Musical chairs at UN – top officials rotate posts

The UN spokesperson told journalists Tuesday that “The Secretary-General has [announced his intention] to appoint Mr. Ashraf Jehangir Qazi of Pakistan as his Special Representative for Sudan. He succeeds Mr. Jan Pronk of the Netherlands, who left the post last year”. She indicated that Qazi has ended his time in Iraq, and will begin work in Sudan, where he will be based in Khartoum, on 4 November.

On Wednesday, the UN spokesperson announced that “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Stefan de Mistura, who is Swedish and Italian, as his Special Representative for Iraq, in succession to Ashraf Qazi … Mr. de Mistura has already served in Iraq under Mr. Qazi as Deputy Special Representative in 2005 and 2006. Before that he was then Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Personal Representative for Southern Lebanon for four years”.

The UN News Centre [the UN uses British-English spelling] reports that “the Spokeswoman added, in response to a question, that no decision had been made yet on who would replace Michael Williams as the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process”.

U.S.: Sudan cooperates on counterterrorism issues, so that's good. What it's doing in Darfur is something different.

The U.S. State Department spokesman today explained the nuances in the reasoning of the U.S. position on counterterrorism cooperation vs. genocide:

“MR. CASEY: … In terms of the nature of listing issues, well, again, as you well know, being designated a state sponsor of terror is something that takes a very thorough and lengthy legal review. And getting off that list, as we saw in the case with Libya and as we’ve talked about in the context of the commitment to beginlooking at a review process for North Korea, is also something that takes a great deal of time. I think our report reflects our understanding of the status of current cooperation between the Sudanese Government and counterterrorism officials more broadly here in the United States. But saying that in the calendar year that that report covers — that Sudan maintain positive cooperation on counterterrorism issues, certainly doesn’t mean that there are no remaining questions about their record, or that any kind of legal finding has been determined, that they are no longer — or that they should be removed from that list … As part of discussions as part of the North South agreement, I know they certainly raised their concerns about remaining on the list to us. As I recall, there is certainly no formal commitment to start or begin a review of that. But it was an issue that was discussed. And as I recall, there was something along the lines of saying, as things progressed, we might be in a position to begin such a review after the agreement was signed and implemented.

QUESTION: Even as the genocide was persistent in Darfur?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, George, I think this was an issue that was discussed in the lengthy negotiations over many years, related to the North South agreement … Countries can in fact actually do positive things in one area, even while they’re doing extremely negative things in another. But the point of the matter is there has never been a decision taken to begin a review of Sudan’s status as a state sponsor of terror and I’m not aware of any plans to begin such a review now”.

DPB # 80 – released on May 4, 2007

Jan Pronk’s final advice to UN staff in Sudan last December

This was posted recently on Jan Pronk’s blog:

“Weblog nr 41
February 25, 2007
Before my final departure from Sudan in December last year I addressed the UN staff in Khartoum and Juba. In my address I presented fifteen guidelines for peacekeepers. Several colleagues asked me to put these on paper. Here they are:

First: United Nations peacekeepers in a country are visitors. Their presence is temporary. Their function is catalytic, no more. Peace ought to be home grown.

Second: There is no peacekeeping without peace. Peace, to be made by the parties to a conflict themselves, should precede efforts to keep the peace.

Third: The sovereignty of a state has to be respected, but brought into balance with the protection of the people within that state. Keep that balance!

Fourth: Respect national traditions and domestic cultures

Fifth: International staff members should respect national staff members, their views and their positions. They are vulnerable: they have no ticket to leave the country. They know their country better than you.
National staff members should have patience with international staff members.
They could have chosen for comfort back home. They are idealists, or anyway, once they have been idealists.

Sixth: All UN staff members have the duty to follow a unified approach, in whichever agency they work, as peacekeepers or as humanitarian and development workers. That implies a commitment to the same goals and a duty to respect the same boundary conditions, for instance those set by the Security Council representing the international community. A unified approach of all UN agencies also implies the duty to consult each other about each other’s work, the duty to cooperate and to use a common infrastructure and common services. Finally this unified approach requires the acceptance of a unified command.

Seventh: Delegate, decentralize, trust your staff and show this to them.

Eight: Work as a team.

Nine: The field is more important than headquarters. People in headquarters should understand this. But those who are working in the field, when critical about headquarters, should be aware that they are not “the” field, but that, farther away, other colleagues may consider them too as a headquarter

Ten: Never be satisfied. There is no room for complacency, despite many achievements.

Eleven: Insecurity, risk, uncertainty and political pressure are not a hindrance, but a challenge. They are no exceptions to a normal and stable pattern. They are not exogenous factors, but inherent to peacekeeping.

Twelve: Fight bureaucracy. Fight also the bureaucrat in yourself. Stay a movement; keep the spirit of a pioneer.

