Crimes by UN Peacekeepers

One of the arguments I’ve laid out in the discussion over private military companies is their lack of accountability isn’t because of their nature. There is potential accountability of PMCs, notably in the US environment, through the contracting system. However, as we’ve seen over the past several years and as is finally hitting the light of day with allegations over illegal sub-contracting, the contracting party, ultimately the USG in this scenario, fails to do its due diligence.

To demonstrate this fact, I’ve argued that “public” institution of United Nations Peacekeeping is even less accountable than private military contractors. Next year there is a paper in an academic journal persuasively, in my humble opinion, demonstrating this fact. One of the many examples to justify this position is the lack of enforcement in the area of sex crimes, which the UN is continuing to battle. Of course, nothing can happen overnight. From the UN itself in the UN Chronicle:

Allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Haiti and elsewhere have tarnished the reputation of the world Organization. Speakers at a recent meeting at UN Headquarters outlined a “zero-tolerance” policy toward this problem and discussed innovative ways to fight it, including DNA sampling and an “anti-prostitution campaign” for 2007.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan told some 150 participants at the High Level Conference on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN and NGO Personnel that it is although significant progress has been made on the issue, “we have really only begun to tackle this egregious problem”. He lamented that a “small number of individuals” undermined the “admirable and upstanding behaviour of the majority of United Nations staff and the uniformed personnel who serve alongside them”. Civilian and military UN personnel had breached UN standards by having sex with adult prostitutes, and had committed crimes such as rape, paedophilia and human trafficking, said Mr. Annan. “All of this is utterly immoral, and completely at odds with our mission. Our behaviour should be something that others can emulate, and be judged against”.

Mr. Annan reiterated his “zero-tolerance” policy toward sexual abuse, saying that UN staff members who commit such acts are being fired, and uniformed peacekeeping personnel are being sent home and barred from future service in the United Nations. He also urged senior leaders to endorse the “Statement of Commitment on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN and Non-UN Personnel”, which spells out ten concrete steps to achieving that goal, including incorporating UN standards on sexual exploitation and abuse in induction materials and training courses for UN personnel, and preventing perpetrators from being hired for UN activities.

DNA sampling? By the way, the UN has the control to fire its civilian members but can do nothing but request the military peacekeepers go home and hopefully face trial or punishment there. As far as limiting who comes back into service, well Nepal already apparently segregates its forces: those who are used to commit criminal acts at home aren’t sent on peacekeeping operations. Will we see other contributor nations with the same bifurcation?

There is a limit on how far the UN can go as demand for peacekeepers outstrips supply… For more information on peacekeepers and recent totals on who contributes, skim a previous post on PMCs here.