France Attributes Vital Importance to the Zero Tolerance Policy [fr]
Zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse - Statement by François Delattre - Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - ONU - 17 September 2015.
I would like to begin by thanking you for your excellent and important initiative to bring together all the countries that contribute troops, gendarmes, and police officers to United Nations peacekeeping operations for a crucial purpose, one that is a top priority for France: the fight against sexual abuse by United Nations personnel. As you so forcefully and eloquently stated, it is our most fundamental values and those of our organization that are at stake.
This meeting marks not only your total commitment to this key issue, but also the mobilization of all the Member States represented here today. This is an issue that requires us to mobilize at the highest level. This meeting must result in a change of direction. It heralds a shift in mentalities, habits, and policies at the United Nations, with respect to how we deal with these painful issues.
For we have heard your message, Mr. Secretary-General: We must change our everyday practices in order to be more accountable for our actions on three levels: preventing sexual abuse, punishing the perpetrators of crimes or offenses, and providing support for the victims.
France applauds the many concrete measures and provisions that you are proposing in the report that you just presented. You can count on France’s full political and technical support when it comes to developing, expanding, or implementing these provisions, in addition to the measures my country already implements.
Indeed, France, which currently contributes to nine peacekeeping operations, deploying more than 900 military personnel and police officers, is fully committed to respecting the rules laid down by the United Nations. It attributes vital importance to implementing both the zero tolerance policy and the due diligence policy. Properly executing the directives issued by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations is essential. Our soldiers are recruited, trained, and deployed in operations using a process guaranteeing the respect of these rules. Transparence, in this regard, is critical; it is why our legislative framework and national process fully abide by these same standards.
France is demanding and vigilant when it comes to the deployment of its troops on a national basis and within operations led by other organizations or coalitions.
Allegations of sexual abuse by French soldiers in the Central African Republic remind us that there may be cases in which existing standards and provisions do not shield us from every risk. It is therefore our moral and public responsibility to get to the bottom of these serious allegations. That is why the French government turned to the courts as soon as it received information concerning these allegations. A criminal investigation is under way. If the facts are borne out, the most severe disciplinary sanctions will be adopted, as will a punitive response by the French legal authorities. The French President has pledged to follow the recommendations you have made, Mr. Secretary-General, in your report.
The caliber of the investigations and respect for fundamental procedural principles – central among them, that of independent judges – may mean investigations that are long and complex. While it is important to react quickly, to offer immediate responses to victims and families, it is also important to establish the facts with the utmost rigor. In this regard, Mr. Secretary-General, I support your proposal to carry out field investigations using either specialized teams or the advisors for the protection of women deployed in many missions, including MINUSCA.
But waiting for the result of an investigation or a judicial decision does not mean inaction. On the contrary, we can and must, at the political, diplomatic, and administrative level, make every effort that falls under our authority. That is why France naturally stands ready to do even more, in cooperation with the United Nations.
Other areas of cooperation between the United Nations and countries contributing troops, gendarmes, and police officers must therefore be exploited. Mr. Secretary-General, you clearly identified these tracks in establishing the zero tolerance goal, and in particular by indicating a path to achieve it. You can count on France to help us move forward together on the path to zero tolerance.