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The UN in action....

Old 05-28-08, 05:27 PM
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The UN in action....

I probably should have put this in a "Media bias" thread, as this is a story that will most certainly NOT be plastered over the front page worldwide for months on end---and since it's mostly poor black Africans who are the victims, and Americans and Jews can't be immediately blamed, this story will not really have legs. If it's Americans in Abu Grhaib, or Israelis causing civilian casualties when battling militants, you can bet the global media outrage will follow---and I don't have a problem with that---worldwide popular and media indignation is often an important factor in reforms being made. But if anyone thinks this story is going to be reported as doggedly as Abu Ghraib, they're dreaming. And I would further argue that people putting their faith in supra-national organizations as being morally superior to the traditional democratic nation-states are being very naive.

Sex abuse by peacekeepers still a problem, says report

By Mike Pflanz
Tue May 27, 5:00 AM ET



Man, Ivory Coast - Half a year before 12-year-old Elizabeth was raped by 10 United Nations peacekeepers, a gathering of the world's humanitarian agencies hammered out promises to end sexual abuse of children by aid staff.

Much more would be done, promised delegates at the Dec. 2006 conference in New York. Investigations would be faster, punishments harsher, codes of conduct strengthened.

But the findings of an investigation released Tuesday by Save The Children suggest that these commitments are still, largely, words on paper.

Of the 341 children in Haiti, South Sudan, and Ivory Coast who spoke to the British agency during its 12 month investigation, more than half reported cases of being coerced into sex, often in return for the very food or protection aid staff or peacekeepers were there to provide.

A third knew of cases of children who had been raped.

Elizabeth (not her real name) knew nothing of the commitments to stop this exploitation as she walked to her mother's fields with her brother early one June morning last year close to Man, 375 miles northwest of Ivory Coast's commercial capital, Abidjan.

The men with the blue helmets who called to her from behind the sandbags of their camp's guard position, however, should have known.

The United Nations, to whom they were contracted as peacekeepers, has said repeatedly that it drills into its staff and representatives a code of conduct which explicitly forbids sexual interaction with people under 18.

"They called my little brother over and gave him biscuits," she told The Monitor last week in a village close to Man, as she nervously fiddled with the material of her yellow cotton skirt, her eyes downcast.

"I refused to go, but one man came to me and held me .... I could not flee. They were big men. Afterwards, I ran to my village. I was crying all night ...."

The girl who used to be, according to her aunt, "active and playful" is now withdrawn and fearful. She has dropped out of school, too afraid to leave the security of her parents' village.

She freezes at the sight of the white four-wheel-drive vehicles used by the UN and aid agencies who operate in this once war-torn corner of her country.

Despite the findings of its report and cases such as Elizabeth's, Save The Children commended the UN and other agencies on efforts already made to end abuse of children.

The UN's own watchdog, the Office of Internal Oversight Services, has established field offices in many of the countries where abuse has been reported.

Each mission has a conduct and discipline office, which coordinates a raft of trained staffers in the field who are publicly the first focal point for allegations of abuse.

Peacekeepers and staff preparing for new missions are inducted into the UN's policies and punishments for child abuse.

"A lot has been done, a lot is underway. But the fact is that more needs to be done," says Nick Birnback, public affairs chief at the UN department for peackeeping operations in New York. "We agree that this an important and an underreported problem, and we're doing everything we can on our side to train and monitor our civilian staff."

But according to Heather Kerr, country director of Save The Children in Ivory Coast, the horror of such attacks is followed by a second abuse, that of silence and impunity towards the perpetrators.

The majority of the children interviewed for Tuesday's report, titled "No-one To Turn To," said that they would not report a case of abuse themselves and had never heard of others doing so.

Few here trust local authorities or the aid agencies or peacekeeping missions to sensitively investigate allegations and punish perpetrators.

"It's not just the initial attack, it's the fear of reporting it, the fear of reprisals, the fear of stigma from being identified as someone who has been raped," says Ms. Kerr.

The UN received 371 allegations of sexual exploitation or abuse against children and adults by UN staff in 2006, but figures show that less than half of complaints are resolved within 12 months.

"In recent years, some important commitments have been made by the UN, the wider international community, and by humanitarian and aid agencies to act on this problem," says Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save The Children in Britain. "But welcome as these are, in most cases statements of principle and good intent have yet to be converted into really decisive and concerted international action."

Her organization is calling for a global watchdog agency to be set up to monitor international agencies' efforts to tackle abuse.

The watchdog, which should be in place by the end of this year, the report says, would both monitor and evaluate agencies, confirming that they have appropriate child-protection policies and whether they were being implemented.

In Elizabeth's case, her family reported the rape the next day to the UN peacekeeping office. But no investigation was conducted.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20080527/ts_csm/ochild_1

Last edited by Ky-Fi; 05-28-08 at 05:29 PM.
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Old 05-28-08, 05:28 PM
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I've been meaning to watch The Devil Came in On Horseback. I remember seeing a scene that specifically showed or talked about this problem. I'm not sure if the UN was the problem or local peacekeepers.
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Old 05-28-08, 06:54 PM
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Having essentially no accountability makes this a little easier. Who next, the Catholic Church?
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Old 05-28-08, 07:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Ky-Fi
If it's Americans in Abu Grhaib, or Israelis causing civilian casualties when battling militants, you can bet the global media outrage will follow---and I don't have a problem with that---worldwide popular and media indignation is often an important factor in reforms being made. But if anyone thinks this story is going to be reported as doggedly as Abu Ghraib, they're dreaming.
It should be reported as doggedly but is isn't. Now part of that is because, to use a sports analogy, if someone on the Yankees, Lakers or Cowboys gets in trouble, it invariably gets much more press than if it were any other team.

