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SLUG: 2-323031 Ivory Coast/UN (L)








HEADLINE: UN Number Two Says United Nations Will Not Tolerate Sexual Misconduct

INTRO: The deputy secretary general of the United Nations is in divided Ivory Coast to promote a U.N. policy of zero tolerance for sexual abuse, in the wake of allegations of widspread abuses by U.N. peacekeepers in the region. Joe Bavier reports from VOA's West Africa bureau in Abidjan.

TEXT: Deputy Secretary General Louise Frechette arrived in Ivory Coast Friday from Sierra Leone as part of what she says is a preventive mission to the region. During her four-day stay, she will meet with members of the U.N. peacekeeping mission here, its associate agencies, and Ivorian authorities.

All of this is aimed, she says, at implementing the United Nations' policy against sexual misconduct.


"In clear and graphic terms, (it) means, no sex with minors, whether consensual or not. And for the U.N., the age of consent is 18. It means no sex with prostitutes. It means no exchange of sexual favors for services, no sex for employment, no sex for access to benefits or programs. So, it's very precise. And it's very clear."

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The image of the United Nations in the region has been tarnished by allegations of sexual misconduct by U.N. personnel. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, where Ms. Frechette spent the first two legs of her trip, U.N. workers were implicated in the exploitation of underage refugees.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.N. is currently looking into suspected widespread

abuses carried out by peacekeepers. An internal investigation in January found some U.N. peacekeepers sexually exploited women and girls as young as 13, in some cases luring them with small amounts of money or food.

Ms. Frechette says, in instances where criminal abuses are uncovered, the rules are clear. Civilian employees can either be tried in the local court system or sent home to their country of origin to face prosecution. An Australian investigator with Sierra Leone's U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal was convicted of sexual abuse there only last month.

The process is different for offenses committed by U.N. peacekeepers.


"When it comes to the military side, it is the responsibility of the troop-contributing countries to exercise discipline against soldiers and officers, whom they have found guilty of offenses. And in that context, that is one of the challenges; we have had to ensure that the very large number of troop-contributing countries all accept their responsibility, and that they do effectively take disciplinary measures."

/// END ACT ///

South Africa is the only country to have prosecuted its soldiers for sexual crimes related to the Congo scandal. Morocco announced last month that it would try six of its soldiers for abuses allegedly carried out during peacekeeping operations there.

/// OPT /// The nearly six-thousand U.N. soldiers charged with enforcing the cease-fire agreement that ended fighting in Ivory Coast's civil war have not been accused of misconduct. /// END OPT ///

Ms. Frechette continues her trip next week with visits to U.N. peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Haiti. (SIGNED)


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