Press Releases

                                                                            GA/AB/3617
                                                                                                    20 May 2004

    Delegates Urge UN to Take All Possible Steps to Prevent Sexual Abuse, as Budget Committee Considers Report on Protective Measures

    Also Discusses Secretary-General’s Proposal for Retention of Funds from Closed Peacekeeping Missions

    NEW YORK, 19 May (UN Headquarters) -- As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) took up a report describing measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse this morning, delegates urged the United Nations to take every possible step to prevent the risk of such crimes in every sector of its operations, to bring the perpetrators to justice and safeguard the rights of the victims.

    Speaker after speaker condemned all forms of sexual exploitation and welcomed concrete steps to address the problem, including steps to ensure greater awareness among all staff serving under the United Nations flag of the standards of conduct expected of them. They were encouraged by the promulgation of the Secretary-General’ bulletin on measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, which was issued last October, and the action taken by several United Nations entities to adapt their codes of conduct to incorporate the principles outlined in that document. Other welcome developments included the introduction of guidelines aimed at facilitating the implementation of the bulletin, the development of training programmes, and the finalization of model complaint procedures and investigative protocols.

    In this connection, the representative of South Africa regretted the prevalence of a number of cases alluded to in the Secretary-General’s report, maintaining that even one isolated incident of sexual abuse was one incident too many and could not be tolerated.

    [While 42 out of the 48 United Nations agencies that responded to the Secretariat’s query had received no reports of sexual exploitation or abuse in 2003, six entities reported that investigations into newly reported cases were opened last year. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported 24 new cases each; the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reported two; and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported one case each.]

    South Africa’s representative added that while the Office of Internal Oversight Services in 2003 had found that the problem of sexual exploitation of refugees was real and that the conditions in the camps and refugee communities made refugees vulnerable to sexual and other forms of exploitation, the document before the Committee had not elaborated extensively on the measures that the United Nations had taken to improve the conditions of refugees and vulnerable communities.

    Nigeria’s representative pointed out that the absence of reports of sexual exploitation did not preclude the existence of such crimes, as some victims might have opted to suffer in silence. She deplored the abuse of the most vulnerable of communities, including children and women. Emphasis should be placed on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse and offering appropriate responses to such cases.

    Ireland’s representative, on behalf of the European Union and associated States, welcomed progress in the development of a reporting process that was sensitive to the needs of victims, as well as proposals for the appointment of senior-level female sexual exploitation and abuse focal points in field operations, as it was appropriate to have gender-balanced composition for investigation teams. Given the inadequacy of the complaint procedures and victim support mechanisms, however, she stressed the importance of developing such procedures. Those who engaged in acts of sexual exploitation should not be eligible for future United Nations duties.

    Responding to comments from the floor, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, Rosemary McCreery, who also introduced the report on sexual abuse, said that all entities of the United Nations were actively involved in the efforts to implement the Secretary-General’s bulletin. It was correct, however, that current mechanisms were probably catching only a small proportion of incidents. Victims needed to be sure that if they complained, they would not be subject to retribution. They should also know how to lodge their complaints. Among the measures taken, there was an information sheet addressed to local communities, which explained what their rights were and how their interests would be protected.  Standard referral forms had been distributed to field missions, as well as scenarios which explained what prohibited acts were.

    Also this morning, the Committee addressed the reports on the proposal to create a global procurement hub in Brindisi, Italy, which were introduced by the Director of Facilities and Commercial Services Division, Office of Central Support Services, Joan McDonald, and the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Vladimir Kuznetsov.

    Also discussed today was the Secretary-General’s proposal that, following the return to Member States of some $84.5 million from closed peacekeeping missions, the remaining additional cash balance in the amount of $94.24 million be retained until 31 October to supplement the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund to finance new and anticipated missions. Related reports were introduced by the Director of Peacekeeping Financing Division, Catherine Pollard, and Mr. Kuznetsov.

