Reforms to Eliminate Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

In 2004, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan invited H.R.H. Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, the Permanent Representative of Jordan to the UN, to be his Adviser on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN Peacekeeping Personnel. A comprehensive strategy to eliminate future sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations Peacekeeping operations, known as the Zeid Report, was released in March 2005.


The Zeid Report provided a comprehensive and innovative package of reforms for both the UN Secretariat and Member States. It was debated in the General Assembly in April 2005, and led to the adoption of a two-year package of reforms for peacekeeping concerning sexual exploitation and abuse.


“Implementing fundamental, systemic changes as a matter of urgency” was one of the report’s main recommendations. Although the focus was on sexual exploitation and abuse, the problems identified related to a range of misconduct, which highlighted a lack of awareness of UN standards of conduct, unclear procedures for making complaints, incomplete data on misconduct and insufficient capacity in peacekeeping missions to conduct investigations. One of the first steps taken to rectify this situation was the creation at Headquarters of the Conduct and Discipline Unit and the establishment of Conduct and Discipline Teams in field missions.


Mr. Annan clearly enunciated the UN’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy against sexual exploitation and abuse in a Letter to the President of the Security Council in February 2005: “We cannot tolerate even one instance of a United Nations peacekeeper victimizing the most vulnerable among us … such behaviour violates the fundamental ‘duty of care’ that United Nations peacekeepers owe to the very peoples they are sent to protect and serve.”  Mr. Annan declared: “The basic policy is clear: zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse of any kind.”


In 2015 a number of initiatives are being implemented as the UN continues to build on new programmes, protocols and overall procedures to prevent SEA, enforce standards, increase accountability, provide remedial action and ensure effectiveness of investigations. The UN is implementing more than 40 proposals from the Secretary-General’s report Special measures for protection from SEA, adopted by the General Assembly in May 2015. The most significant measures include: 


  • Establishing Immediate Response Teams in peacekeeping missions to gather and preserve evidence for use in investigations;
  • Adopting a six-month timeline for completion of investigations of sexual exploitation and abuse and calling on Member States to adhere to the same timeline;
  • Developing an enhanced complaint reception framework to ensure mechanisms within communities where people can come forward, in confidence, to raise complaints regarding UN personnel; 
  • Establishing a trust fund to provide support and assistance to victims, complainants and children born as a result of sexual exploitation and abuse;
  • Strengthening administrative measures against staff members found to have committed these acts, including withholding entitlements and; 
  • Suspending pay to troop and police contributing countries in connection with suspects on the basis of credible evidence.