The International Non Governamental Organization Forum in Central African Republic ask to improve UN response to sexual exploitation and abuse.
To Jane Holl Lute, United Nations Secretary
General’s Special Coordinator on improving
the UN response to sexual exploitation and abuse
Bangui, 8th of March 2016
Dear Jane Holl Lute,
The International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGO) members of the Central African Republic INGO Forum would like to congratulate you on your new appointment as Special Coordinator on improving the United Nations’ response to sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA).
The Central African Republic (CAR) is a fragile nation that has been stricken by poverty and war. This fragility has left its population extremely vulnerable and in need of international assistance to both ensure that its basic needs can be met and to restore peace.
The CAR has the highest reported numbers of SEA cases committed by international forces in all United Nations (UN) Department of Peace Keeping Operations’ (DPKO) missions in 2015, although the mandate of the operation deployed is to protect the civilians affected by the crisis. Out of 69 confirmed allegations of sexual abuse registered in 2015, 22 were reported in CAR. Since the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) deployment in September 2014, a total of 42 SEA cases committed by elements of the force have been reported.
While measures have been taken and statements made at the highest level of the UN to ensure that those violent acts stop, on the ground, there remain steps to be taken to ensure accountability and protection for survivors of SEA committed by international forces.
Guaranties need to be made and enforced to protect the rights of survivors –most of them young girls-, their families and witnesses of these acts of violence including the right to legal counsel or representation, the right to confidentiality and respect of privacy, the right of informed consent, and the right to information.
In practice, SEA survivors are rarely informed of their rights, and are compelled to testify even when this might strongly affect their lives by stigmatizing them within their communities. With many UN agencies and organizations feeling pressured to take steps in identifying and dealing with those cases, many survivors find themselves interviewed by multiple actors, who are not providing them with any form of assistance. This multiplication of interviews can be counterproductive and harmful, in particular for young survivors.
The first goal of any agency and organization intervening in SEA cases should be to guarantee access to justice and services. It should be done in a manner that minimizes any negative effects that those proceedings could have on the survivors and their families.
Furthermore, since the end of 2015, a number of Member States have sent investigative teams to CAR after allegations were made against members of their national forces. These investigative teams however, operate without any oversight from an independent body. Additionally, these teams do not always have the proper training and capacity to apply the basic and internationally recognized standards for interviewing survivors of sexual violence, although it should be a requirement. Additionally, little or no efforts are made to keep the survivors informed of the proceedings and their outcome which take place in the country of the alleged perpetrator.
We believe that it is of the utmost importance to revise current procedures and agreements with Member States contributing to the deployment of peacekeeping forces to ensure that the standard of accountability granted by international law is upheld in the management of SEA cases perpetrated by elements of the mission
WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT:
— An independent body accompanies and monitors all national investigative teams looking into SEA cases and/or complaints.
— Investigative teams are vetted and trained before being deployed to interview alleged victims and/or witnesses. These teams should have a strong understanding of the risks involved in investigating SEA cases. Additionally, they should consistently ensure that survivors and witnesses are willingly involved in the investigation process and have been properly informed of their rights. Investigative teams should always allow a legal counsel to be present when survivors and witnesses are interviewed.
— Trained social workers are involved in cases where the survivors and witnesses are children.
MOREOVER, IN ORDER TO PREVENT THAT SUCH SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND ABUSE CASE CONTINUE, WE RECOMMEND THAT:
— Code of conduct and Prevention of SEA (PSEA) trainings be given to not only to military officers, but also to all integrated Mission staff departing whether for civil or military assignments;
— The code of conduct and PSEA documents not be only available in French and English, but also be translated into all national languages of the different military contingents of the integrated mission;
— Sanctions for accusation of SEA be integrated in a zero tolerance policy, be reasonably immediate, and include suspension, dismissal, and lifting of immunity if substantiated;
— Each Member State supplying troops to the UN Peace Keeping forces commit to automatically assign to camp with no more access to population any soldiers suspected of SEA until the completion of the investigation.
— PSEA focal points be identified and trained in each contingent and department of the Integrated Mission, so that they can engage their peers in applying the code of conduct, provide feedback, and relay SEA allegation to their superiors;
— A complaint mechanism be created and officially communicated to each and every member of the Integrated Mission, and an adapted communication campaign toward the general public be developed;
— The efficiency of the vetting system be enhanced and applied to all staff member of the Integrated Mission – whether civil or military;
— A tougher approach towards contributing Member States that do not meet UN standards in terms of prevention of SEA and ethical behavior of military personnel be implemented;
— An increase representation of female personnel in contingents within MINUSCA be advocated;
— An increased number of Community Liaison Assistants be given a more proactive role to widely disseminate information on the mandate of the mission and the prohibition of SEA.
The INGO Forum in CAR welcomes your appointment as a step forward towards enforcing measures that will help preventing SEA. It is convinced that the task is not limited to Integrated Missions’ personnel and that identical, complementary and concurrent efforts enforcing such prevention shall be done as well in the wider humanitarian community. Everyone must engage in actions to prevent
We are confident that the UN is willing and able to improve accountability and protection for survivors of SEA committed by international forces, and we want to assure you that the humanitarian
community in CAR is and will continue to be actively involved in assisting survivors.
The Central African Republic INGO Forum (CCO) was created in April 2014. It regroups 42 member organizations: Actions Contre la Faim (ACF), Agence d’Aide à la Coopération Technique et au Développement (ACTED), Alliance For International Medical Action (ALIMA), Aviation Sans Frontières France (ASF-F), Avocats Sans Frontières Belgique (ASF-B), Cap Anamur, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Centre pour le Dialogue Humanitaire (CHD), The Community Humanitarian Emergency Board Internation (COHEB), Concern Worldwide (CWW), Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI), CORDAID, Dan Church Aid (DCA), Danish Refugee Council (DRC), DirectAid (AMA), Emergency, Finn Church Aid (FCA), Groupe de recherche et d’Appui aux Interventions Intégrées de Nutrition en Santé (GRAINES), Handicap International (HI), International Medical Corps (IMC), InterSOS, International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO), International Rescue Committe (IRC), Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Lutherian World Federation (LWF), Médecins du Monde France (MDM), Mercy Corps (MC), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), OXFAM, Plan International, Première Urgence — Aide Médicale Internationale (PU-AMI), Save the Children (SCI), Search for a Common Ground (SFCG), Solidarités International (SI), Tearfund, Triangle Génération Humanitaire (TGH), WarChild-UK (WC-UK), WeltHungerHilfe (WHH), World Vision International (WVI) as active members and Médecins Sans Frontière Switzerland (MSF-CH), the French Red Cross (FRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as observer members.