UN Peacekeepers' Sexual Assault Problem

How to End It Once and for All

Peacekeepers serving in the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo stand guard in a formation following  demonstrations in Beni in North Kivu province, October 2014.  Kenny Katombe / REUTERS

When I started working in peacebuilding over 20 years ago, the United Nations was coming under fire because multinational forces working as peacekeepers in Cambodia had sexually abused women and girls and spread HIV/AIDS and other diseases among local populations. In the many years since, UN peacekeepers have been accused of doing the same in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Liberia, and beyond. In 2014, peacekeepers from France and Georgia were implicated in incidents of sexual violence against young children in the Central African Republic. In 2016, following investigations, the UN reported 41 cases of abuse involving peacekeepers from Burundi and Gabon, including eight paternity cases and six filed on behalf of minors.

This violence does not happen only when national forces are deployed as UN peacekeepers. In May 2017, the New York Times reported that similar accusations had been made against the Ugandan People’s Defence Force. Having been deployed to

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