Facing a tide of sexual exploitation allegations levied against the organization’s peacekeepers, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently tapped Cornell Prof. Muna Ndulo to help stem the growing crisis, according to a Cornell Law School press release.
Ndulo — “an internationally recognized scholar in the fields of constitution making, governance and institution building,” according to his faculty bio — will join the United Nations Civil Society Advisory Board to advise Guterres on implementing measures to prevent sexual exploitation committed by U.N. peacekeepers and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.
The United Nations has wrestled for many years with the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse among its soldiers, with 145 allegations of abuse by UN soldiers reported in 2016 alone.
Between April and June of 2018, the U.N. received 70 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse across all of its operations, Farhan Haq, U.N. deputy spokesperson, previously announced.
In an effort to combat sexual exploitation and abuse, Guterres previously promised to establish a committee to tackle the record-high reports of sexual mistreatment across the globe. In his report to the Security Council on “Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation: A New Approach,” Guterres vowed to enable the U.N. to more closely interact with civil society, external experts and non-governmental organizations.
Ndulo said that during peacekeeping missions, foreign soldiers deployed by the U.N. often engage in sexual exploitation and abuse of local civilians.
“The most critical step is to make sure that the home countries punish the perpetrators,” Ndulo told The Sun. “So we have to develop ways in which we ensure that we get feedback on whether or not these soldiers are actually being punished.”
Often the sexual exploitation and affairs between U.N. soldiers and civilians resulted in the birth of a child. After the soldiers return to their home countries, these children are then left in areas of conflict without their fathers, according to Ndulo.
In response to such exploitation, Ndulo said he hopes to help implement two major measures: to ensure the punishment of the perpetrators and help mothers and children identify and contact the men who fathered them.
“That’s the only way that you can discourage sexual abuse in missions,” Ndulo said. “We need to make sure there is no impunity — that there will be consequences.”
Ndulo also hopes that his work on the Civil Society Advisory Board will help foster international coordination in the prosecution of accused soldiers, who often commit crimes in a different jurisdiction than their home country.
For example, when “the victim is in Haiti, but the soldier is in France,” a system for greater legal cooperation is needed to hold soldiers accountable, according to Ndulo.
“I think we have a responsibility as an international community to protect civilians in conflict situations,” Ndulo said. “I think it’s important that the UN, upholding such high values, is seen to take this issue very seriously.”