Submitted to Professor Nailya Okda
for the course Humanitarian Intervention
University of Ottawa, December 15, 2011
In United Nations (UN) missions around the world, there have been proven allegations of UN peacekeepers participating in illicit behaviour of sexual exploitation. These allegations made against peacekeepers concern acts of gender-based crimes, committed during missions in post- conflict areas including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone, Liberia, Haiti, East Timor and Cambodia. These occurrences ultimately comprise a larger issue of moral consequence, health hazard and aid effectiveness, jeopardizing the legitimacy and purpose of UN peacekeeping operations. The implications of these illicit actions are not only significant for recipient countries, but also for sending countries, having such wide-ranging consequences including the spread of AIDS, and increasing questionable accountability within the UN. Although discussion of this issue is limited in comparison with larger issues in the realm of humanitarian intervention, there have been suggestions by academics and major political actors alike in order to suppress the issue of sexual exploitation carried out by UN peacekeepers. In a discussion of the implications for morality, health, and aid effectiveness, the suggestions put forward will also be evaluated in terms of the challenges they face. In essence, it will be proven that there still remains significant institutional and political challenges to eradicating the sexual exploits of UN peacekeeping operations, and that significant political will and action is needed on the part of UN members and sending countries in order to change the discourse of ignorance and compliance in the sexual misconducts of UN peacekeeping missions and forces.
The seriousness of cases of sexual exploitation conducted by UN troops are best articulated in the severity of recorded instances. In an article analyzing the potential for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute offending peacekeepers, Melanie O’Brien describes a few cases of occurred sexual exploitation in detail, as quoted below:
… the circumstances of the case of Ronghi, in which a US soldier engaged as part of the American peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo raped and murdered a 10 year old girl.
Discussing in more detail this same case, O’Brien says further:
… the elements of force (the violence used in subduing his victim) and taking advantage of a coercive environment (exploiting the trust his victim had in him by luring her to an empty basement) exist.
Another case, this time in Moldova, describes instances where the severity may go so far as to be characterized as sexual slavery:
… such as the purchase of a Moldovan woman by an American in Bosnia, who kept the woman in a house with her passport confiscated and forced her to engage in sexual acts.
In an article entitled Other Face of UN in Cambodia, which appeared in Economic and Political Weekly on November 21st, 1992, during the occupation of the United Nations Transitional Authority on Cambodia (UNTAC), an anonymous correspondent points to a dramatic increase in prostitution in the country since the arrival of UNTAC. The author cites the complaints and allegations made by several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), who have identified UN soldiers going to brothels in UN official cars and uniforms. More importantly, the author alludes to three overarching consequences of this behaviour, which are described in greater detail below. Continue reading