Ambassador Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
Bambari, Central African Republic
The reports of new allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by UN and non-UN personnel in the Central African Republic are sickening. At the request of the Secretariat, the Security Council is meeting today to be briefed on the allegations. In these cases, as in all reported allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, it is critically important that prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations be carried out; and that, if the allegations are substantiated, the perpetrators be held accountable.
Today, in the town of Bambari in the Central African Republic, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the families of victims of abuse. It was gut-wrenching to hear them speak about how the peacekeepers they had looked to as protectors became perpetrators. Our conversations highlighted how the pain and suffering – and the acute sense of betrayal – endure long after the heinous acts themselves. In a testament to the ongoing agony being experienced by the families of victims of sexual abuse, the teenage girls who were violated by UN peacekeepers have been ostracized from their communities, themselves blamed for the abuse inflicted upon them.
The people of the Central African Republic have witnessed the potential for peacekeepers to do tremendous good, and for them to inflict tremendous harm. I came here to attend the inauguration of the country’s new president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra – a peaceful, democratic transfer of power that may well have not taken place had it not been for the service of UN peacekeepers and other international forces.
This plague of sexual abuse by peacekeepers must stop. These infernal abuses defy the very values the UN was created to uphold, taint the legitimacy of the institution, and undermine the effectiveness of those honorable peacekeepers who are attempting to protect civilians and promote peace.
Would-be perpetrators have to know that they cannot get away with such abuses. That is why the immediate and full implementation of Security Council Resolution 2272 is critical. UN Member States must thoroughly and impartially investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute individuals alleged to have committed sexual exploitation and abuse. Governments that fail to fulfil their duty to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute, should be denied the privilege of serving in UN peacekeeping missions, and their units should be repatriated. And the UN Security Council, and all UN Member States, must see to it that we live up to the standards we have set. We are seeing the devastating consequences when we do not. The stakes of addressing this problem – for the victims, for nations like the Central African Republic, and for the UN and its Member States – could not be higher.