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article imageUN's Guterres seeks radical new response to peacekeeper sex abuse

By AFP     Jan 6, 2017 in World

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday set his sights on combating sexual abuse in peacekeeping, announcing plans to map out a new "game-changing" strategy to address the problem.

Guterres, who took over from Ban Ki-moon on January 1, named a nine-member task force to come up with a new approach, in a clear sign he intented to toughen up the response to the string of damaging allegations.

The task force will "report fairly quickly on how we can move forward in new ways, in ways that are more bold, that may break some china," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

UN peacekeeping missions have been hit by dozens of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation, but troop-contributing countries have been reluctant to prosecute those accused.

Under UN rules, it is up to those countries to take action against their nationals who face credible allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation while serving under the UN flag.

Human rights groups have complained about the lack of accountability for peacekeepers serving in UN missions. Many have avoided investigation altogether or received light punishment.

The task force will present a "clear, game-changing strategy to achieve visible and measurable further improvement in the organization's approach to preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse," said Dujarric.

The new strategy will form part of a report that Guterres is to present to the General Assembly in February on the measures taken to address the scandal.

Last year, the annual report presented by Ban detailed 69 claims of sexual abuse and exploitation against troops from 21 countries.

That number rose to 82 allegations by mid-December, according to UN peacekeeping department's website, the majority of which involved the MINUSCA force in the Central African Republic.

The United Nations has been badly shaken by the wave of allegations of sex abuse by the troops it deploys in missions with a clear mandate to protect civilians.

The spokesman said the UN was under no illusion that it could "wipe out" such misconduct, but he stressed that Guterres wanted to strengthen the response.

"It's about how we react, how we put the victims at the center and it's about accountability," said Dujarric.

Some 100,000 troops and police from 123 countries serve in UN peacekeeping.

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