    In other action, the Committee noted the information contained in the report on the possibility of operating guided tours, bookstores and gift shops at the United Nations Office at Nairobi.

    Statements were also made by representatives of China, India, Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Syria, Cuba, New Zealand and Mexico.

    The Committee will continue its work at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 20 May, when it is expected to take up the capital master plan.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to take up the operation of guided tours, bookstores and gift shops at the United Nations Office at Nairobi, and a series of reports on the administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping.

    Peacekeeping

    The Committee had before it a Secretary-General’s report (document A/58/762), which provides a comprehensive examination of the merits of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) proposal related to the establishment of a global procurement hub for all peacekeeping missions at the United Nations Logistics Base (UNLB) in Brindisi, Italy, as well as the feasibility of relocating all logistics support functions there.

    According to the document, the review concluded that while there are some advantages to creating such a hub, they are far outweighed by the disadvantages. Creation of such a procurement hub for peacekeeping missions is not considered to be an efficient and effective use of the Organization’s resources.

    Among the advantages of the establishment of a procurement hub, the Secretary-General mentions provision of rent-free premises by the Government of Italy; enhanced ability to perform onsite contract management for strategic deployment stocks for peacekeeping requirements; and reduced cost of operating in Italy (staff costs, etc.) as opposed to Headquarters. In reality, however, should it be decided to establish a procurement hub in Brindisi, no monetary savings would be achieved, since additional resources would be required within the Procurement Division and in liaison functions within the Logistics Support Division, the field mission systems and the Procurement Division.

    The disadvantages include the difficulty of attracting and maintaining qualified and experienced international staff; projected high vacancy rates (as is currently the case); and coordination challenges from operating in a different time zone from the majority of the daily points of interaction at Headquarters.

    The ACABQ), in a related report (document A/58/796), notes that the Secretary-General deals only with a few of the operational and administrative challenges, highlighting instead the perceived disadvantages, such as the need for “live” interaction in regard to certain functions, the creation of “duplicate support and liaison infrastructures”, the short-run costs associated with the relocation of staff and the high vacancy rates associated with UNLB.  However, details and thorough analysis backed by facts or figures related to operational effectiveness or financial costs are not provided.  For example, the report does not touch upon the possibility of exploiting the potential inherent in the enhanced communications and information technology systems created after significant investment by the Organization.  Similarly, there is no explanation of where additional management layers would be required, nor is there a cost-benefit analysis of the various options with reference to the short- and long-term implications of the redeployment of functions and posts.

    The Advisory Committee also points out that the primary motivation for its recommendations had been the organizational and operational efficiency, while the Secretary-General’s report focuses mainly on the financial considerations.  The ACABQ believes that a more thorough review should be submitted, providing a technical, managerial and financial analysis of the possible establishment of a UNLB hub for all peacekeeping missions. The input of key-related interlocutors or clients besides the Office of Mission Support and the Procurement Division should be taken into account, such as UNLB management, the Peacekeeping Financing Division, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), and the Office of Legal Affairs.

    Updated information on the financial position of 18 closed peacekeeping missions is presented to the Committee in document A/58/778. By its resolution 57/323, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to return to Member States an amount of $84.45 million (50 per cent available from closed missions’ accounts) by 30 June 2003 and decided to postpone the return of the remaining 50 per cent until 31 March 2004. In view of cash shortages as a result of expanded peacekeeping requirements, however, last month, the return of that amount was postponed until 30 June by the terms of resolution 58/288. The net cash available for credit to Member States as at 30 June 2003 amounted to about $178.68 million, inclusive of the amount of $84.45 million that has not yet been credited to Member States as set out in table 1 below.

