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UN chief seeking 'game-changing strategy' to fight sex abuse 

  • Edith M. Lederer

    Associated Press

United Nations | Sat, January 7, 2017 | 12:54 pm
UN chief seeking 'game-changing strategy' to fight sex abuseĀ  More transparent -- In this Dec. 18, 2015 file photo, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, Portuguese Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, speaks to the media during a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. For the first time in the 70-year history of the United Nations, all 193 member states will get a chance this week to question the eight candidates to succeed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the world's top diplomatic post, in a move to make the usually secret selection process more transparent. (AP/Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed a task force to urgently develop a "game-changing strategy" to improve the United Nations' approach to preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday the new U.N. chief appreciates the U.N.'s improved training for peacekeepers, engagement with victims and shorter investigations but he wants "groundbreaking ideas" on how to move forward that are bolder and "may break some china."

The U.N. has long faced allegations of sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, especially those based in Central African Republic and Congo.

According to the U.N. peacekeeping department, there were 82 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in 2016 in peacekeeping missions, nearly 60 per cent related to incidents in 2015 or earlier. The U.N. said there were 69 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers in 2015.

The nine-member task force from a range of U.N. offices dealing with the issue will be led by Jane Holl Lute, the U.N. special coordinator for improving the organization's response to sexual exploitation and abuse.

Dujarric said it will consult widely and present its strategy in the secretary-general's report on Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation due in February.

Guterres wants people to pay attention to the issue, not just when there are cases, Dujarric said.

"He wants to put everything on the table," Dujarric said. "It's about how we react, how we put the victims at the center, and it's about accountability ... especially for those who are accused of these crimes."

Dujarric said Guterres wants to see engagement not only with member states and diplomats but with political leaders at the highest level "which the secretary-general is willing to do" and also with militaries at the highest level.

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