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Hearings Examine Sexual Abuse by UN Peacekeepers

On April 13, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing, “Do No Harm: Ending Sexual Abuse in United Nations Peacekeeping,” which focused on the allegations of sexual exploitation of refugees by United Nations (UN) peacekeeping forces and the lack of accountability for such crimes at the UN.

Ambassador Isobel Coleman, U.S. representative to the United Nations for UN Management and Reform, cited a 2005 report, saying, ‘“Sexual exploitation and abuse mostly involves the exchange of sex for money (on average $1-$3 per encounter), or for food (the report notes as little as two eggs from a soldier’s rations)…Some young girls…talked of ‘rape disguised as prostitution,’ in which they said they were raped and given money or food afterwards to give the rape the appearance of a consensual transaction.’ These words, I’m sorry to say, are from the Zeid Report, published by the UN in 2005. We know from the scope of current allegations that now, more than a decade later, these very same offenses are still occurring. Despite years of UN leaders insisting on ‘zero tolerance,’ a culture of impunity has been allowed to fester.”

The following witnesses testified:

  • The Honorable Tracey Ann Jacobson, principal deputy assistant secretary, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, Department of State;
  • Michael D. Rothstein, deputy assistant secretary for Plans, Programs, and Operations, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Department of State;
  • Miranda Brown, former chief of Africa, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations; and
  • Peter Yeo, president, Better World Campaign; vice president for Public Policy and Advocacy, United Nations Foundation.

Simultaneously, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations held a hearing, “Peacekeepers: Allegations of Abuse and Absence of Accountability at the United Nations.”

The following witnesses testified:

  • Brett Schaefer, Jay Kingham, fellow, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, the Heritage Foundation;
  • Aicha Elbasri, author, former spokesperson, UN–African Union Mission in Darfur, UN;
  • Peter Gallo, former investigator, Office of Internal Oversight Services, UN; and
  • Jordie Hannum, senior director, Better World Campaign.
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