Thirteen: Care for people. People first.

Fourteen: Peacekeeping is a calling, not a job

Fifteen: Please, stay”

SG BAN at African Union Summit – Darfur and Somalia on agenda

The continuing conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region is what the new UN Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON has said is his top priority at the moment, and he is in Addis Ababa to discuss this and other matters with African leaders meeting at the African Union Summit.

In a keynote address at the Summit meeting on Monday, BAN urged African leaders to back the urgent deployment of a joint force of UN and African Union peacekeepers. BAN also said that conditions for humanitarian aid workers in Darfur were perilous.

Some of the issues on the agenda have many layers of complication.

Sudan had been in line to assume the rotating presidency of the African Union, and Sudan’s President Al-Bashir was pressing the case. On Monday, however, the African Union elected, instead, Ghana’s President John Kufuor as the new AU leader. (Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is from Ghana, and it is not impossible to imagine him involved in negotiations on Darfur or other issues on the AU agenda.)

Sudan was supposed to assume the AU presidency in 2006, but faced objections — precisely because it was considered unseemly and inappropriate, while the conflict in Darfur continued. However much of a simplification it may be, there is nevertheless a persistent belief that there are racialist components to Sudan’s internal conflicts — which is unacceptable to modern-day Africa.

In recent years, the word “genocide” – a term weighty with international law and treaty implications – has been mentioned in connection with the conflict in Darfur, but it has not been heard much recently.

Last year, Sudan’s President Al-Bashir agreed to postpone for one year his taking office as African Union head, while a Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was negotiated and finally pushed through, with African Union and international mediation (mainly U.S. and British) last May.

(Interestingly, SG BAN did not mention the DPA in remarks to journalists after his meeting with Sudan’s President Al-Bashir in Addis Ababa on Monday — he pointedly spoke only of the CPA, which is the Comprehensive Political Agreement reached between the Government and southern Sudan: “I reiterated the UN’s strong commitment to the political process in Sudan, emphasizing the centrality of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the importance of its timely and effective implementation…”)

President Al-Bashir has so far adamantly refused to accept UN Peacekeeping in Darfur, even at the cost of defying a UN Security Council resolution adopted late last year.

An interim agreement has permitted a few specialized UN Peacekeeping military and police forces and other personnel, as well as equipment, to deploy in Darfur, but they are functioning in support of the African Unit peacekeepers there.

One big question is the Addis Ababa meeting: can President Al-Bashir be persuaded to drop his opposition to the larger United Nations Peacekeeping presence in Darfur that has already been approved by the UN Security Council?

After the talks between UN SG BAN and Sudan’s President in Addis Ababa on Monday, Reuters news agency reported that “Sudanese presidential adviser Majzoub al-Khalifa said there was consensus on the first two stages of U.N. support for a 7,500-strong African Union mission in Darfur, but there was no agreement to deploy a hybrid force. ‘We are in full agreement on the first and second stages. We began discussions on the third stage,’ Khalifa told Reuters after 1-1/2 hours of talks which made Bashir late for a meeting of African leaders to decide the chair of the pan-African body. The violence in Darfur generated strong opposition to Sudan taking over the AU chairmanship in Addis, as promised a year ago. Sudan said it eventually withdrew to avoid dividing the continent. Khalifa said: ‘We have agreed on a hybrid operation not a hybrid force‘.”

The conflict in Darfur is an internal Sudanese dispute. But, UN member states have accepted that there is a “responsibility to protect” populations being victimized within their own countries. In addition, spill-over effects from the conflict in Darfur, including cross-border incidents, have given it an international dimension which some governments (France is apparently leading in this) argue gives justification for also putting UN peacekeepers in neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic, and this has already come under discussion in the UN Security Council.

Alex de Waal, who has participated as an expert adviser in the Darfur peace negotiations, wrote in the London Review of Books last November that “Military intervention won’t stop the killing. Those who are clamouring for troops to fight their way into Darfur are suffering from a salvation delusion. It’s a simple reality that UN troops can’t stop an ongoing war, and their record at protecting civilians is far from perfect. Moreover, the idea of Bush and Blair acting as global moral arbiters doesn’t travel well. The crisis in Darfur is political. It’s a civil war, and like all wars it needs a political settlement”.

The Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), finalised in May 2006, was signed by the Sudan government and just one of the rebel factions. De Waal wrote: “Had the leader of the main part of the Sudan Liberation Movement also signed, the current crisis would not have happened”. In addition, he pointed out that “It doesn’t specify a UN peacekeeping force – this issue was left for the UN to negotiate with Khartoum”.

De Waal also wrote that “Allowing in UN troops to police a ceasefire and implement a peace agreement that will help the Congress Party consolidate its place in Sudan is one thing. Allowing in ‘international forces’ – the Arabic term, quwat al dauliya, is the same as the one used for coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan – midway through a conflict, with an open-ended mandate, is quite another.

