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United Nations Peacekeepers Aiding Sex Traffickers?

By: Janice Tjeng

Edited by: Sharon E. Chin

The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) revealed that United Nations (U.N.) Peacekeepers in Haiti had transactional sex with hundreds of local poor women, where one third of the women were under the age of 18. Stories like this are not uncommon in areas where Peacekeepers have been stationed.

Between December 2013 and June 2014, French peacekeeping soldiers forced local children in the Central African Republic (CAR) to commit sex acts as a form of entertainment. In 1999, former U.N. Police Force monitor Kathryn Bolkovac reported that U.N. officials were involved in the Bosnian sex trafficking industry. In 1994, former First Lady of Mozambique, Graca Machel, found that when peacekeeping troops arrived, a rapid rise in child prostitution occurred within half of the countries studied on sexual exploitation of children in situations of armed conflict.

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Despite their misconduct, U.N. Peacekeepers rarely get convicted because U.N. personnel are protected by diplomatic immunity; Peacekeepers are not prosecuted in their mission country. Additionally, home governments have little incentive to publicize their troops’ misconduct. However, some efforts have been made to address this issue. In response to Bolkovac’s report, the U.N. established a conduct and discipline unit in 2007. Susan Malcorra, who heads the unit, proposes that the U.N waive immunity whenever necessary. The U.N. also frequently removes officials from their missions and turns over the investigation and corrections process over to the member state.

The recent oversight in Haiti was due to significant underreporting of official misconduct. As such, the U.N. should increase internal monitoring by requiring at least one member of the Conduct and Discipline Unit to evaluate U.N. officials and should be present at every peacekeeping site. The Unit should screen their employees regularly and rotate them to different peacekeeping sites in order to minimize conspiracy between peacekeepers and employees.

U.N. secretary, Ban Ki-Moon, writes, “Let me be clear: the United Nations, and I personally, are profoundly committed to a zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation or abuse by our own personnel. This means zero complacency. When we receive credible allegations, we ensure that they are looked into fully. It means zero impunity”.

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Janice Tjeng is a fourth year Biology major at the University of San Francisco. She is a Social Media Assistant atCancer InCytes Magazine. She looks forward to applying to medical school where she can learn the skills to provide healthcare for disadvantaged people.



Ham, Hyunjae “United Nations Peacekeepers Aiding Sex Traffickers?” Law Street, June 17 2015.

Date accessed, June 22 2015.

Photo Credit, United Nations Photo via Flickr.

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