A MONUSCO Female peacekeeper calls for an end to sexual exploitation and abuse
The United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) organized an awareness-raising session on March 12 to combat sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by United Nations personnel. Altogether thirty-three (33) attendees, including 13 women from civil society organizations in Kananga, Kasai, took part in the awareness-raising session.
Milton Perez, from MONUSCO Conduct and Discipline and Assuie Celestine, from MONUSCO Child Protection sections explained to participants the UN policy on sexual exploitation and abuse committed by its staff members as well as the mechanisms made available by the United Nations for the focal points among the population to report cases of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Participants were educated, among other things, on the actions constituting cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN staff, confidentiality in dealing with reports to protect the whistleblower, the victim and the staff member. They were also updated on the investigation procedures and actions carried out by MONUSCO to contain this problem involving its staff, as well as the care provided for and cases of false allegations.
MONUSCO applies the UN Secretary General’s administrative measures in respect of sexual exploitation and abuse. This guideline prohibits United Nations personnel (national and international) from committing acts of sexual exploitation and abuse. Thus, it is prohibited to engage with a person under the age of 18; to use children or adults to provide sexual services to others; to offer money, a job, goods or services to a prostitute or anyone else in exchange for sexual favors.
Sensitizers focused on the actions taken by MONUSCO to prevent the occurrence of sexual exploitation and abuse by its staff. Mission personnel are, for example, prohibited from visiting places of prostitution. National and international personnel should not visit places declared prohibited or out of bounds, according to the criteria set up by the Mission.
The participants led by the civil society leader from the provincial capital of Kasaï Central, came from NGOs and other organizations with an influence in the zones surrounding MONUSCO headquarter, in districts where MONUSCO personnel live as well as MONUSCO military base at the airport where the Ghanaian Force contingent is stationed.
MONUSCO encourages communities to report any misconduct, including suspicion of sexual exploitation and abuse, to its relevant services. However, any denunciation gives rise to an investigation. Any staff found as being in violation of the rules and regulations is liable to disciplinary sanctions within the United Nations. International staff may also be subject to sanctions in their country, while national staff may be subject to sanctions provided for by the Congolese law.
For victims and complainants, sensitizers have mentioned, for example, assistance provided to children, born from the relation with the person abused by the UN personnel. Support to victims and sometimes social reintegration projects are funded by The United Nations Trust Fund for the victims of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by its staff
At the end of the session, one of the participants maintained that "MONUSCO should expand these awareness campaigns to the municipalities of the city of Kananga since even the national staff are also targeted as much as foreigners. I was not aware of that; now I know how to advise the girls in my neighborhood if I see them in contact with a MONUSCO staff.”