The combination of a huge international force – it would take many more than the 20,000 estimated to be needed to enforce a ceasefire – and 8000 Minawi troops with, Khartoum suspects, direct US backing, would in effect bring about a separation of Darfur from the rest of the country…Bashir’s other main fear is that a UN force would be mandated to execute International Criminal Court arrest warrants. With indictments expected soon, Bashir is fearful that his close military colleagues are likely to be on the list”.

Jan Pronk, the former Special Representative of former UN SG Kofi Annan, who was declared persona non grata in October by the Sudanese government — and who later lamented the lack of support he received from the UN bureaucracy — wrote on his blog on 13 March 2006 that: “The political climate in Sudan towards the UN is deteriorating. In the press statements have been published citing civil society organizations calling for ‘resistance against foreign intervention’, ‘raising the flag of Jihad’, warning both the international community and Sudanese authorities not to ‘help the colonization to come to Darfur’, referring to the West as ‘the devil’, calling for martyrdom and for a readiness to sacrifice and ‘to repulse any attack’, announcing a ‘graveyard for the invaders’. In most statements reference is made to the examples of Afghanistan and Iraq. Clearly the majority of the people assume that there are UN forces in these two countries. This is not the case, but opinion leaders and the public do not make a distinction between the UN and the US or NATO. Those who are aware of the difference express their fear that the UN will pave the way for the US and NATO or say that the UN is an instrument in the hands of the US.”

On the same post, Jan Pronk write that “An award of $100.000 has been promised to the person who will kill me. This has been published in the newspaper Al Watan, with the name of the organization and its leader who have announced this award. It goes with the job and we cannot afford to be intimidated…”

Pronk’s mandate from the UN ended on 31 December.

Pronk write on his blog on 5 March 2006 that he had “brought two messages to my colleagues in New York and to the ambassador members of the Security Council. First: the people must be protected and we can no longer wait. Second: do not organize the protection in such a way that the peace keepers become part of the problem, rather than the solution…. my thoughts went back to Srebrenica, 1995. Will we make the same mistakes, or other, with similar consequences?”

Toward the end of last year, the UN says, Sudan’s President Al-Bashir had “responded positively to three-phase approach presented by the United Nations and the African Union as a package.”

The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) reported a first meeting on 11 December in Khartoum of a Tripartite Mechanism, composed of representatives of UNMIS, the African Union and the Sudanese Government: “They were discussing how to implement the $21 million UN support package to AMIS, the first part of a three-phase process that is expected to eventually culminate in a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur.”

However, on 10 January, there was a conflicting indication. The Times of London reported that “Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has rejected the deployment of UN troops in Darfur, saying they were not required,” and that African Union troops were sufficient, the Times (London) reported. “His comment contradicted statements by Sudanese officials, who said last month the government would accept a limited number of UN forces…”

The next day, UN SG BAN KI-MOON told journalists at UNHQ/NY he had just spoken with Jan Eliasson, the Special Representative for Darfur, who was in Sudan that morning, “and he is encouraged by his meetings with President Bashir and other Sudanese leaders…he was assured of very strong cooperation and assistance on the part of the Sudanese Government and President to have a very good cooperation among United Nations, Sudanese Government and the African Union. Therefore, I’m not quite sure about what he said about this so-called – you said ‘rejection’ – of UN forces. Because of the sensitivity of this situation, I’m not in a position to tell you much in detail…I can tell you at this time that this is on the highest priority which I am pursuing…[but] I am not in a position to disclose all what I have been discussing with African leaders.”

Sudanese and UN officials have also said that recent accusations of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers in southern Sudan may be another factor that could jeopardize UN deployment in Darfur.

Ban told journalists in New York: “I will also stress the UN policy on sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping personnel and others: zero tolerance means zero complacency and zero impunity. In the coming months, I will work with Member States to forge an ever stronger partnership to ensure that accountability is brought to bear — among the perpetrators, and among their commanders and superiors.”

Meanwhile, the African Union (AU) meeting is being held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, where the AU secretariat is located. The UN also has its African regional office in Addis Ababa.

But, Ethiopian troops (with U.S. training and backing) have recently invaded neighboring Somalia — albeit in support of a Provisional Somalia Government that is supported by the UN Security Council.

The target of the Ethiopian military strike was the Islamic Courts grouping, which was able to bring some degree of law and order where the Provisional Somalia Government had been unable to do so. (The Ethiopians say that the Islamic Courts were getting help from Ethiopia’s arch-rival, Eritrea. It was only a quick hop and a jump from there to claim that the Ethiopian military action in Somalia was a strike against international terrorism, al-Qaeda, and “Islamic fascism”.)

The situation in Somalia is also on the agenda at the African Union Summit.

