Last week, a new report showed that UN peacekeepers are engaging in the sexual exploitation of Haitian women, specifically the underreported problem of “transactional sex,” which is obviously prohibited. Yet, as Ed noted, it’s also happening in the UN’s African missions as well. In the Central African Republic, a UN peacekeeper is allegedly involved in a new case of child sex abuse. The UN maintains a zero tolerance policy for such violations, but has been criticized for their lethargic response to such horrific incidents.
The UN will offer DNA testing so UN peacekeepers would be pressured to support the children they leave behind on these missions. Yet, accountability remains shaky, with the nations contributing troops deciding if they will be taking these paternity claims seriously. Moreover, to make sure the boat isn’t rocked for future peacekeeping missions, the UN doesn’t list the countries accused of sexual abuse:
The U.N. peacekeepers arrive; months later, some leave infants behind. Now the United Nations has quietly started to offer DNA testing to help prove paternity claims and ensure support for the so-called "peacekeeper babies."
It's a delicate step, as countries that contribute U.N. troops might not welcome a practice that could prove not only fatherhood but wrongdoing. Of the dozen paternity claims received last year, four were associated with alleged sexual abuse of a minor.
The new effort comes a decade after a groundbreaking report on sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers suggested that the U.N. secretary-general be authorized to "require DNA and other tests to establish paternity" so peacekeepers would be pressured to support the children they "father and abandon."
Many of the children are in a desperate financial situation, said the report by Zeid Raad al-Hussein, now the U.N.'s human rights chief and a former peacekeeper himself.
No one knows how many children have been fathered by U.N. peacekeepers over the decades in some of the world's most troubled places. About 125,000 peacekeepers are deployed in 16 locations, almost all in Africa or the Middle East. Sexual abuse and exploitation remains a problem, with little support available for victims.
While the U.N. has worked with member states before on paternity claims, it only started offering a DNA collection protocol, and testing kits, last year.
But it doesn't go as far as the action urged by a U.N.-commissioned report that was leaked publicly this spring. A "DNA data bank for all troops would be the most foolproof method" for tackling paternity claims, it said.
Instead, the U.N., which has no standing army, is allowing troop-contributing countries to decide how much of an effort to make to pursue paternity claims.
On Friday, U.N. officials explained how it works: A member state is asked if they are able to do DNA testing or whether the U.N. should do it. The mother, child and possible father are swabbed. Results are compared.
The testing has not been made mandatory. Since the U.N. started pressing states to follow up on pending paternity issues, the response rate is just 20 percent.
Cooperation in a possible criminal case, such as rape, could be more challenging. The U.N. has no authority to conduct criminal investigations and can't force a country to do DNA testing.
Almost half of the paternity claims reported since January 2010 — 14 out of 29 — were made by minors who said they' had been sexually abused. The U.N., nervous about angering member states amid a persistent need for peacekeepers, does not even list the countries whose troops are accused. Officials say that could change as soon as next year.
So, I bet you can guess how this will end. There will be little accountability, little change, and further undercut the UN’s reputation (or what’s left of it). As Ed wrote in his post, as long as the UN is running the show (for lack of a better term) in these peacekeeping missions, the accountability needle isn’t going to move:
Nothing much has changed, and nothing much will change while these missions run under UN auspices. The reason for this can be seen in the Yahoo News report on Bangui. The UN puts blue helmets on these troops but have no jurisdiction under which to maintain discipline and order among them. That falls to the countries that assign the troops to the mission, but those countries do nothing and keep sending the troops out to the next mission. If nations deployed troops on their own into a country and committed these kinds of atrocities — which is how the UN defines this kind of sexual degradation in war zones — Turtle Bay would be howling to bring commanders in front of the International Criminal Court. For their own missions? A report and a show of contrition is all they provide.
Despite having 11 years to make changes sufficient to keep its missions from committing sex crimes on an industrial scale, the UN has done nothing except continue to issue reports and platitudes. And these are the kind of efforts about which the UN brags as a raison d’être. Makes one wonder why we’re still a part of this corrupt bureaucracy, no?