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.

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