Zero tolerance – let’s talk about it

“The Secretary-General is very aware of the need to stress a ‘zero tolerance’ policy among the troops”, the UN spokesperson reported on Thursday, and will probably make this point in person during an upcoming trip to Africa, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at the end of January. 

The UN policy of “zero tolerance” was enunciated sometime in 2005, following months of reporting of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN Peacekeepers in the DR Congo, and in Burundi, in 2004. 

There were reports in 2002 of sexual exploitation and abuse involving UN personnel, working for the UN High Commissioner of Refugees, who were supposed to be distributing humanitarian aid in Africa.  (In 2005, the then-UN High Commissioner for Refugees, former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers, resigned after being accused by one of his colleagues of humiliating sexual fondling in their Geneva offices.)

The UN News Centre is reporting that “As part of the United Nations zero tolerance policy towards sexual exploitation, the world body’s mission in Sudan today [Thursday, apparently] agreed with the Government and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to set up a joint task force to foster coordination, information-sharing and action to stamp out the problem wherever it may occur. The agreement was reached during a one-day workshop in the Sudanese capital Khartoum that focused on policies aimed at preventing sexual exploitation and abuse being committed by military personnel, including peacekeepers, humanitarian workers and others.  ‘The Task force’s mandate is to coordinate measures to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation; ensure more effective communication on the subject between all actors concerned from the UN and the Government of Sudan; and review existing mechanisms for reporting, response and follow up on allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation,’ according to a joint press release.  The meeting took place at the initiative of the Sudanese National Council for Child Welfare (NCCW), and as well as involving the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and UNICEF, the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) also took part.  Participants acknowledged that sexual exploitation and abuse occur in most communities fragmented by conflict and devastated by war and poverty, and also that these acts are not exclusive to UN personnel, military or civilian, humanitarian workers or armed forces and armed groups of the country concerned.  [Oh!...] This latest move to prevent and clamp down upon sexual exploitation comes after recent media reports of abuses by UN peacekeepers in southern Sudan, something that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other top officials have adamantly declared will not be tolerated.

Is it the media reports, or the abuses, that will not be tolerated?

Meanwhile, Sudanese press reports indicate that the Government is not quite as satisfied as the UN about the response to the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse [now apparently known by the acronym SEA].

The Daily Media Monitoring report of the UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) contains this item: “The Minister of foreign affairs, Dr. Lam Akol stated that his ministry will coordinate efforts with all the concerned government authorities to make pressure on the United Nations to receive the results of its investigations regarding the rape cases committed by UN peacekeepers personnel in south Sudan.  Dr. Lam Akol briefed the national assembly on the results of meeting conducted between Sudan and Ambassador to UN and the UNSG Ki Moon [at UNHQ/NY].  The UNSG confirmed during the meeting that the United Nations will take measures against those who violated UN regulations that govern peacekeeping operations. Dr. Lam Akol added that the UNSG confirmed that he will give special attention to the investigations looking for cooperation with the concerned Sudanese authorities.  Foreign Minister reiterated the government condemnation of the immoral crimes committed by the UN peacekeepers in south Sudan adding that the Sudan will request compensation for the victims. Dr. Lam Akol called for punishing those who committed such crimes in their duty places to avoid escaping the punishment. He stressed that Sudan will ask the United Nations to provide it with the results of the investigations that started in 2005.”

Some Sudanese want more than compensation — they also want an apology, from the UN. 

An editorial in the Sudan Tribune (6 Jan 07), “UN must apologize to Sudanese” states that “In order that people forgive such crimes by the UN personnel [it] is [necessary?] to apologise to the Sudanese people for the misdeeds its staff have done against the minors in southern Sudan.  This is the only way out to settle such crime also it must be followed a proper and independent investigate into the matter. Without such a step people would consider UN troops as wrong elements.” — contained in a UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) Daily Media Monitoring Report on 7 January.

SG BAN — Darfur tops list of priorities

Asked about the Sudanese President’s reported rejection of UN Peacekeeping forces for Darfur, UN SG BAN KI-MOON told journalists at UNHQ/NY on Thursday that “I just spoke with Mr. Eliasson [Jan Eliasson is the Special Represenative for Darfur, who is now in Sudan] this morning, and he is encouraged by his meetings with President Bashir and other Sudanese leaders…he was assured of very strong cooperation and assistance on the part of the Sudanese Government and President to have a very good cooperation among United Nations, Sudanese Government and the African Union. Therefore, I’m not quite sure about what he said about this so-called – you said ‘rejection’ – of UN forces. Because of the sensitivity of this situation, I’m not in a position to tell you much in detail, but I can assure you that this is again on top of my priority agendas and I’ll discuss myself on this matter with the President of Sudan…We are committed to implementing this agreement which had already been made, and this is what we have been discussing, including the contribution, diplomatic negotiation and contribution, made by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. So the recent talk with Mr. Jan Eliasson with the President [Omar al Bashir] should give us some good prospect in implementing this agreement. And I will follow up this matter…As you may understand, this involves many difficult political dimensions on this matter itself, so I need to discuss this matter with, first of all, the Sudanese Government and the African Union Commission, as well as many leaders of the African Union who are involved in these issues. Therefore, I can tell you at this time that this is on the highest priority which I am pursuing…I am not in a position to disclose all what I have been discussing with African leaders.” 

