South Africa, acknowledged by the UN for adoption of best practices to deal with sexual abuse and exploitation (SEA) in its military, was one of 80 countries along with the European Union which heard misconduct by soldiers was a risk to operational successes of peacekeeping missions.
The UN event on Monday heard of and saw good practices member countries are implementing to cut down and hopefully eliminate SEA. One presentation to the closed event was that of a South African court martial for a SEA offence. Ahead of the event, South Africa’s progressive approach to dealing with SEA in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) both internally and on external deployments such as MONUSCO in DR Congo was acknowledged by the world body.
Opening the event, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, UN under-secretary general for peace operations, said there was progress on strengthening the conduct of UN peacekeepers.
“This includes strengthening vetting, standardising our approach to training and misconduct risk management. We are improving transparency through greater public reporting. Conduct and discipline is a critical part of the Integrated Performance Accountability Framework.
“The risk of misconduct is a risk to operational success. We must be proactive and understand where we have gaps and build on what works and what demonstrates potential.
“We must continue to address challenges, such as timely investigations and communications with the UN Secretariat on actions taken and ensuring sanctions commensurate with the gravity of misconduct including criminal accountability where necessary,” Lacroix said.
He thanked member States for sharing their good practices adding “going forward we will enable knowledge and experience sharing and inform the public of initiatives underway”.
Lacroix added his voice to that of UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres who wants protection from SEA extended across the UN system saying “misconduct is not unique to peacekeeping and requires an integrated ‘one UN’ response”.