    According to the report, the cash available in the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund as at 31 March 2004 amounted to $150.3 million, inclusive of interest income of some $11.05 million, and is envisaged to finance the immediate start-up requirements of up to three new operations.  The establishment of a mission in Côte d’Ivoire and other anticipated operations, however, is expected to exceed the current limits of the Fund.  Should the Security Council authorize new operations, immediate cash will be needed.  In this situation, the Assembly will be requested to authorize interim funding with assessment, until the submission of the budgets for these operations in the main part of the fifty-ninth session in fall 2004.

    Another reason why the cash available in the Reserve Fund would not cover all the requirements in the first quarter of the upcoming financial year is that there is a significant time lag of about 60 to 120 days between the issuance of assessments and the collection of contributions. It is of critical importance that adequate funding be available to the new peacekeeping operations in the beginning stages so that procurement of equipment, goods and services, including arrangement for emplacement of military and police personnel and the recruitment of civilian staff be achieved within the planned time frames.

    Under these circumstances, the Secretary-General proposes that, following the crediting of $84,446,000 to Member States by 30 June 2004, the remaining cash available from closed missions in the amount of $94.24 million be retained until 31 October 2004 to supplement the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund in order to finance the initial requirements of the new peacekeeping operations.

    In a related report (document A/58/799), the ACABQ points out that the postponement of the return of “available cash” to Member States is a policy decision to be determined by the Assembly. However, in the view of the Advisory Committee, the points raised by it in its report on the implementation of paragraph 3 of Assembly resolution 57/323: Peacekeeping Reserve Fund (document A/58/732) still remain valid, and the Assembly may wish to take them into account in reaching its decision.

    In that report, the Advisory Committee wrote that cash from closed missions appears to be the only source that can be used for temporary cross-borrowing when the International Tribunals or active peacekeeping operations run out of cash. Cash from closed missions is also a source of funding for new missions, in addition to the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund. Borrowing from active missions is not permitted under General Assembly resolutions; and the use of the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund is restricted to the purposes set out in Assembly resolution 49/233 A of 23 December 1994.

    And the last document before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report (document A/58/777), which presents data collected on the occurrence of cases of sexual exploitation and abuse within the United Nations system and on the efforts to prevent such acts. The document describes the progress made in the development of guidelines and tools to establish a reporting process that is sensitive to the needs of victims and towards the promotion of a culture in which sexual exploitation and abuse are not tolerated.  Among the measures to improve the situation, the report lists enhanced sensitization on the issue for managers and staff and the development of guidelines for the appropriate handling of complaints.

    According to the document, 42 out of the 48 United Nations agencies that responded to the Secretariat’s query stated that they had received no reports of sexual exploitation or abuse in 2003. Six entities (Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)) reported that investigations into newly reported cases were opened last year.

    The DPKO reported 24 new cases. In two of the five cases where the alleged perpetrators were civilian personnel, disciplinary action was taken in response to serious misconduct found. As for the 19 cases in which military personnel were allegedly involved, investigations revealed serious misconduct in eight cases and appropriate action was taken.  Investigations into the remaining 14 cases (both civilian and military) are currently under way.

    The Secretariat is aware that the data gathered on cases of sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by personnel may not reflect the true extent of these deplorable incidents. Complaint procedures and victim support mechanisms are not yet adequate.  In many cases, victims are too frightened or ashamed to lodge a complaint. Once they have reported an allegation, some victims fail to provide evidence during investigation due to confusion or, in some cases, intimidation. In addition, staff members may not yet be fully aware of the responsibilities placed on them by the Secretary-General’s bulletin on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (document ST/SGB/2003/13). Considerable additional efforts are required to establish a system within which misconduct of this kind is systematically reported on and effectively followed up, while safeguarding the rights of the victims.

    Introduction of Reports

    Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the establishment of a global procurement hub, JOAN MCDONALD, Director of the Facilities and Commercial Services Division, Office of Central Support Services, drew the Committee’s attention to “what is probably the most salient item”: the need for the Logistics Support Division and Procurement Division to maintain close coordination of activities and interactions with other entities within the Secretariat, including the Committee on Contracts, the Legal Division, the Office of Internal Oversight Services, the Offices of Operations and the Military Division of the DPKO, which would all remain at Headquarters. The relocation of the Logistics Support and Procurement Divisions would pose administrative challenges, since both had extensive interactions with entities within the Secretariat and permanent missions. 