SG BAN says he will travel to the African Union summit meeting in Addis Ababa at the end of January to continue these discussions in person. 

Sudanese and UN officials have said that recent accusations of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers in southern Sudan may jeopardize UN deployment in Darfur.  Ban was not asked about this in his press conference on Thursday, but commented nevertheless: “I will also stress the UN policy on sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping personnel and others: zero tolerance means zero complacency and zero impunity. In the coming months, I will work with Member States to forge an ever stronger partnership to ensure that accountability is brought to bear — among the perpetrators, and among their commanders and superiors.”

Daily Telegraph takes six months to publish accusations of UN Peacekeeper abuse of children in southern Sudan

The accusations are sickening — so why did it take the London newspaper, Daily Telegraph, six months to publish them?  Were they waiting for Kofi Annan to leave?  Were they making sure their own investigative reporting was complete and correct?

The accusations were published in the article UN staff accused of raping children in Sudan, written by Kate Holt in Juba and Sarah Hughes – Last Updated: 12:27pm GMT 03/01/2007

The Daily Telegraph reports that: “The abuse allegedly began two years ago when the UN mission in southern Sudan (UNMIS) moved in to help rebuild the region after a 23-year civil war. The UN has up to 10,000 military personnel in the region, of all nationalities and the allegations involve peacekeepers, military police and civilian staff.  The first indications of sexual exploitation emerged within months of the UN force’s arrival and The Daily Telegraph has seen a draft of an internal report compiled by the UN children’s agency Unicef in July 2005 detailing the problem.  In a six-month investigation, Kate Holt gathered more than 20 victims’ accounts claiming that peacekeeping and civilian staff based in the town are regularly picking up young children in their UN vehicles and forcing them to have sex. It is thought that hundreds of children may have been abused”

What?  UNICEF has known about it for a year and a half? 

Hang on for a minute, and let’s go back to the UN itself.  

The Daily Telegraph says that “Responding to the report, Jane Holl Lute, the UN assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping, said: ‘There could be truth. These environments are ones in which it is difficult to ascertain the truth…I do not believe these are new allegations. Nevertheless, we will treat them as seriously as we treat all other allegations,’ she told the Associated Press in New York.  She said she had spoken to the force commander and chief of staff in the UN mission in southern Sudan ‘and I know they are very well briefed on what UN policy is and have taken steps to implement that policy across the board in that mission…But we don’t have the facts yet in this case, and we need to ascertain the facts and follow it through to appropriate resolution and take action if necessary.  We won’t be complacent and there will be no impunity to the full extent of the UN’s authority’.”

Of course, that is a pretty big qualification — the UN actually says it has little or no authority over its peacekeeping troops, because they are not, technically, UN staff members.  Peacekeepers are provided by their own national governments and are not subject to UN disciplinary procedures, nor, by agreements (yes, worked out by the UN) with the countries in which the troops are deployed, are they subject to prosecution in the “host countries”.  The UN says all it can do is to send any miscreants home, and hope they will be punished there.  Until now, that has not really happened. 

That is, they haven’t been punished — though some, a few, have been sent home.  The UN spokesperson said on Tuesday that four UN Peacekeepers have been sent home already from southern Sudan; on Wednesday, she said that these four UN Peacekeepers were from Bangladesh, and they were sent home months ago. 

It seems to be taking the new SG’s team, which has only been in place for four days, some time to read in on this issue.  The UN spokeswoman also said on Wednesday that ” As of today, there are 13 ongoing investigations regarding allegations of serious misconduct, including sexual exploitation and abuse, she said   A UN team ‘that has been working on these matters’ has been in Sudan since February 2006.  Asked whether the cases being investigated were the same as those reported in the Daily Telegraph, the Spokeswoman said that would need to be determined. The cases that the United Nations is studying date back to 2005. She noted that the Telegraph article had mentioned one nightclub that has for months been a ‘no go’ area for UN personnel.”

