The present report was prepared pursuant to General Assembly resolutions 71/278, 71/297, 72/312 and 73/302. It contains updated information on measures to strengthen the United Nations response to sexual exploitation and abuse.
In 2017, I put forward a strategy to combat sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations personnel in my first report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (A/71/818 and A/71/818/Corr.1). My strategy prioritizes the rights and dignity of victims, ending impunity, increasing partnerships with Member States, building a network of support with civil society and improving strategic communications for education and transparency. The present report provides updates on progress in the implementation of that strategy, focusing on how I have prioritized accountability measures in areas under my control and realized a victim- centred approach throughout the United Nations system through institutional and policy measures and concrete action on the ground.
Sexual exploitation and abuse are not inevitable. The majority of the more than 190,000 uniformed and civilian personnel across more than 30 United Nations entities serve with professionalism and dedication, often in difficult or dangerous environments. When these wrongs occur, however, they harm those whom we seek to assist and protect, tarnish the values enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and, by breaching trust, undermine our mission and programmatic goals across the humanitarian, peace and development sectors.
I promised to put the United Nations “house in order” and have done so by introducing systems in areas within my authority directed at holding our leadership and personnel throughout the Organization personally accountable for creating an environment in which the prohibitions on sexual exploitation and abuse are known and understood. This has resulted in sustained engagement at the most senior levels, in the field and at Headquarters, and heightened awareness among personnel of their obligation to adhere to required standards of behaviour. There is also increased understanding of the consequences of a breach of these standards, which include dismissal and a bar to reemployment in any part of the United Nations system. The United Nations cannot institute judicial processes to hold individuals civilly or criminally accountable, but I have deepened cooperation with Member States so that those who perpetrate these wrongs are held to account.
While I am gratified that much has been achieved in terms of alignment and coherence in approaches to prevention and response throughout the United Nations system, as well as in raising awareness and changing attitudes, I acknowledge the significant challenges that remain. The high turnover of personnel, combined with the vulnerable environments in which the United Nations operates, require constant vigilance to ensure that systems are in place to identify and mitigate risk, screen and train our personnel and respond in a victim-centred, timely and robust way to allegations when they are received. Ultimately, we, as an international community, must address the root causes of sexual exploitation and abuse, including gender inequality and the deep power imbalance between our personnel and those whom we are mandated to protect and aid, if we are to combat these shameful and harmful behaviours effectively.