Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare told the General Assembly that India, Benin, Ecuador and Uruguay have taken steps to designate national paternity focal points
A top UN official has lauded efforts undertaken by India and other nations in designating focal points to facilitate paternity and child support claims in case of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against peacekeepers.
Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare told the General Assembly that India, Benin, Ecuador and Uruguay, though not necessarily facing paternity allegations, have taken steps to designate national paternity focal points and expressed hope that other nations will follow the example.
Against the backdrop of challenges being faced and progress being made to end the exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers, Khare yesterday said priority must be for the organisation to provide victims with support and assistance.
In 2015, the UN made progress in facilitating paternity and child support claims against peacekeepers, underlining that the practice of designating national paternity focal points helps to address some of the challenges for a victim in bringing claims in the country of nationality of the alleged father, he said.
“We have seen best practices emerge in this regard. Recently four countries – not necessarily facing paternity allegations – Benin, Ecuador, India and Uruguay – have informed the Secretariat of focal points designated for this function and we look forward to positive response from more members states,” he said.
Khare said Sri Lanka in particular has arranged a one-time ex-gratia payment to a victim and child born as a result of sexual exploitation and abuse.
No Indian peacekeeper was found guilty of any wrongdoing in a new report that was launched in March and that for the first time identified nationalities of UN peacekeeping personnel involved in sexual abuse against citizens.
As many as 69 allegations of sexual exploitation were received by the UN against its peacekeepers last year, according to the report.
Reiterating that there can be no impunity for sexual exploitation and abuse, Khare said that if allegations are substantiated, the UN “takes all action within its control”.
“We have the responsibility to take administrative action and sanction all civilians, including individual consultants and contractors. The authority, though, to sanction or criminally prosecute personnel is under the exclusive jurisdiction of Member States,” he said.
Khare said among the organisation’s immediate priorities has been to provide protection and support to the victims, reiterating the need for collective efforts to put stronger measures in place to ensure prevention and greater accountability.