With zero tolerance as the flagship call of United Nations efforts to end sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) across the organization since 2017, getting the message to all personnel is crucial. A four-day training of trainers for 21 Sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) military and civilian focal points at MINUSCA Logbase in Bangui aimed at that – spread the word on combating SEA in their work locations across the Central African Republic.
With prevention and accountability – the two elements at the heart of the UN’s zero-tolerance policy on SEA at the fore – the training laid out the roles and responsibilities of the focal points, elaborated on SEA reporting mechanisms and highlighted the protection of women against sexual violence in conflict.
The focal points play a central role in educating contingent and other staff members about sexual exploitation and abuse – the interactive training also provided guidelines on investigating SEA allegations and discussed the issue from a human rights and legal perspective, including regarding conflict related sexual violence, as well as the pursuit of justice for victims.
For Carla Marinha, a MINUSCA Military Gender Adviser from the Brazilian Navy, contingent focal points who in turn train groups from the same country can help ensure that message is better conveyed to troops who share a common language and culture. ‘’It is about empowering the troop contributing countries to reach zero SEA cases in UN missions,” she says.
Focal points ensure wider reach of the SEA sensitization efforts – especially considering the high turnover of personnel in peacekeeping missions as countries rotate troops every six months to one year.
Kusiyo Masilele from the Zambia Air Force says the training has imparted knowledge on how to handle issues related to reporting SEA – not to do too little or to overreach in dealing SEA cases.
He considers prevention as critical as sexual abuses have the potential to damage both individual countries and the United Nations. “As military observers who interact with the local population in the field on a daily basis, we are on the frontline of working with communities to collectively end sexual exploitation and abuse,” he declares
The training of focal points seems to be bearing fruit since its inception in 2014. According to the MINUSCA Conduct and Discipline Officer Alexander Cudgenslhey, there has been an increase in reporting allegations since then – with contingent commanders and heads of offices enforcing preventive measures. “Our goal is to encourage everyone to pay attention to potential sexual exploitation and abuse and to alert authorities through established reporting systems so that perpetrators can be held accountable,” he says.