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— AIDS-Free World’s Code Blue Campaign proposes ‘receivership’ by Member States to solve UN peacekeeping’s sexual abuse crisis  —

January 26, 2016: Speaking to journalists today, Paula Donovan and Stephen Lewis, co-directors of AIDS-Free World and its Code Blue Campaign, put forth a dramatic new proposal to halt the peacekeeper sexual abuse that has plagued the UN for decades. Member States should assume the temporary oversight, management, and control of all aspects of this crisis, they said, if UN peacekeeping is to survive with its integrity and reputation intact.  

“Another expert panel has declared a state of emergency within the UN system itself,” said Paula Donovan. “Vulnerable women and children deserve more than hollow commitments to ‘zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse’ from UN officials who respond to warnings as though their bureaucracy were too big to fail.  We propose that Member States temporarily assume ‘guardianship’ by appointing an external oversight board to manage the crisis to its end, and report directly to Member States.”

In December, an External Independent Review Panel (“CAR Panel”) report tabled by Justice Marie Deschamps was the latest in a series of expert reports pointing to “gross institutional failure” in the UN’s handling of sexual abuse, and a “culture of impunity” that extends from the barracks to the 38th floor of the UN Secretariat, encompassing UN personnel in peacekeeping missions and across several UN agencies, funds and programs.

Our proposed arrangement, a variation on financial receivership, would take the organization’s oversight of every aspect of peacekeeper sexual exploitation and abuse out of the hands of the UN Secretariat and place it under an external, independent management board. To start discussions among peacekeeping’s ultimate trustees — the 193 governments that make up the General Assembly — the Code Blue campaign set out a possible format: top experts in fields including military, police, sexual violence, international law and criminal justice, women’s rights, children’s rights, and UN policies and procedures could be selected by Member States to serve as overseers for a fixed period of perhaps three years. The oversight board would monitor and supervise every aspect of the UN’s prevention of and response to peacekeeper sexual abuse in real time. Supported by technical advisors external to the UN, the oversight board would provide hands-on guidance; immediately identify gaps; streamline actions; and implement on-the-spot course corrections. In essence, it would put into place a system of checks and balances that has been virtually non-existent until now.

The recent allegations of peacekeeper sexual abuse in the Central African Republic by peacekeepers authorized or sent by the UN are merely the latest in a disturbing pattern of abuse. The first references to peacekeeper sexual abuse appeared in Graça Machel’s landmark UN study, The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, and have resurfaced in mission after mission over the last two decades, in spite of an often-cited 2003 UN policy of “zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse.”

“With the protection of vulnerable civilians and the future of global peacekeeping operations in mind, we created the Code Blue Campaign to put an end to impunity for peacekeeper sexual exploitation and abuse,” said Donovan. “The world is waiting to see whether Member States will solve a catastrophe of the UN’s own making. In our analysis, the crisis cannot be managed from within. But with an external oversight board working to change the UN’s response in real time, we can confront and end this crisis once and for all. Civil society is more than willing to work with Member States and the Office of the Secretary-General to achieve that end.”


Learn more about AIDS-Free World's Code Blue Campaign to end impunity for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeeping personnel. Visit