The U.N. received 31 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against its staff in the three months from July to September this year, Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman said Friday.
The accusations were leveled against U.N. staff from across the system. Twelve of the allegations were against peacekeeping operations and 19 were against workers from agencies, funds and programs - including U.N. children's fund UNICEF and refugee agency UNHCR.
Guterres pledged to stamp out sexual exploitation under the U.N. flag after an investigation revealed widespread allegations of rape and abuse of minors by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR) last year.
Twelve of the incidents reported in the three-month period were alleged to have taken place in 2017, two in 2016, six in 2015 and 11 before 2015 or the date is unknown.
Ten are categorized as sexual abuse, 19 as sexual exploitation and two are unclassified as the age of the accusers are unknown.
In countries like CAR, it is common for people to not have birth certificates to prove their precise age, Victims' Rights Advocate Jane Connors told reporters at a briefing in New York.
Connors was appointed to the newly created role as part of Guterres' efforts to tackle sex abuse in the U.N.
Creating a structure for victims to report allegations and providing psychosocial support are part of the new strategy.
A U.N. trust fund which currently has 1.5 million dollars and is open for donations will help to pay for victim support.
"The focus should be rebuilding the lives of these people and seeking justice for them," Connors said.
Recurrent training for U.N. troops is also imperative to and "has to be aimed at changing the mindset" of perpetrators to tackle abuse, Connors said.
As part of Guterres' plans to tackle sexual exploitation in the U.N., four field victims' rights advocates have also been placed in the areas where the majority of allegations have come from: Haiti, CAR, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
The U.N. has also introduced a digital monitoring system to flag up the names of anyone dismissed during an investigation of sexual abuse to prevent them being rehired by another part of the system, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
In one recent case publicized by Amnesty International, U.N. peacekeepers allegedly drugged and raped a teenage girl in the CAR town of Bambari on September 30.
The CAR authorities carried out a criminal investigation, but it cannot lead to prosecution because the U.N.'s blue helmets are immune from prosecution in their host countries. It is up to their home countries to bring them to justice for alleged crimes.
The new accusations have sparked 14 U.N. investigations involving 38 male alleged perpetrators.
The U.N. undertakes its own investigations into allegations and passes on the findings to the countries providing the troops to peacekeeping missions with the expectation that the home country will take action.
Connors said there is a need to create a system for accused troops' home countries to report back on the progress of cases once they are handed over.
As recently as June this year, a battalion of Congolese peacekeepers was sent home from the CAR amid accusations of sexual abuse and a recommendation from their force commander that they were "no longer trustable."
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