as short causal chain, explicit bodily harm) are present.

On the flip side of the issue, the lack of celebrity presence in this issue area also illustrates that some issue areas by their nature may not be suitable for celebrity activity. Although it may include some speculation, I would argue that since it was the UN itself that was accused of conducting sexual exploitation and abuse; it was difficult to become vocal on this issue. Most of the celebrities work for or in coordination with the UN or the UN agencies to support their causes. Challenging the UN itself has the possibility to jeopardize their cause since it would challenge UN’s legitimacy and has the risk to antagonize a very-needed partner. Challenging states or other non-state actors is a relatively easy task since it would help you gather other states and/or actors on your side. However, challenging one of the main actors in the system that has the capacity to not only create a norm but also realize policy change proves to be more problematic.

Thus, I believe we can conclude from this case that it is important to answer several questions such as; who is it that you want on your side, who is it that you need to convince (Drezner’s argument), what is the best way to convince potential opponents before deciding whether or not (and eventually which) celebrity should contribute to the cause.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Putting Sexual Exploitation on the UN Agenda

I believe it could be plausibly argued that the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse in conflict zones has a significant place on the global agenda and the issue is relatively close to the end of its life-cycle i.e. establishing a global norm, although my intention is not argue that the norm is universally accepted and applied.

I believe the most important indicator of its saliency on the global agenda is the prominent place it has on the UN agenda. The UN not only issued several reports, bulletins and resolutions but also kept and still keeps strict track of the application of those documents through OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).

Following Joachim’s point of, the very place it occupies on the UN agenda is an indicator of this issue's importance on the global agenda. However, it is also an important indicator because the UN is the main actor whose behavior is aimed to be altered through this campaign, thus, its place on the UN agenda is also an indicator of “political change” which is the ultimate aim.

While the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse in conflict zones is a relatively new issue on the global agenda, there are certain factors that accelerated the advocacy process (which also exemplify some of the theories that we have covered).

Firstly, although the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse in conflict zones includes misconducts of several actors, the main actor who is held responsible is the UN. Once the issue is brought to the public attention, its effects on the UN was very clear and immediate. This urged the UN to take an active role and accelerated the speed of the process.

The UN indicates that:

The United Nations (UN) and its partners are pledged to care for the most vulnerable in our world… Sexual exploitation and abuse represents a catastrophic failure of protection. It brings harm to those whom the UN and its partners are mandated to protect and jeopardizes the reputation of the UN and its partners. (OCHA)

As Keck and Sikkink (p.29) argued, in order for an advocacy campaign to be successful, “target actors [in this case, the UN] must be vulnerable either to material incentives or to sanctions from outside actors, or they must be sensitive to pressure because of gaps between stated commitments and practice”. In this case, the sharp contrast between the UN’s mandate and the norms it fosters, on the one hand and the accusations of conducts of sexual exploitation by UN forces, on the other made it easier for the issue to find salience on the global agenda. This case also exemplifies how political opportunity structure such as access to institutions can contribute to a cause as it is argued by Joachim.

Keck and Sikkink (p.27) also argued that “issues involving physical harm to vulnerable individuals, especially when there is a short and clear causal chain assigning responsibility”, they become particularly compelling. In this issue, it was relatively easy to point not only the physical harm but also the actor who caused it which in turn strengthened the advocacy efforts.

Although the developments in this issue area support some of the main arguments proposed by the theories we have covered, it does not necessarily prove that the theories fully capture the reality. Moreover, the relative success that was achieved in this issue area illustrates that case specific factors are crucial in the process. This, I believe, is important in urging us to adopt a critical approach to the model that we are trying to develop and making us more tuned to the peculiarities of different cases.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The UN Works to Protect Civilians?

“The United Nations (UN) and its partners are pledged to care for the most vulnerable in our world.”

Although the UN defines its mission as such, there are several numbers of occasions where UN personnel and/or non-UN personnel operating in conflict areas are accused of engaging in sexual exploitation and/or abuse.

The UN defines the term “sexual exploitation” as “any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.” The term “sexual abuse” is defined as “the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions.”

The issue first brought to public attention in 2002 “following allegations of widespread sexual exploitation and abuse of refugee and internally displaced women and children by UN workers and peacekeepers in West Africa.”

Steps were taken by the UN and NGOs to formulate standards of conduct for UN missions. Despite these efforts, number of accusations revealed in Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2004 which called for “radical re-thinking of the UN’s approach to this problem in peacekeeping missions.”

As a response to the calls for action, the UN not only issued several reports and resolutions but also established a task force which is called “IASC Task Force on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Humanitarian Crises”. These developments became possible with active involvement of several non-UN organizations such as InterAction, ICVA, WILPF and Refugee International.