UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council on Friday approved its first-ever resolution tackling the escalating problem of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers sent to protect vulnerable civilians in some of the world's most volatile areas.
The United Nations has been in the spotlight for months over allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, especially those based in Central African Republic and Congo. The U.N. says there were 69 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers in 2015, with an additional 25 allegations so far this year.
The resolution was approved by a vote of 14-0 with Egypt abstaining after a last-minute amendment it proposed that would have weakened the text was defeated.
The U.S.-drafted resolution endorses Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's plan for reform, including his decision to repatriate military or police units "where there is credible evidence of widespread or systemic sexual exploitation and abuse."
It also asks Ban to replace contingents where allegations are not properly investigated, perpetrators are not held accountable or the secretary-general is not informed on the progress of investigations. The Egyptian amendment would have required that all three conditions are met before a military or police unit is sent home, not just one of them as now required.
The United States, the biggest financial contributor to U.N. peacekeeping operations, said it wanted the U.N.'s most powerful body to send a strong signal that it will not tolerate the escalating problem.
For the first time, the U.N. secretary-general has begun naming the countries of alleged perpetrators, which is meant to pressure states to investigate and prosecute allegations that, U.N. records show, they often have let slide.
Egypt and several other countries had argued that the council resolution would punish thousands of peacekeepers for the actions of a few. They say the issue should be addressed in the General Assembly instead. But General Assembly actions are not legally binding, while Security Council resolutions are.