The UN, however, could threaten to send back a whole national contingent, if its members were accused of sexual abuse, couldn’t it?  Countries are dependent on the UN allowances, paid by special assessments to Member States, to governments which contribute troops and other force participants to a UN Peackeeping operation.   They might respond to a threat to cut off their allowances (daily, deployment, and more…)

UN Watch, an NGO established by a former U.S. Ambassador in Geneva in 1993 with the primary purpose of watching out for what the UN does regarding Israel, today called on BAN KI-MOON and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to establish an international inquiry into the allegations reported by the Daily Telegraph:  “UN Watch has been one of the leading non-governmental organizations urging the Human Rights Council to take action against Sudan’s atrocities in Darfur. We represented the largest NGO coalition at the recent special Council session on Darfur and played a similar leading role in other UN human rights forums. It was UN Watch’s intervention that led the UN Working Group on Minorities to hold Sudan to account in its report last year… We were shocked to read of the allegations—detailed in a 2005 internal UNICEF report and corroborated by evidence gathered by the Daily Telegraph and NGOs in the region—that, since they were deployed two years ago, UN peacekeepers in Southern Sudan have regularly been sexually abusing children who already have suffered so much in the recent civil war. In our advocacy, we have consistently argued for UN intervention to protect civilians in Darfur from the horror of mass rapes, killings and displacement. We continue to believe that an international force in the western region of Sudan will bring far more help than harm to that region’s victims.  But unless the UN takes immediate, firm and sustained action against the reported abuses by its personnel in other regions of Sudan—and indeed around the world—we fear that today’s allegations will pose a setback to this effort.  Last month, former Secretary-General Annan said there would be ‘zero tolerance’ of sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers. Yet in the case of the current allegations, this appears not to have been the case.  The Daily Telegraph reports that the UN has known about the problems in Southern Sudan for more than a year but has not taken action… Leading experts and NGOs such as Refugees International believe that sexual abuse by peacekeepers of young victims is occurring in almost every UN mission around the globe, including in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Kosovo, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Despite allegations of widespread abuse, however, out of approximately 100,000 UN peacekeepers, the UN itself admitted to having knowledge of only two examples of sex offenders being sent to jail (BBC News, December 1, 2006). This shocking failure to take meaningful action against abusers creates a culture of impunity that can be tolerated no longer.  We welcome yesterday’s announcement by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Jane Holl Lute that the current allegations would be investigated — but a business-as-usual investigation is simply not enough…We propose the following:
• A high-level investigation led by a team of major international figures with full independent powers to collect and examine information and to prosecute sexual abuse by peacekeepers as well other UN officials.
• Additionally, the inquiry should follow the chain of responsibility and examine UN officials who were obliged to but failed to take action to prevent such crimes.
• The inquiry panel should include respected authorities on international law and women’s and children’s rights—people such as Justice Richard J. Goldstone of South Africa, former member of the Volcker Commission on the Iraq Oil for Food program, and University of Michigan law professor Catherine A. Mackinnon, an expert who has successfully litigated on behalf of Bosnian women victims of sexual abuse.
• Separate and additional to the above, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who is responsible for mainstreaming human rights within the UN system, should strongly condemn these abuses, and conduct her own investigation in the region to determine how her office can assist in preventing future cases of UN peacekeeper sexual abuse.”

Are we to understand from this, by the way, that UN Watch knew about the UNICEF internal report on this situation, prepared in 2005???

This story has another dimension, however, and it is alluded to in the letter from UN Watch — the government of Sudan is being pressured to accept large UN participation in a “hybrid” force with African Union forces in Darfur, though the government is apparently still reluctant to go through with the deal. 

The Daily Telegraph reports, in this story of sexual abuse in southern Sudan, that “The UN is pushing to be allowed to launch a new peacekeeping mission there to help end the humanitarian crisis that has spiralled in recent years. The Telegraph understands that the Sudanese government, which is deeply opposed to the deployment of UN troops to Darfur, has also gathered evidence, including video footage of Bangladeshi UN workers having sex with three young girls.”

The Daily Telegraph includes some pompous, ridiculous, very unbecoming, and utterly reprehensible comments made by a UN official to their reporter “on the ground” — admittedly, made six months back, in May: “The British regional co-ordinator for UNMIS, James Ellery, has refuted the claims, arguing that there is no substantiating evidence.  ‘I will refute all claims made on this issue,’ he said in an interview last May. ‘We investigated all allegations made and no evidence was forthcoming. None of these claims can be substantiated. This is the most backward country in Africa and there are lots of misunderstandings as to the UN’s role. Over 90 per cent of people here are illiterate and rumours therefore spread very quickly.’
Mr Ellery insisted that his organisation was following correct codes of conduct.
‘We provide regular briefings on the UN code of conduct. Nobody employed by the UN is meant to have sexual contact at all with any local person,’ he said.  He did, however, appear to acknowledge that the organisation might not be able to ensure that all its staff behave according to standards.
‘We are applying a standard of morality that is very, very high but we cannot expect that soldiers when they go abroad are going to behave themselves as we think they should.  [what?] There are a wide range of countries being represented in the UN forces and among these there is always going to be a bad apple’.” 