    Relocation of staff to Brindisi would require additional layers of management, creation of liaison and duplicate support functions to continuously ensure efficient operational support in each area of activity, she continued. The relocation would also weaken the capacity of the Procurement Division to manage and direct overall procurement strategies under the procurement reform and common procurement service initiatives, as well as management control and oversight over the procurement function as a whole. The modern trend in procurement was centralization in order to achieve volume discounts through consolidated buying.  A possible transfer to Brindisi would weaken the Procurement Division’s role as a lead agency for many commodities.

    It was the Secretary-General’s conclusion that, except for two functions within the Field Mission Systems Support Section of the Communications and Information Technology Service of the Logistics Support Division, the disadvantages outweighed the advantages for creating a procurement hub in Brindisi.

    A related report of the ACABQ was introduced by that body’s Chairman, VLADIMIR KUZNETSOV. The ACABQ recommended that the Assembly defer action on the report until a new comprehensive Secretary-General’s report was submitted.

    CATHERINE POLLARD, Director of the Peacekeeping Financing Division, introduced the report on the updated financial position of the 18 closed missions. She said that a net cash balance in the amount of $94.24 million was available for credit to Member States, in addition to the $84.45 million to be returned by 30 June. Loans in the amount of some $152 million, that had been made between 30 June 2003 and 31 March 2004 to sustain operations, had been fully repaid and would not negatively impact on the available cash balance.  As at 5 May, the Reserve Fund balance had amounted to $163.32 million. Taking into account the outstanding loan of $12.82 million to the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) and a recent loan of $3.5 million to the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), a cash balance of $147.01 million was available in the Fund.

    With the recent establishment of the Haiti Mission and impending establishment of a mission in Burundi and extension of the mission in East Timor, the Reserve Fund would be used for immediate financing of those operations until assessments were collected. As experience had shown, there was a time lag of approximately 60 to 120 days between the issuance of assessments and the collection of contributions. The Secretary-General proposed that following the return of $84.5 million, the remaining additional cash balance be retained until 31 October to supplement the Reserve Fund to finance the new missions.

    Mr. KUZNETSOV then introduced a related report of the ACABQ.

    Statements

    MARGARET STANLEY (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Union was pleased that the Secretary-General proposed the crediting of some $84.45 million to Member States by 30 June 2004 in accordance with resolution 58/288. She also noted that the Secretary-General proposed that the remaining cash available, which totalled some $94.24 million, be retained until 31 October 2004 to supplement the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund in order to finance the initial requirements of new peacekeeping operations.

    Allowing the Secretariat to retain Member States’ money from closed mission was simply another form of subsidy, and was an unacceptable state of affairs, she said.  However, the Union recognized the critical importance of ensuring that adequate funding was available to new peacekeeping operations in the beginning stages of their operation. The Union could accept, therefore, the retention of some $94.24 million until no later than 31 October 2004, at which time the amount would have to be returned to Member States.

    WANG XINXIA (China) said her delegation’s attention had been drawn to the fact that the net cash available to be credited to Member States was some $94.24 million. In his report, the Secretary-General had also alluded to new peacekeeping operations. The Security Council had established a new mission in Côte d’Ivoire and a follow-on stabilizing force in Haiti. Discussions were also going on in the Council on a potential operation in Burundi.  The financing for missions had become an urgent requirement.

    Cash balances should be returned to Member States, she said, noting that the Secretariat ought to follow that principle.  Under extraordinary circumstances, however, special arrangements of an ad hoc nature could also be explored.  Regarding the Secretary-General’s proposal to retain some $94.24 million until 31 October 2004, China was ready, in view of realities facing United Nations peacekeeping operations today, to give serious consideration to the matter in a positive and constructive spirit, without prejudice to the understanding that cash balances should be returned once assessments were received unless otherwise authorized by Member States.

