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UN Peacekeeping Forces and Sexual Assault: A Timeline

An international organization the size of the United Nations comes with certain inevitable complications.

UN Peacekeeping Forces

Humankind is by nature prone to rebellion, and even the most well organized and regulated forces will, at some point or another have difficulty controlling their members. Currently, 95, 544 uniformed UN soldiers are deployed to some of the most fragile and vulnerable societies around the globe.

The civilians living in these countries are often used to doing whatever they have to for survival, which, when combined with individuals placed in positions of relative power and respect due to their affiliation with an internationally known peacekeeping force, can have negative consequences. Some of the consequences becoming more widely known and talked about are those of sexual assault and the punishment or lack-thereof for UN peacekeepers found to be engaged in those destructive behaviours.

1946: Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations is adopted.

1990: Report by the UN Secretary-General: Model Status-of-Forces for Peace-Keeping Operations submitted.

1996: Graca Machel Report on Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

1999: Kathryn Bolkovac, a member of the international UN police force in Bosnia, blows the whistle on UN police members taking part in the trafficking of young eastern European women as sex slaves.


June:  United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325: “the first Resolution to address the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women.” (Code Blue, UN Documents)

        August: Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations (Brahimi Report): report of a panel tasked by the Secretary-General to “undertake a thorough review of the United Nations peace and security activities, and to present a clear set of specific, concrete and practical recommendations to assist the United Nations in conducting such activities better in the future.” (Code Blue, UN Documents)

        October: the United Nations Security Council publishes Resolution 1325. It addresses the “disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women.” (Code Blue, UN Documents)


February: Report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the investigation into sexual exploitation of refugees by aid workers in West Africa. The report reveals widespread abuse and is leaked to the public.

October: UN Office of Internal Oversight Services publishes report on allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation of refugees by aid workers, including UN and non-governmental staff and peacekeepers in West Africa.


        May: a resolution on the Investigation into sexual exploitation of refugees by aid workers in West Africa is adopted by the UN General Assembly.

        October: UN Secretary General issues a Bulletin on Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse in response to the May resolution.


        February: An investigation into numerous alleged cases of abuse by personnel of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo takes place.


        January: the report on the investigation by the UN Office of Internal oversight Services into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is published.

        March: The Zeid Report. H.R.H. Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, Adviser on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN Peacekeeping Personnel to the Secretary General issues a comprehensive analysis of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeeping personnel. The report shows “an alarming picture of a widespread and largely tolerated phenomenon.” (Code Blue Campaign, Timeline)

        April: the Special Committee on Peacekeeping operations meets to consider the Zeid Report and adopt recommendations on prevention strategies for future sexual exploitation and abuse taking place during UN peacekeeping missions.

        May: the UN Security Council issues a presidential statement on sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping.

        November: Conduct and Discipline Teams established in field missions by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

2006: Peacekeepers in Liberia and Haiti are accused of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

        May: a comprehensive report on sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, including policy development, implementation and full justification of proposed capacity on personnel conduct issues is published by the Secretary General.

        August: the Group of Legal Experts presents a report to the UN General Assembly and includes the Draft Convention on Criminal Accountability of UN Officials and Experts on Mission.


        June: revised Model Memorandum of Understanding between Troop Contributing Countries and the UN is adopted. It contains includes language referring to and specific provisions on sexual assault and abuse for the first time.

        September: the UN Secretariat notes in response to the Draft Convention (2006) that the report’s recommendations should be applicable to all personnel in UN operations, and not simply limited to military members.


        Accusations of the sexual abuse of children are made against UN peacekeepers in Cote d’Ivoire, Southern Sudan and Haiti.

        March: the UN General Assembly adopts a resolution to identify the kinds of support that the UN will provide to victims and children born as a result of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN employed staff and personnel.


        October: the revised Model Memorandum of Understanding is produced to function as a basis for future agreements between the UN and any government agreeing to provide personnel, equipment, and services to UN peacekeeping mission mandates. This model includes revisions made to reflect various recommendations.


        March: Pakistani UN peacekeepers are found guilty of sexual abuse in Haiti by a Pakistani military court and are ordered repatriated and jailed.

        September: Repatriated Uruguayan peacekeepers are accused of sexual abuse while in Haiti and charged with coercion.


September:  allegations of sexual abuse are made against Chadian UN peacekeepers stationed in Mali. 

November: independent team of experts appointed by the UN Secretary-General in January of 2012 to assess efforts to address sexual exploitation and abuse on missions in Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, and South Sudan deliver a report containing highly critical statements about the UN’s progress to dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse with its ranks. The UN does not provide a public statement in response.