The local government does not look too good, either, in this report: “The Daily Telegraph has learned that a number of complaints have been made about the behaviour of UN personnel stationed in Juba. Yet those accused have not been tracked down nor has there been any attempt by the UN or local officials to interview those making the accusations.  The fledging government of southern Sudan is believed to be too concerned to maintain good relations with the UN to challenge the organisation… Juba’s county court judge, Ali Said, said that the region had seen an increase in child prostitution since the UN arrived.  ‘The majority of people working for the UN and NGOs are men and need to be entertained. But no cases have come to court,’ he said.  ttp://

Coming back to UNICEF, the report goes on to say that “An unfinished copy of the internal Unicef report, seen by The Daily Telegraph, shows that the UN has been aware of the problem for more than a year.  ‘Evidence suggests that UNMIS staff may already be involved in sexual exploitation,’ the report says. ‘UN cars have been staying into the early hours of the morning, as late as 6am, at a restaurant/disco called Kololo in Juba … adult informants reported seeing a UNMIS car stop along a main road in Juba to pick up three young girls’.”

UNICEF is part of the UN system, but it is also a separate agency, funded not by the UN budget but by its own solicited contributions from individuals and donor countries (remember the UNICEF greeting cards?  And the Halloween trick-or-treat collections?)  Because of its dependence on donations, which depend to large extent on publicity, generated by news stories, UNICEF is seen by other organizations as elbowing competitors to take credit for this or that success, in many humanitarian operations.  So, why did it sit on these accusations, when it could have trumpeted its efforts to protect mothers and children?  Perhaps to protect its position in a UN-led operation?

A separate editorial in today’s Daily Telegraph says “Yet again, the UN shows itself unfit for purpose“: “It wouldn’t be the first time. If UN personnel have, as alleged, been molesting children in southern Sudan, they will be following in a long tradition of abuse. Around the world, UN officials have run smuggling and prostitution rings, stolen and sold supplies, and traded food for sex. Sometimes, the racket becomes institutionalised, as when UN contractors collaborated with Ba’athists on the oil-for-food boondoggle. More often, the organisation is greedy and self-serving, but stops short of outright corruption… The reason that the UN so often behaves badly is, paradoxically, because so many people wish it well. Because the organisation embodies the loftiest of ideals – peace among nations – it tends to receive the automatic benefit of the doubt. We are so fond of the theoretical UN that we rarely drag our gaze down to the actual one. The UN has therefore fallen out of the habit of having to explain itself and, in consequence, become flabby, immobilist and often sleazy…If that criticism sounds too harsh, consider its record since the end of the Cold War – the period in which it might have been expected to come into its own. In Bosnia, it was worse than useless. Uselessness would have meant doing nothing. Instead, the UN imposed an arms embargo that favoured one side over the other, herded the losers into notionally protected areas, disarmed them and then handed them over for execution. In Rwanda, when the UN commander on the ground informed his superiors that a mass slaughter was planned, and that he intended to forestall it by seizing the weapons caches, he was told to do no such thing.  This same combination of being notionally present but practically absent seems to be repeating itself in Darfur today. For the truth is that the UN is structurally flawed: its nature ensures that it is run by careerists whose chief motive is to avoid taking responsibility…Faced with such criticisms, the UN’s defenders trot out the old cliché that if the UN didn’t exist, you’d have to invent it. But is this really true? It is certainly useful to have a forum to arbitrate disputes among states: something that has existed, formally or informally, since the days of the Concert of Europe. But do we really need the large, expensive, unaccountable bureaucracies that come with it? The UN should do less, and do it better.”

These words echo sentiments expressed by BAN KI-MOON and his aides over the past few days — his spokesperson, Michele Montas, said in a UN Radio interview on Tuesday that “the Secretary-General told her reform is a key priority. ‘He wants a more efficient and lean machine, something that can be more able to face the challenges of today – and these challenges are many’…She added that he is seeking to cut red tape. ‘He wants less bureaucracy and he wants to simplify the way we do business at the UN to be able to be more efficient’.”

These are fine ambitions, but what they will mean in practice is something else. 

Unfortunately, the UN Administration’s record is all-too-poor on such matters.  Instead of offending the troop contributing countries — over which the UN says it has no power [blame the Member States, not the Organization — a constant refrain of the UN Secretariat], they will punish the UN staff.  Of course, if a UN staff member has sexually abused anyone, he or she should be punished.  But that’s not how the UN operates, unfortunately.  The UN is unfairly and unjustly pursuing ridulously trumped-up charges against lower-ranking staff members [more to come in future].  The UN is doing what it usually does, piling onto the least powerful target around, and then claiming victory. 

