UK Government Under Fire for Failing to Donate to Fund for UN Sex Abuse Victims
Mothers of 11 “peacekeeper babies” in Haiti are struggling to feed their children, say lawyers.
Victims of sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers have reportedly described the UK’s attitude to supporting survivors as “very glib.”
The UK government is yet to join the 19 UN member states that have voluntarily contributed to a fund to provide medical, legal, and other support to those abused by UN staff.
Canada, Australia, Italy, and Norway are among those nations to pay into the fund, which totals £1.4 million — including £265,000 withheld from UN staff in substantiated cases of sexual abuse and exploitation, reported the Guardian.
But a spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said the UK is “100% committed to ending sexual abuse and exploitation by those who are entrusted with protecting some of the most vulnerable people in the world.”
“We are lobbying for change at the highest levels,” they added. “The PM, foreign and development secretaries have all called on the UN secretary general to robustly tackle this abuse.”
The spokesperson said the FCO has contributed £3 million to “ending sexual abuse and exploitation” at the UN, which they said was “significantly more than the value of the UN trust fund.”
According to the Guardian, the FCO couldn’t provide details about how much of the funding would go to supporting survivors.
Meanwhile, a lawyer representing a group of 11 mothers of “peacekeeper babies” in Haiti, who say they were sexually exploited by UN personnel, said the “UK is quick to talk about accountability when it comes to criticising other entities or countries.”
Sienna Merope-Synge, an attorney at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), told the Guardian: “That is important, but when it comes to supporting the real needs of victims that they claim to care about to rebuild their lives, the UK is not willing to put its money where its mouth is.”
“We see the UK government talking about having victims’ voices heard. They have talked about the need for zero tolerance and about leadership,” she continued. “But there are a whole bunch of victims of UN abuse who perceive the UK as very glib about supporting victims.”
The survivors’ fund was established by the UN secretary general in March 2016, in order to “place victims at the core” of its approach.
The group of 10 Haitian mothers have filed the first legal actions in Haiti against the UN and individual peacekeepers for child support and paternity claims, reported the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
One of the mothers was 17 when she gave birth, which amounts to statutory rape under Haitian law, according to the IJDH.
“These mothers and their children face severe economic difficulties and discrimination” said Mario Joseph, a lawyer at Haiti-based human rights group Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), which filed the lawsuits.
Joseph added that six of the motors were left homeless after Hurricane Matthew tore through the Caribbean island in 2017.
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