Sadly, I'd file that in the "who cares" category intead of the "media bias" one.

And I would further argue that people putting their faith in supra-national organizations as being morally superior to the traditional democratic nation-states are being very naive.
I tend to view this as "putting your faith in humans is often naive". I don't get how the actions of some soldiers/peacekeepers can be used to assess the "morality level" of an entire country and/or organization. Which means that your thread title sucks.

Last edited by eXcentris; 05-28-08 at 07:29 PM.
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Old 05-28-08, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
I don't get how the actions of some soldiers/peacekeepers can be used to assess the "morality level" of an entire country and/or organization.
That's a nice abstract philosophy to be pondered in ivory towers. And in fact, I think it was probably voiced by many Germans during WWII. However, as the war drew to a close, and the shit approached the proverbial fan with the allies closing in on Germany from both sides, of course many Germans threw that philosophy out the window and came to terms with reality: they risked life and limb to get West to surrender to the Americans/British/Canadian forces as opposed to surrendering to the Russians. Unlike the Russians, I'm fairly sure that when Canadian troops liberated a German town, they didn't rape, pillage and send everything that wasn't nailed down back to Ottawa.
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Old 05-28-08, 09:08 PM
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If you want evidence of organizational corruption you have to look at another ongoing UN scandal. Here we have not just a few bad apples rearming and assisting brutal warlords for cash, but the UN burying the investigation.
Who Will Watch the Peacekeepers?
By MATTHIAS BASANISI
Published: May 23, 2008
Bern, Switzerland

The United Nations, facing criticism that it has failed to police itself in Congo, has hit back in recent days. Press officers insist that there is no problem. Based on my own experience, I disagree.

The BBC and Human Rights Watch have both brought forward evidence that the United Nations covered up evidence of gold smuggling and arms trafficking by its peacekeepers in Congo. The peacekeepers are said to have had illegal dealings with one of the most murderous militias in the country, where millions have died in one of the bloodiest yet least visible conflicts in the world.

Last month, Inga-Britt Ahlenius, the head of the Office of Internal Oversight Services at the United Nations, told the BBC that her investigators drew the right conclusions based on the evidence they found: that there was little that warranted prosecution or further investigation.

I wish that were true. I was the investigator in charge of the United Nations team that in 2006 looked into allegations of abuses by Pakistani peacekeepers in Congo and found them credible. But the investigation was taken away from my team after we resisted what we saw as attempts to influence the outcome.
My fellow team members and I were appalled to see that the oversight office’s final report was little short of a whitewash.

The reports we submitted to the office’s senior management in 2006 included credible information from witnesses confirming illegal deals between Pakistani peacekeepers and warlords from the Front for National Integration, an ethnic militia group notorious for its cruelty even in such a brutal war. We found corroborative information that senior officers of the Pakistani contingent secretly returned seized weapons to two warlords in exchange for gold, and that the Pakistani peacekeepers tipped off two warlords about plans by the United Nations peacekeeping force and the Congolese Army to arrest them. And yet, much of the evidence we uncovered was excluded from the final report released last summer, including corroboration from the warlords themselves.

I resigned from the Office of Internal Oversight Services in May 2007. But that does not mean I am alone in my concerns. Former colleagues of mine who recently investigated similar allegations against Indian peacekeepers in Congo are worried that some of their most serious findings will also be ignored and not investigated further.

What’s more, two outside management reports have been critical of the oversight office and its work. Ms. Ahlenius, who has been in charge of the office since 2005, says that she agrees with those criticisms. Secretiveness, she told The Washington Post earlier this month, “serves us extremely poorly.”

Indeed. So why does it continue under her watch?

The oversight office hires experienced investigators. Those investigators are required to respect the highest standards of integrity. And yet the office has done little to ensure that management lives up to its own standards. One likely reason for the watered-down reports is that Pakistan and India are the largest contributors of troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions and no one wants to offend them.

I met and worked with many of these peacekeepers and found the majority of them to be professional soldiers willing to risk their lives to bring peace to countries like Congo. But if peacekeepers of any nationality are found to have committed serious crimes, the United Nations must say so. The organization cannot close its eyes and ears to evidence of misconduct. Such behavior undermines peacekeeping efforts everywhere.

It would be shocking to think that the United Nations’ own investigative body is reluctant to act on evidence of cooperation between peacekeepers and alleged war criminals. The United Nations must be prepared to deal with crimes by peacekeepers in the eastern Congo; it must also be prepared to tell the truth.

Matthias Basanisi was the deputy chief investigator with the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services in Congo from 2005 to 2007.
From what I recall the initial UN investigation resulted in 3 Pakistani soldiers being returned to Pakistan, where they did not face any additional punishment.
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Old 05-28-08, 09:11 PM
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In the thread title you accidentally put a space between "in" and "action".
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