While people within the UN make all the right noises when the issue is raised, it does not often translate into actionby Hannah Bryce / January 30, 2018 / Leave a comment
After allegations about harassment broke recently, a picture has begun to form of the UN as being both a promoter and defender of women’s rights but, at the same time, consistently turning a blind eye to sexual abuse and exploitation perpetrated by its own staff, and others working under the UN flag and rules.
In response to reports of sexual assault and harassment within the organisation going unpunished, Jan Beagle, under-secretary general for management at the UN, has re-asserted the UN policy of zero tolerance of sexual harassment and abuse. “Even one case of sexual harassment, anywhere, is one too many,” she said.
Rather than reassure however, this instead highlights the real problem: the difference that exists between theory and practice when it comes to accountability within the UN.
This gap has created and sustained an institutional culture that not only fails to address pernicious behaviour, but may in fact perpetuate it by offering a smokescreen of credibility.
A patchwork of reports and stories over the last few years suggests that sexual abuse is rife and largely unchecked within UN operations. Between 2004 and 2016, over 2,000 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse have been made against UN peacekeepers—those who wear blue helmets and work under UN rules, even if they are personnel temporarily assigned from the services of member states.