                May: An international NGO requests the involvement of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) after the release of reports of the sexual assault and rape of children by international peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic’s capital. Numerous interviews with child victims are conducted by a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) staff member and an Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) junior human rights officer, and MINUSCA informed after each one, yet no apparent action is taken in response.

                July: Anders Kompass in Geneva receives the report of the human rights officer on the abuse occurring in the Central African Republic. He passes the information on to French diplomatic authorities, and they inform him that they have begun an investigation by the end of the month.

                August: French investigators arrive in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. They question Renner Onana, MINUSCA’s chief of staff. They are referred to the human right’s officer who had conducted the interviews and was informed by OHCRH’s senior legal advisor to inform the French investigators that all questions must be taken to UN lawyers. UNICEF staff members referred the investigators to the UN office of legal affairs as well. Anders Kompass briefs the OHCHR Deputy High Commissioner Flavia Pansieri, and her office informs the Executive office of Secretary General.

                December: The Secretary General submits the final report of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic to the UN General Assembly. The report fails to reference the specific MINUSCA/OHCHR/UNICEF reports of abuse committed by international peace keepers.     


        February: annual report from the Secretary-General on Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse highlights work by the independent team of experts but does not include the report itself.

        April: leaked UN document reveals alleged sexual exploitation of children in the Central African Republic, primarily by French peacekeeping troops.

        June: the evaluation report by the Office of Internal Oversight Services of the Enforcement and Remedial Assistance Efforts for Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by the United Nations and Related Personnel in Peacekeeping Operations is published, revealing unreported and widespread sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping missions in both Haiti and Liberia.

October: A global study on the implementation of the Un Security Council’s Resolution 1325 (2000) is conducted 15 years later. The resolution deals with women, peace and security.

        December: the report by the independent team of experts is published, citing “gross institutional failure” (Code Blue, UN Documents) on the part of the UN in handling allegations of the sexual abuse of children.


        February: 120 peacekeepers from Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are expelled from the Central African Republic after new accusations of sexual abuse are made. Jane Holl Lute is appointed by the Secretary-General as Special Coordinator on improving the United Nations response to sexual exploitation and abuse. 

        March: Twenty soldiers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo go on trial for alleged rape and other crimes while serving in Central African Republic. A UN report shows that allegations of sexual exploitation or abuse by UN peacekeepers rose by a third in 2015.
        The UN Security Council adopts a resolution on peacekeeper sexual exploitation and abuse.

April: the UN announces 108 new sexual abuse cases allegedly by international peacekeepers in Central African Republic—most of the victims are children. 11 Tanzanian peacekeepers face paternity charges as well as charges of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

May: the UN admits to receiving, to date of May 18th, 44 allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers and staff in UN Missions. These allegations involve more than 40 minors.

June: Anders Kompass, Director of Field Operations at the UN human rights office in Geneva announces his resignation. Kompass states that he is no longer able to work for an organisation with no accountability.

July: UN announces new mandatory online programme for all uniformed and civilian personnel to strengthen training on standards of conduct, and a special focus on sexual exploitation and abuse. India contributes $100,000 to a trust fund set up for victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by victims, the first country to do so.

September: the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations publishes an infographic depicting the UN’s approach to and management of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel.

October: the first newsletter by the Conduct and Discipline Team (CDT) of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic is published.

November: the UN Glossary on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse: Thematic Glossary of current terminology related to Sexual Exploitation an Abuse (SEA) in the context of the United Nations is published.

December: UN investigation into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse within Central African Republic identifies 41 alleged perpetrators among troops from Gabon and Burundi. There are 100 alleged victims, of which 25 are children.


        January: six French soldiers accused of the sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic are not charged following criminal inquiry. UN announces the creation of a high-level task force to respond to sexual exploitation and abuse.

        March: new UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres publishes a report which outlines his strategy for preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and assault carried out in UN mandated peacekeeping missions. The UN General Assembly adopts a resolution committing to a zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse. The resolution stresses the importance of States holding perpetrators accountable.

        April: Associated Press reviews 12 years of UN data on sexual misconduct and exploitation and finds approximately 2,000 allegations against peacekeepers and personnel. More than 300 of these allegations concern children, but only a fraction of alleged perpetrators have served jail time.

        June: UN announces the withdrawal of over 600 Democratic Republic of the Congo troops from the Central African Republic after claims of sexual abuse.

        July: UN figures show that at least 23 UN peacekeepers have been accused of either sexual exploitation or abuse of civilians in 33 recorded cases across active UN missions since January of 2017.  5 of the cases involve children.

Timeline compiled by Joy Ngenda


Al Jazeerah: article
Child Rights International Network: article
CNN: article
Code Blue Campaign: article 1, article 2
Globe and Mail: article
Human Rights Watch: article
United Nations: article 1, article 2, pdf
United States Institute of Peace: pdf

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