Sexual assault, UN peacekeeping, and the Code Blue campaign: part 2

Read part one

Canada’s Response

On June 4, 2015, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, issued a statement condemning in the “strongest terms all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peace operations.” The statement goes on to express outrage over the delay in UN investigations and to welcome the announcement of the UN efforts to address sexual abuse and exploitation.

While Canada presses the UN to “do more to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse and to fully investigate any allegations against UN peacekeepers and staff,” one cannot ignore the irony and shallowness of these statements. The statement focuses on negative action, rather than offering any assistance moving forward. However, at this point, it is questionable if Canada would even have the capability to assist with this process. Canada’s own military and RCMP are both currently facing public scrutiny as reports and lawsuits are exposing ‘toxic’ environments for women and members of the LGBT community. Continue reading “Sexual assault, UN peacekeeping, and the Code Blue campaign: part 2”

Sexual assault, UN peacekeeping, and the Code Blue Campaign: Part 1

When the UN becomes the protectors of predators, instead of the prosecutors of predators, that destroys me because I believe in the UN and I believe in the power of the UN to make change.”

Theo Sowa, CEO of African Women’s Development Fund.

by Sara Walde, WPSN-C intern and MA candidate in International Development and Global Studies (with a specialization of feminist and gender studies)

The recent launch of AIDS-Free World’s Code Blue Campaign could not hacodeblueve been timelier. Revelations of child sexual abuse, perpetrated by French, Chadian, and Equatorial Guinean peacekeepers, were made public not a month before this global campaign to end immunity for UN peacekeeper sexual violence was announced. The knowledge of these horrific acts, involving hungry and homeless boys as young as eight, was never meant for public consumption. Indeed, when high-level UN officials gained knowledge of these abuses, they did the unthinkable: nothing.

Internal UN documents received by AIDS-Free World reveal severe gaps in the UN’s ability to adhere to its ‘zero-tolerance’ policy. These documents showed that by mid-July 2014, at least 12 UN officials were made aware of the abuses that occurred that spring. These officials also knew that no action had been, or was scheduled to be, taken. It wasn’t until senior aid worker Anders Kompass learned of the crimes that something was done. Seeing the UN’s failure to act, Kompass provided an internal report to French authorities, who subsequently thanked Kompass and launched an investigation. Senior level UN officials then began to be interested. However, as AIDS-Free World notes, the interest wasn’t in justice and care for the young boys; it wasn’t in ensuring more children weren’t harmed; and it wasn’t in condemning and persecuting the paedophilic peacekeepers. Rather, the sole focus was on Kompass’ actions concerning the leaked documents. Continue reading “Sexual assault, UN peacekeeping, and the Code Blue Campaign: Part 1”

Launch of Code Blue Campaign

Today saw the launch of a new campaign, Code Blue, by the non-governmental organization AIDS-Free World, in conjunction with a group of international experts: Ms. Graça Machel, L.Gen. Roméo Dallaire, Ms. Theo Sowa, Ambassador Amwarul Chowdhury (Bangladesh), Ms. Paula Donovan, and Mr. Stephen Lewis. The campaign wants to end immunity for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers.

There are three main aspects to the campaign: the removal of any possibility of immunity for the UN’s non-military peacekeeping personnel (including staff of the various UN programs and funds, police and experts on mission) when accused of sexual abuse; the creation of an independent and external commission of inquiry to examine the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse within peacekeeping operations; and the engagement of individuals and organizations to pressure the UN’s leadership, troop-contributing countries; and countries experiencing conflict to respond in a more accountable manner to this issue.

Individuals and organizations are invited to join the campaign. Further details are available on the campaign’s website. Details from the campaign’s launch event today, which was livestreamed, can be found on Twitter using the hashtag #CodeBlue.

#16 Days: Progress on Women, Peace and Security Issues

“UN Women for Peace” march marking International Women’s Day in 2013. Photo credit: Mark Garten / United Nations.
“UN Women for Peace” march marking International Women’s Day in 2013. Photo credit: Mark Garten / United Nations.

Report Review: Cross-Cutting Report on Women, Peace and Security (2014) by Security Council Report

Security Council Report, an independent non-for-profit organisation that provides “information about the activities of the UN Security Council and its subordinate bodies” for the stakeholders and the general public, published the 4th Cross-Cutting Report on Women, Peace and Security in April 2014. This and preceding cross-cutting reports on women, peace and security specifically deal with women, peace and security issues and the way the Security Council addresses them. In general, the reports track the new work of the Security Council as it relates to women, peace and security matters, analyze relevant statistical information, and highlight relevant trends.

The fourth report is quite comprehensive in nature even though it focuses mostly on the developments in the last year. It starts by discussing and analyzing key developments at the thematic level in the following areas: Security Council activity on women, peace and security; “Arria-Formula” meeting on women, peace and security; field perspectives from gender practitioners in peacekeeping operations; and the work of the Special Representative on sexual violence in conflicts. Next, it dives into a cross-cutting analysis for 2013 by looking at Security Council resolutions, country-specific presidential statements, Secretary General’s reports on country-specific situations, and UN Mission mandates. Furthermore, it analyzes the application of UN’s Zero-Tolerance policy and the work of the several Security Council Sanctions Committees. Lastly, it briefly discusses Security Council’s dynamics as they relate to women, peace and security agenda. Continue reading “#16 Days: Progress on Women, Peace and Security Issues”

#16days: Film Screening & Panel Discussion of The Invisible War

Invisible War

It is the most powerful and advanced military organization in history, but it is failing hundreds of thousands within its own ranks.

About half a million female soldiers in the US military have been raped, and military women in combat zones are now more likely to sexually assaulted by their fellow soldiers than killed by enemy fire.

It is this shameful and under-reported truth that award-winning filmmaker, Kirby Dick, explores in The Invisible War. Featuring personal interviews and footage, the film follows several survivors of sexual assault as they rebuild their lives and seek justice from an unyielding military system that promotes perpetrators and punishes victims of sexual violence.

We invite you to hear their stories at our film screening and panel discussion of The Invisible War on Friday November 28. The event will be held in room 4004 in the Social Sciences Building at the University of Ottawa. Doors will open at 5:30pm and the screening will start at 6:00pm. Please note that space is limited, so guests are encouraged to arrive early!

Following the screening, a panel including Noémi Mercier, author of a recent exposé on sexual violence within the Canadian military published by L’actualité and Maclean’s magazine, Julie S. Lalonde, founder of Hollaback! Ottawa and developer of bystander intervention project Draw the Line, and moderator Caitlin Maxwell, feminist lawyer and researcher of sexual violence in the Canadian military, will discuss issues of sexual violence in Canada’s military and communities, and participate in a Q&A.

Opening remarks will be made by Colonel (Ret’d) Michel W. Drapeau, lawyer, professor and former Director, National Defence Headquarters Secretariat and Secretary, Armed Forces Council.

The event is free and open to the public. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates.

This event will be co-hosted by the WPSN-C and the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.