    JAIDEEP MAZUMDAR (India) agreed with those who had supported the retaining of some $94.24 million until such time as the start-up requirements of new peacekeeping operations were met. However, he had one concern about the implementation of paragraph 5 of resolution 57/323, which had been rather cursorily addressed in the report. That paragraph dealt with dues owed to Member States from closed peacekeeping missions in net cash deficit. He looked forward to discussing the issue during the session.

    Introduction of Further Reports

    ROSEMARY MCCREERY, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on special measures to address sexual exploitation and abuse. She said that the report was the first of its kind, representing a first-time effort to collect data on sexual exploitation and abuse. It indicated that improvements still needed to be made in the design of data collection protocols and in the development of a common nomenclature based on explicit and well-understood standards. Various field operations had significantly different terminology and data categories, which would need to be aligned before the next data collection exercise.  In presenting the report, the Secretariat was conscious that it represented only a first step in the process of ensuring compliance throughout the United Nations system.

    Delegates might be aware of recent reports concerning sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by civilian, police and military contingents in Kosovo and the Bunia region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she continued. In Kosovo, the report prepared by Amnesty International had been discussed by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), and would be addressed at a meeting between Amnesty and DPKO to be held tomorrow. In the case of the Congo, preliminary internal investigations earlier this year had revealed widespread abuses. As a result, the Mission there would shortly undertake a full, formal investigation supported by the OIOS. In early May, the Mission had put in place an action plan, including specific measures for deterrence, and the establishment of an emergency multi-sectoral task force charged with ensuring full compliance with the Secretary-General’s bulletin.

    The Secretary-General’s bulletin of October 2003 was addressed to all United Nations staff, she said. While forces conducting operations under United Nations command and control were prohibited from committing acts of sexual abuse and exploitation under the terms of an earlier bulletin on the observance of international law by United Nations forces, experience showed that stronger measures were needed to ensure compliance with forces’ obligations. Member States should give concrete expression to their support for the Secretariat’s efforts by incorporating the core principles enshrined in the bulletin on sexual exploitation and abuse into the standards and codes of conduct for national armed forces and police. Member States’ support was also sought in ensuring that military personnel serving with peacekeeping missions and civilian police serving with United Nations operations with the status of experts on mission were held accountable for any acts of sexual exploitation and abuse.

    Statements

    Ms. STANLEY (Ireland), speaking also on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that sexual exploitation, including all forms of trafficking and related offences, particularly in the case of vulnerable persons dependent on international aid, was completely unacceptable. She welcomed progress in the development of tools and guidelines to establish a reporting process that was sensitive to the needs of victims and towards the promotion of a culture in which sexual exploitation was not tolerated. Transparent monitoring and accountability structures needed to be established for both civilian and military personnel in each field operation, with appropriate backup at Headquarters. In that regard, she encouraged the Organization to work more closely with Member States towards greater transparency and accountability.

    She underlined the importance of concrete measures, detailed in the report, to ensure consistent and coherent implementation of the Secretary-General’s bulletin on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse. She urged that all categories of personnel serving under the United Nations flag be made fully aware through, among other things, appropriate training. She welcomed the proposals of the working group established by the Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs, particularly the appointment of senior-level female sexual exploitation and abuse focal points in field operations.  It was also appropriate to have gender-balanced composition for investigation teams.

    She also underlined the importance of incorporating the core principles of the Secretary-General’s bulletin into codes of conduct by all parts of the United Nations system. In addition, she fully supported the guidelines completed by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Force and welcomed its ongoing commitment to address the issue.  However, the complaint procedures and victim support mechanisms were not yet adequate.  Those who engaged in acts of sexual exploitation must be held accountable and were not eligible for future United Nations duties.  The Union stressed the importance of developing appropriate complaint procedures and investigative protocols.

