Sexual exploitation and abuse incidents on the increase – UN

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More than 750 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) were received by the United Nations (UN) last year – over 220 more than in 2022.

Being diplomatically correct, the world body’s statement on the issue does not give names of people and countries of origin, saying 384 of the allegations were “related to UN staff and personnel” with the remainder from “partners and non-UN military forces”. A hundred allegations were reported from peacekeeping – with South Africans deployed in one – and special political missions.

South Africa is a known offender when it comes to SEA with the last reported incident six months ago which saw eight SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel, including one officer, serving with MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) detained ahead of deportation to face charges in South Africa. The action taken against the eight was termed “immediate and robust” in a UN statement at the time with suspension from normal duties, detention and confinement to quarters instituted ahead of them being flown out of the DRC.

Since their return to South Africa, the SANDF has not made public the charges they are or have faced in court, what sentences or fines have been handed down if the matter has made it to court and which unit/s the suspects are on the personnel strength of.

The DRC mission was the worst for SEA offences last year with 90% of the 758 allegations made against MONUSCO personnel. Number two on the suspect list was another UN mission in Africa – MINUSCA in the Central African Republic (CAR).

The report – “Special Measures for Protection from SEA” in the name of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – apart from listing allegations and sites provides an update on implementation of prevention and response to SEA. In s video message to coincide with the report’s release, Guterres said “SEA violates everything the UN stands for” adding it is “up to all of us to eradicate SEA, support victims and hold perpetrators and their enablers to account”.