Security Council backs plan to tackle sex abuse by UN troops
The United Nations Security Council has adopted its first resolution to tackle the escalating problem of sexual abuse by the world body's peacekeepers sent to protect vulnerable civilians in some of the most volatile areas.
The UN has been in the spotlight for months over allegations of child rape and other abuses by its peacekeeping troops, especially those based in Central African Republic and Congo.
The UN said there were 69 claims of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers in 2015, with an additional 25 so far this year.
The resolution was approved by a vote of 14-0 with Egypt abstaining after unsuccessfully proposing a last-minute amendment that would have weakened the text.
The US-drafted resolution endorses UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's plan for reform, including his decision to repatriate military or police units "where there is credible evidence of widespread or systemic sexual exploitation and abuse".
It also asks Mr Ban to replace contingents where allegations are not properly investigated, perpetrators are not held accountable or the secretary general is not informed on the progress of investigations.
The Egyptian amendment would have required that all three conditions were met before a military or police unit was sent home, rather than just one of them, as is now required.
The US, the biggest financial contributor to peacekeeping operations, said it wanted the security council - the UN's most powerful body - to send a strong signal that it would not tolerate the escalating problem.
"To the victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers, we pledge that we will do better," US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said after the vote.
"We will do better to ensure that the blue helmets that we send as your protectors will not become perpetrators."
More than 100,000 troops and police are deployed in the UN's far-flung peacekeeping operations, the vast majority from developing countries. The UN reimburses troop-contributing countries for salaries and provides allowances for peacekeepers.
As part of the secretary general's reforms, the UN has for the first time begun naming the countries of alleged perpetrators, a move meant to pressure states to pursue allegations that, UN records show, they often have let slide.
Mr Ban has also pledged to speed up investigations and to make information available about outstanding allegations on a new UN website.
Egypt, Russia and several other countries argued that the security council resolution would punish thousands of peacekeepers for the actions of a few, saying the issue should be addressed in the UN General Assembly instead.
But unlike security council resolutions, general assembly actions are not legally binding.
Egypt's UN ambassador Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta said libelling and "branding entire states" was totally unacceptable and "drastically and inevitably affects the morale of the troops".
He said it would have been more appropriate if the security council focused on the root causes of sex crimes, including training and supervision at camps for peacekeepers.
One of the 25 allegations this year is against an Egyptian peacekeeper in the Central African Republic. Egyptian authorities are investigating the case, according to the UN website.
Russia and China supported the Egyptian amendment, but then voted in favour of the resolution.
Russia's deputy UN ambassador Petr Iliichev said it was "wrong" for the council to reject the Egyptian amendment which reflected the view of troop contributing countries. But he said Russia decided to support the resolution because the final text was expanded to call for all forces deployed by the security council - a reference to French troops accused of sexually abusing children in Central African Republic and African Union soldiers in Somalia, Darfur and elsewhere.
"Today is a step in the right direction," London-based Amnesty International's crisis response director Tirana Hassan said. "But it will still require significant reform throughout the UN system."