    JERRY KRAMER (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand (CANZ), said that when the Assembly had adopted resolution 57/306 just over a year ago, it had gone beyond the condemnation of exploitation and had asked the Secretary-General to do a variety of things to create an environment free of such threats and actions, to ensure clear and consistent procedures for investigating instances of sexual exploitation and abuse, to hold wrongdoers accountable and to collect data on reported cases and actions taken.  He underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of resolution 57/306 and the Secretary-General’s bulletin on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. They were not events, but were rather processes requiring vigilant and sustained action on a broad agenda, including programmatic measures to reduce vulnerability of communities and managerial arrangements to ensure appropriate standards of conduct.

    While the report might not have comprehensively addressed the implementation of resolution 57/306, it did provide useful information on the managerial and structural measures being taken to support the bulletin’s implementation, he said. He echoed the concern expressed by the Secretary-General that complaint procedures and victim support mechanisms were inadequate, possibly leading to under-reporting of incidents.  He wanted to learn more about how the gap would be closed.  He would also welcome information on measures to reinforce the issues among peacekeepers.

    He noted that 52 cases of exploitation had been reported during 2003, more or less equally distributed between peacekeeping operations and the UNHCR. In the cases where “serious” misconduct was confirmed, what action had actually been taken? In the eight confirmed cases involving military personnel, how had accountability been discharged, bearing in mind the shared responsibility of troop-contributing countries in that regard?  Noting that 12 of the UNHCR cases were closed because the alleged perpetrator was not a staff member, he asked if such people were immune from accountability. He was eager to know the recourse sought by the UNHCR in such cases.

    KAREN LOCK (South Africa) recalled that during the debate in the Committee, which had culminated in the adoption of resolution 57/306, her delegation had strongly condemned any form of sexual exploitation or abuse by United Nations personnel in refugee camps or peacekeeping mission areas. South Africa had also stated that Member States had a collective responsibility to ensure that those vulnerable groupings were not traumatized further and were able to reintegrate successfully into their societies. The prevalence of a number of cases alluded to in the Secretary-General’s report was regrettable.  Even one isolated incident of exploitation or abuse was one incident too many and could not be tolerated.

    She said she was encouraged to note that the United Nations had taken several concrete steps to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, and to ensure greater awareness among all categories of personnel serving under the Organization’s flag of the standards of conduct expected of them. The promulgation of the Secretary-General’ bulletin last October was welcome, as was the action taken by several United Nations entities to adapt their codes of conduct to incorporate the principles outlined in that document. South Africa also valued the introduction of guidelines aimed at facilitating the implementation of the bulletin, the development of training programmes, and the finalization of model complaint procedures and investigative protocols. Hopefully, those measures would prevent such acts from accruing and ensure that the guilty were held accountable.

    Noting that the report had not elaborated extensively on measures taken to improve the conditions of refugees and vulnerable communities, she said the OIOS had found in 2003 that the sexual exploitation of refugees was a real problem and that conditions in the camps made refugees vulnerable to sexual and other forms of exploitation. It was hoped that those measures would be reported in greater detail to the appropriate intergovernmental bodies. Many of the measures would require further consideration in other forums, and the United Nations should take every possible action to prevent the risk of exploitation in every sector of its operations, to bring the perpetrators to justice, and to safeguard the rights of the victims.

    NAJIB ELJY (Syria) strongly condemned such criminal acts and welcomed measures to address the issue, which should be treated as a question of great priority. An integrated approach was needed to address crimes against vulnerable groups. The position of the General Assembly should be known to the communities in the areas where the United Nations was operating. They must be made aware of the efforts to stop sexual exploitation and abuse and of the fact that such crimes would not be tolerated. The procedure for receiving complaints should be an essential component of all activities. Syria called on the OIOS to investigate all complaints and on the General Assembly to stay informed.

