UN peacekeeping operations conduct invaluable work in protecting civilians, peace-building and state-building around the world. Yet, a very small minority of the more than 100,000 UN peacekeepers deployed every year commit sexual offences that harm the very people they were sent to protect. Despite many attempts to address and reform the system for prevention and accountability, much work remains to be done.
This project tackles one issue of peacekeeper sexual exploitation and abuse – how to protect and safeguard children in peacekeeping operations. Deploying interdisciplinary methods and lenses, working with a network of civil society organisations within host countries and troop-contributing countries, and through work with the UN and member states, the project will focus on a range of prevention, awareness-raising, and safeguarding strategies that will enhance the protection of children in such contexts.
Despite recent measures announced by the new UN Secretary-General, attempts to reform the system have been piecemeal and have not addressed a complex problem that requires nuanced and targeted responses. While there is general agreement at the UN, in Member States, and from civil society, about what needs to be done to address the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers, very few practical solutions have been proposed, let alone implemented.
A key problem is that the current laws, policies and practices to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse operate across different scales, including at the international level, at the UN level, at the local level where the peacekeeping operation is being carried out, and within the countries that contribute troops to peacekeeping operations. As a result, very few effective solutions have been designed that can address the causes and consequences of peacekeeper sexual exploitation and abuse.
The project team has designed a toolkit provides prevention, protection and safeguarding, specifically in relation to children within peacekeeping. The toolkit is based on international standards for child safeguarding, and is implemented within an organisation through: (i) a self-assessment of current policies and practices, (ii) a robust mapping of relevant local and international laws and practices on child safeguarding, (iii) developing context-specific policies, measures and procedures based on the organisation and the legal mapping, (iv) training, and (v) follow-up.
Find out more about this project: https://research.reading.ac.uk/peacekeeper-or-perpetrator/