Reporting on allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers is unlike any other subject for journalists.
With the goal of helping local media better understand and cover this complex issue of sexual exploitation and abuse, our missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) and the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) recently brought together 100 journalists during three workshops in Kinshasa, Goma and Bangui.
“This activity is part of our transparency efforts, but it is also a way to help media professionals in the Central African Republic get a better understanding of what sexual exploitation and abuse is”, said MINUSCA Spokesperson Vladimir Monteiro at the end of the session, which he co-chaired with a Conduct and Discipline representative on 5 October 2017.
During these workshops, local media are briefed by the mission on the definition of sexual exploitation and abuse, the United Nations’ zero-tolerance policy, as well as global UN and mission-specific efforts to prevent and respond to allegations, including victim assistance efforts and sanctions applied by UN and Member States.
Participants in both countries were also informed of ways to report an allegation through the Missions’ hotlines or through community complaint networks in areas where the UN operates.
In Kinshasa, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also outlined the psychological and medical support given to victims as part of the UN comprehensive strategy on assistance and support to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.
According to Cudgenslhey Alexandre, Conduct and Discipline Officer at MINUSCA, the media is an important partner in this fight against sexual exploitation and abuse. “Media has the power to communicate with and reach the most remote communities by targeting the most vulnerable who may not have access to internet or other means of communications, other than a simple radio set,” he said. “In turn, those who receive these important messages can disseminate them locally”.
Journalists also received ethics guidance on the sensitive issue of interviewing victims, who are particularly vulnerable. Journalists also received details of the UN’s complaint hotline number as well as videos and fact sheets on the UN’s efforts to prevent and respond to this scourge.
“It is a very sensitive issue and, as per the Secretary-General's main focus, victims must be protected, so we want to give local media the tools to report on this topic”, concluded M. Monteiro.
These workshops are part of a pilot project on outreach to affected communities implemented by the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in partnership with the Department of Field Support (DFS) and our peacekeeping operations in the DR Congo and the Central African Republic.