Zero-tolerance for Sexual Abuses in Peacekeeping Missions [fr]
Sexual abuses and exploitation - Security Council - Statement by Mr. Alexis Lamek, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 10 March 2016
I thank the Secretary-General for his briefing and for his efforts and measures to combat sexual abuse within the United Nations. France welcomes his determination and exemplary mobilization to take all the necessary measures to prevent and fight sexual exploitation and abuse in the United Nations.
Sexual abuse committed by Blue Helmets, both military and police, but also by United Nations civilian personnel and international forces that do not operate in the United Nations command, is unacceptable. That is why France supports the Security Council draft resolution on sexual abuse under consideration. It is also why France supports the efforts of the Secretary-General aimed at further strengthening the zero-tolerance policy through concrete proposals. A number of them have already been implemented; others are still being considered in other forums. These exchanges, this momentum, are positive and are encouraging with regard to the future of peacekeeping operations.
The zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual abuse must apply at all levels. First, at the level of the United Nations, it must apply on the ground. In peacekeeping operations, several operational measures will make it possible to change the daily lives of the local population: the repatriation of units suspected of sexual abuse, the appointment of focal points within peacekeeping operations to prevent sexual abuse, and efforts to improve support for victims. All these steps will contribute to changing the culture and reality of peacekeeping operations.
However, zero tolerance does not concern only the Blue Helmets. Unfortunately, among the civilian personnel of the United Nations programmes and agencies there have also been cases of sexual abuse, including by those who tend to the needs of the most vulnerable — refugees and displaced persons. That is why France calls for stepped-up vigilance and efforts to increase, through adapted infrastructure and means, the protection of these populations, often marked by extreme poverty and extreme weakness and are traumatized by the violence of conflict. We owe special protection to women and chilren, who are the first targets of various acts of abuse, violence and exploitation in camps and sites for refugees and displaced persons.
Zero tolerance must begin with its application at the level of the United Nations, but zero tolerance applies at the national level as well. It is the responsibility of every State to take the necessary steps to prevent sexual abuse and also to bring to justice those suspected of such abuse. That is what we do in France.
With regard to prevention, our security forces in France are systematically vetted regarding their history in terms of respect for human rights, in keeping with the policy required by the United Nations. Our security forces are also systematically trained on the protection of human rights and the fight against sexual abuse before deployment. France intends to strengthen its training and prevention system within the framework of its security forces. France is also pleased to announce that it will contribute to the financing of the office of the Special Coordinator on improving the United Nations abuse,special Ms. Jane Holl Lute. We warmly welcome her appointment.
Regarding the fight against impunity, France deploys, as requested by the Secretary-General, national investigation officers within its contingents in order to respond rapidly to allegations. Furthermore, as soon as allegations were reported in the Central African Republic, French justice opened judicial proceedings to shed full light on the situation. Justice must be carried out if these allegations are confirmed, in a way mindful of the fundamental principles of the law and with respect for the independence of the judiciary.
Zero tolerance must also be applied at the regional level. Regional organizations are not, unfortunately, spared allegations of sexual abuse. That is why it is essential to act at this level as well, especially as those organizations are often key partners of the United Nations in peacekeeping operations. Thus we call on the African Union — which incudes countries that contribute troops to the United Nations and through its own missions acts both both upstream and downstream of the Blue Helmets — to strengthen its cooperation with the United Nations in these matters.
This public debate marks a movement for peacekeeping operations from which there is no turning back. They can no longer close their eyes and remain silent about sexual abuse. Today the Concil speaks publicly in order to break the silence and the stigmatization that burdens the victims so as to send them a message of hope.
Lastly, I would like to end on a note of encouragement and thanks for the tens of thousands of soldiers and police officers, from the United Nations or elsewhere, who are not implicated in the allegations and who put their lives on the line in order to save others. They should know that we do not wish to stigmatize them for the actions of others; on the contrary, we want to assure them that they can continue to do their work with the effectiveness it needs.