Liberal foreign policy wonks have always held up the United Nations as a model for global diplomacy and management, even touting the institution as a viable instrument of what world government can and should look like.
Only, the UN is anything but a panacea for global governance. And, while the case can legitimately be made that the traditional nation-state model has not always been successful, at least, in most cases, nation-states are held accountable.
Not so much, the UN.
Case in point: In recent days, reports have noted that in many cases UN peacekeepers – always advertised as a benevolent force for good – are not quite the virtuous souls they are often made out to be. In fact, they can be downright counterproductive and even harmful to the aggrieved populations they are tasked with protecting.
As reported by The Associated Press:
The U.N. peacekeepers arrive; months later, some leave infants behind. Now the United Nations has quietly started to offer DNA testing to help prove paternity claims and ensure support for the so-called “peacekeeper babies.”
It’s a delicate step, as countries that contribute U.N. troops might not welcome a practice that could prove not only fatherhood but wrongdoing. Of the dozen paternity claims received last year, four were associated with alleged sexual abuse of a minor.
Too little, too late?
And so it goes; the UN, acting as the righteous arbitrator of good deeds, in a bid to “make things right,” conspicuously fails to provide any real justice or even “peace” to those same vulnerable populations.
Further, the UN leadership was forced to act only after a “groundbreaking report” on serial sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers, which further recommended that the UN secretary-general – in this case Ban Ki Moon – be permitted to “require DNA and other tests to establish paternity,” so peacekeepers might be pressured to support children they “father and abandon.”
Zeid Raad al-Hussein, a former peacekeeper and the current UN human rights chief who primarily authored the report, noted that many of the children are left in abject poverty with few financial resources available to their care.
It’s not known how many children have been fathered by UN peacekeepers over the past few decades, when the notion of “peacekeeping” became popularized. Currently there are about 125,000 of them deployed in 16 locations, mostly in Africa and the Middle East. The problem of sexual abuse and exploitation remains a big problem, and there is little available support for victims.
The AP noted that the global institution has worked with some member states in the past to establish paternity claims, but it has only recently offered DNA collection protocol and testing kits.
UN slow to respond to allegations
Still, those actions do not go as far as what was recommended by a UN-commissioned report that was publicly leaked in recent months. A “DNA data bank for all troops would be the most foolproof method” for assessing paternity claims, the report said.
A report from Fox News suggested that perhaps tens of thousands of Liberian woman have been sexually abused and exploited by peacekeepers:
A study cited in a just-published evaluation of the ugly problem of sexual exploitation by U.N. peacekeepers calculates that as many as 58,000 women in Monrovia, Liberia, alone engaged in prohibited “transactional” sex with peacekeepers in return for food, clothing, money or other favors—mostly money– [sic] over a nine-year period ending in 2012.
By contrast, the exclusive report further noted, in 2012 the UN peacekeeping force in Liberia (UNMIL) only reported nine substantiated cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, out of just 61 such allegations across all UN missions, in an annual report put out in 2013 by Ki-moon’s office, according to Fox News.
And this report from CNN notes that, in at least some of the cases, children were involved in the abuse.
The problem of peacekeeper sexual abuse is a large and growing one that the UN seems incapable of addressing, and it is reminiscent of the slow response from the Catholic Church to years of sexual abuse charges involving many of its priests.