    Mr. MAZUMDAR (India) strongly condemned any form of sexual exploitation or abuse, incidents of which could be found in a wide spectrum of United Nations operations. All authorities should take measures to prevent and report such incidents and ensure the prosecution of all perpetrators. While the Assembly should take note of the report, India wished to make it clear that such action would not represent an endorsement of all its contents, some of which required discussion in other forums.

    NONYE UDO (Nigeria), noting that the issue was listed under two agenda items, said that the dualization of the item highlighted the importance of the issue. Some 48 United Nations entities had responded to the Secretariat’s inquiries, and six of them had reported that investigations into newly reported cases had been opened last year. The absence of reports of sexual exploitation did not preclude the existence of such crimes, as some victims might have opted to suffer in silence. Nigeria deplored the abuse of the most vulnerable of communities, including children and women, and emphasized the necessity of preventing them, as well as offering appropriate responses to sexual exploitation and abuse.

    Welcoming the Secretary-General’s initial steps to sensitize United Nations personnel to the seriousness of such acts, she also joined others in commending the Secretariat for submitting the report to the Assembly, although the measures taken to deal with reported cases were not always clear. Remedial and preventive measures should be intensified to respond to the OIOS recommendations. The Secretary-General had recommended that the Assembly take note of the present report. While inclined to do so, Nigeria would do so on the understanding that the details would be discussed in the appropriate fora.

    Ms. GOICOCHEA (Cuba) agreeing, with the elements pointed out in the report, said that sexual exploitation and abuse was a serious matter, which could compromise the credibility of some United Nations operations. Such acts went against the objectives of United Nations operations.  Individuals who committed such acts should be held responsible. Cuba welcomed the Secretary-General’s efforts, while, at the same time, noting that they were not enough.  The relevant forums should analyse the report, she added.

    Ms. McCREERY said the Secretariat was reassured by the comments from the floor. The support expressed for its efforts was extremely important.  All entities of the United Nations were actively involved in the efforts to implement the Secretary-General’s bulletin. It was true, however, that current mechanisms were probably catching only a small proportion of incidents. Victims needed to be sure that if they complained, they would not be subject to retribution. They should also know how to lodge their complaints. Among the measures taken was the provision of an information sheet addressed to local communities, which explained their rights and how their interests would be protected. A standard referral form had been distributed to field missions, as well as scenarios which explained prohibited acts. The latter might seem self-evident, but, in fact, it was not.

    Training and orientation should help the staff understand their rights and obligations, she continued. Modern investigative protocols and complaint procedures were being introduced. Great importance was placed on investigation. As for measures to reinforce the provisions of the bulletin among peacekeepers, that was a continuous task as personnel were continuously rotated. It was important to ensure that they were appropriately briefed and aware of the rules. Also implemented was continuous dissemination of the bulletin and protocols, as well as repatriation of members of military contingents found in breach of the codes of conduct.

    She went on to reiterate the Secretary-General’s call for Member States to collaborate with the United Nations when personnel were found in breach of the rules, to ensure that that people going on mission were adequately briefed and that violations were properly dealt with, as peacekeeping contingents were not subject to the same disciplinary procedures as United Nations staff. 

    Turning to the outcome of known cases of serious misconduct, she said that in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the individuals concerned had been dismissed. As for the closure of 12 cases because perpetrators were not staff members, that did not mean they had been allowed to go free. In one case, it was a non-governmental organization (NGO) member, whose case had been referred to the organization in question.  Other cases had been referred to the local police for follow-up. She hoped to be able to present a more detailed analysis of the situation next year.  It was true that, in many cases, victims suffered in silence instead of coming forward, and the Secretariat would make sure that complaints were followed up and the perpetrators punished.

    Mr. GOICOCHEA (Cuba) expressed gratitude for the answers provided and said she was pleased that upcoming reports would be more explicit, because the data presently before the Committee did not truly reflect the action taken when people committed abuses. Regarding numerous cases where the United Nations had no jurisdiction over the individuals involved, she asked whether agreements signed for Member States’ participation in peacekeeping included specific clauses that would compel them to be accountable when their nationals committed crimes. Were there plans to that effect? Was work being done with NGOs?

