United Nations: The UN Security Council on Saturday approved its first-ever resolution tackling the escalating problem of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers who act as predators when sent to protect vulnerable civilians in some of the world's most volatile areas.
The United Nations has been in the spotlight for months over allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, especially those based in Central African Republic and Congo.
The UN says there were 69 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers in 2015, with an additional 25 allegations so far in 2016.
The resolution was approved by a vote of 14-0 with Egypt abstaining after a last-minute amendment it proposed that would have weakened the text was defeated.
The US-drafted resolution endorses Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's plan for reform, including his decision to repatriate military or police units "where there is credible evidence of widespread or systemic sexual exploitation and abuse."
It also asks Ban to replace contingents where allegations are not properly investigated, perpetrators are not held accountable or the secretary-general is not informed on the progress of investigations.
The Egyptian amendment would have required that all three conditions are met before a military or police unit is sent home, not just one of them as now required.
It's up to the home country of the soldier or police officer to conduct the investigation and determine the punishment if allegations of sexual abuse or exploitation are proven.
The United States, the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, said it wanted the UN's most powerful body to send a strong signal that it will not tolerate the escalating problem.
"To the victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers, we pledge that we will do better," US Ambassador Samantha Power said after the vote. "We will do better to ensure that the blue helmets that we send as your protectors will not become perpetrators."Secretary-General Ban called the resolution "a significant step in our collective efforts to combat the terrible damage caused to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse" and pledged to ensure protection and support for those who have been abused, his spokesman said.
More than 100,000 troops and police are deployed in the UN's far-flung peacekeeping operations, the vast majority from developing countries. The United Nations reimburses troop contributing countries for salaries and provides allowances for peacekeepers.