One proposal now under consideration, courtesy of Prince Zeid Al-Hassan, Jordan’s outgoing UN Ambassador, who was also Kofi Annan’s special Adviser on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in UN Peacekeeping Operaions (Jordan is a major troop-contributing country), is to collect DNA samples from men and women (these are not troops, but civilians) being sent on peacekeeping missions.  The DNA samples are to be returned to these personnel once they return from the field! 

[It should also be noted that the UN rarely sends experienced core staff on these missions — their supervisors often resist sending them.  The result is that persons having litle or no experience with, or knowledge of, the UN are sent to remote and difficult locations on critical peacekeeping missions with inadequate or non-existant administrative and other support from headquarters.]

One other reflection — Jane Holl Lute, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, is a former U.S. Army officer.   It has always seemed more than a little cynical to have hire this experienced female military officer to deal with these problems — with little support from the rest of the Organization, it is clear.  She was added to a Department which already had one Assistant Secretary-General, Hedi Annabi from Tunisia, who apparently deals only with the more prestigious and sensitive political questions, but doesn’t get his hands or collar dirty with matters like this.  Now, the lounge lizards will be whispering with barely disguised glee that even the Americans could not deal with this issue.  This factor takes on added significance now, as the U.S. has been signaling for months that it would like to have an American in the top job, as Under-Secretary-General, in the Department for Peacekeeping Operations — and, with BAN KI-MOON taking office, it’s now decision-time.

The Associated Press (AP) reported later, picking up on the Daily Telegraph story, that “U.N. policy prohibits all U.N. staff from engaging in sexual exploitation, abuse or prostitution.  Lute, who served in the U.S. Army for 16 years, stressed that the U.N. has instituted a series of measures in terms of training, clarifying standards and reinforcing messages against sexual abuse.  But she said vigilance on this matter has to be ‘a constant factor of life when you’re rotating through 200,000 troops in as diverse environments as we do’.”

No matter how you look at it, however, dismissing these accusations as the work of only a few “bad apples”, or as something bound to happen when you’re rotating 200,000 troops over whom you have no real control, is just not good enough.

At the daily UN Noon Briefing at UNHQ/NY on Wednesday, spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists that: “We are deeply concerned by press reports of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel in Juba. The UN standard on this issue is clear—zero tolerance, meaning zero complacency and zero impunity. In cooperation with the UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), we are looking into the substance of the press reports to determine if the allegations are new or are existing cases already under investigation.   It is the UN’s policy to treat credible allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse as serious offences to be investigated by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). OIOS has a team permanently based in Sudan which investigates all allegations of abuse. Over the past year, as a result of UN investigations four UNMIS peacekeepers have already been repatriated. The United Nations is working closely with local authorities and all operational partners including our troop contributing countries to ensure that UN personnel adhere to the highest standards of accountability…Asked whether the Secretary-General had contacted UNICEF about its information on the allegations, Montas said that UNICEF’s report was not on sexual abuses by UN peacekeepers, but rather those committed by Sudanese forces. [n.b. This seems to be belied by the quotations from the unpublished UNICEF report cited in the Daily Telegraph story, and mentioned above — it’s only Michele’s second day on the job!]  Asked whether the allegations would complicate UN efforts in Darfur, the Spokeswoman said that was an underlying concern.”

Later in the day, the UN News Centre (under the auspices of the Under-Secretary-General for “Strategic Communications”) beefed up the institutional response with these details:  “The problem of sexual abuse and exploitation by blue helmets surfaced in 2004, when a UN report found that a ‘shockingly large number’ of peacekeepers had engaged in such practices in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with payments for sex sometimes ranging from two eggs to $5 per encounter. The victims included many abandoned orphans who were often illiterate.  The UN responded with forceful policy decisions and disciplinary action. By the end of last November, 319 peacekeeping personnel in all missions had been investigated. These probes resulted in the summary dismissal of 18 civilians and the repatriation on disciplinary grounds of 17 police and 144 military personnel.”

(It should be noted, however, that only the civilians — who will have been given contracts as UN staff members — have been really punished, with summary dismissal, while the police and military personnel have just been repatriated — which is probably not too much of a punishment by comparison with serving in a conflict zone”.) 

It is curious how this story is being ignored by some other media.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Reuters News agency reported that “Sudan on Thursday described the alleged sexual abuse of children by U.N. peacekeepers in south Sudan as ‘outrageous” and said it would launch its own investigation into the affair.  ‘We are very concerned. It is outrageous,” foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig told Reuters.  ‘If anyone has committed such crimes they should face the full weight of the law,’ he added.  He said the Khartoum government would launch an investigation into the matter.  Any U.N. personnel found guilty of such crimes would be dealt with by the United Nations and not under Sudanese law…Asked if the sex abuse allegations would affect Khartoum’s decision on allowing U.N. troops in Darfur, al Sadig said: ”This is exactly why we are so concerned.”