    Mr. MAZUMDAR (India) noted that in the case of individuals from non-governmental organizations who committed acts of sexual exploitation, it was left to the NGO to take action or not to take action. In that regard, what measures could be taken by the United Nations to ensure that NGOs were held accountable for prosecuting personnel involved in such acts?

    Mr. KRAMER (Canada) said when the Secretary-General’s report said there were “X” cases and that appropriate action had been taken in “Y” of those cases, it was reasonable that there would be a question as to what was an appropriate action. As the reporting mechanism continued to be developed, it would be helpful to know the specifics of the actions taken without breaching privacy issues.

    Ms. MCCREERY noted that the Secretary-General’s bulletin stated that when entering into cooperative arrangements with non-United Nations entities or individuals, relevant United Nations officials would inform those entities of the standards of conduct and would receive a written undertaking that they understood those standards. The failure to take action, to investigate allegations or take corrective action should constitute grounds for ending an arrangement with the Organization.

    There were various forms of memoranda of understanding with NGOs at the local level, she said.  They were required to endorse the standards set out in the bulletin. Should they fail to do so, it would mean that their arrangements with the United Nations would be terminated. It did not address the specific action taken against individuals. Another way of ensuring that NGOs were aware of their obligations was that donor countries had agreed to incorporate the principles of the Secretary-General’s bulletin into their funding agreements with NGOs. Efforts had been made at the NGO level collectively.  She could not report on what actual measures had been taken to ensure that arrangements were brought to an end.

    She said she had noted comments on the lack of detail contained in the report. The Secretariat would attempt to ensure that fuller information was included in the next round.

    Ms. LOCK (South Africa) said her delegation understood that the document before the Committee had been prepared in response to resolution 57/306 and that it outlined the actions taken to create greater awareness in the field, both in peacekeeping and development activities. She also understood that for certain reasons, more specific actions should not be listed in a public document. She wanted to express appreciation for the actions taken.  She fully supported the need for increased contact and dialogue with national governments, but she did not think it would be appropriate to list the actions by national governments in the document before the Committee. The Fifth Committee needed to look at the matter from the administrative perspective. Some related activities were discussed in the Security Council, the Second Committee and the Committee on Peacekeeping Operations. If there was an intention to start listing such information, it was necessary to find an appropriate forum, she insisted.

    Mr. MAZUMDAR (India) said that like South Africa’s representative, he had been compelled to take the floor by some of the comments in the discussion. His delegation condemned all cases of abuse without exception, irrespective of who committed them. However, some wanted to target peacekeeping personnel at the exclusion of others. He warned against the efforts to politicize the issue. All measures needed to be discussed in appropriate forums.

    FELICITY BUCHANAN (New Zealand) recalled that in paragraph 15 of the report, action sought from the General Assembly was that it took note of the document. As a coordinator of negotiations on the item, she suggested that the Secretariat prepare a decision taking note of the report, to be considered at the next formal meeting.

    Mr. KRAMER (Canada) said that when the Secretary-General’s report noted that appropriate action had been taken, it was not unreasonable for the Secretariat to be able to answer the question of what that action was. It was a reasonable question for people to ask and for the Secretariat to be able to answer, as it was an important part of the confidence in the systems being developed.

    ERNESTO HERRERA (Mexico) supported the request made by New Zealand.

    Committee Vice-Chairman ABDELMALEK BOUHEDDOU (Algeria) said he would ask the Secretariat to prepare a draft decision that could be examined at the next formal meeting.

    Turning to the 2004-2005 programme budget, the Committee then decided to note the information contained in document A/58/727 on the possibility of operating guided tours, bookstores and gift shops at the United Nations Office at Nairobi and the costs implications.

    * *** *