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Distinguished Panel Appointed: Code Blue campaign achieves first crucial goal

— External Independent Review panel will look at UN system's failure to address sexual exploitation and abuse—

June 23, 2015—Yesterday afternoon, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed an External Independent Review Panel to examine the UN’s reprehensible response to allegations of child sexual abuse in the Central African Republic and failures across the entire UN system. We welcome the appointment of the three Panel members—Marie Deschamps (Canada), Hassan Jallow (Gambia), and Yasmin Sooka (South Africa), and we commend the UN for drafting comprehensive Terms of Reference for their work. It is now up to the Review Panel to use this opportunity to examine all facets of the UN’s response to sexual exploitation and abuse, including by its own peacekeeping personnel, and to ensure that those failures no longer pose barriers to protection or justice for victims. 

The announcement of the Panel comes barely two months after AIDS-Free World, intent on bringing public attention to what was then an 8-month failure to address criminal allegations and protect victims, leaked a UN report detailing child sexual abuse by French peacekeepers in the Central African Republic to the Guardian. While the UN has been eager to portray this scandal as an anomaly, it is clear that sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping missions is an endemic problem, and the UN leadership’s management ranges from inept to suspect.       

AIDS-Free World’s Code Blue campaign aims to change that. At its launch on May 13th, we outlined our two initial, ambitious goals. First, we called for a full, system-wide external and independent investigation into the UN’s handling of the crisis of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations. And second, to get to the root of the problem, we called for the end of immunity for non-military UN staff accused of sexual exploitation and abuse. Monday’s announcement is a critically important step in the right direction.   

We insisted that the required peacekeeping review should be made up of experts who are truly independent and external to the United Nations and who will be given full access to all documents and all UN personnel.  We pointed out that if the panel is to succeed, no UN official can be spared scrutiny, no matter how senior. By our reading of the Terms of Reference, we are pleased to note that our criteria appear to have been met. We are encouraged that the panel has been given the flexibility to undertake a wide-ranging review.

“AIDS-Free World sincerely hopes that the Panel will interpret its role broadly. What happened in the Central African Republic was not exceptional. It was typical of the way the UN bends and ignores the rules regarding sexual abuse,” said Paula Donovan, co-director of AIDS-Free World.

“We urge the Panel to take an uncompromising approach: examine every avenue, including the system-wide failures of leadership, and fix what has plagued peacekeeping for decades.” 


AIDS-Free World is an international advocacy organization that exposes injustice, abuse and inequality. We apply high-level advocacy, targeted legal strategies and creative communication to work for a more just world. Code Blue is AIDS-Free World's campaign to end immunity for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeeping personnel.