By NewsMax.com Wires and NewsMax.com, May 7, 2002
GENEVA, Switzerland: The United Nations’ massive pedophilia scandal has not received 1 percent of the media attention given to the Catholic Church’s homosexual priest scandal. Finally some attention is being paid, now that the U.N.’s cover is blown.
As world leaders converge on New York for the controversial conference on children this week, U.N. investigators and relief agencies say they are finally trying to stop recurrence of sexual abuse against West African refugee children by U.N. “peacekeepers” and aid workers.
The scale of allegations, partly revealed Feb. 26, sent shock waves through the “international aid community” and led to calls from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and governments for an urgent investigation in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Calls were raised for measures to ensure that refugee children were protected worldwide from abuse.
About a half-dozen investigators from the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services in New York, plus investigators from the office of the inspector-general of the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees, were still examining the allegations, senior U.N. officials told United Press International.
The U.N. investigating team also includes a medical doctor, the same sources said.
It was unclear how long the investigation will last. “We’re all waiting for the results of the inquiry to take action,” said an official from one of the agencies under investigation.
After formal moves by UNHCR last December, a preliminary OIOS investigation was initiated in January, but it only moved into full gear in March, said a U.N. official.
Not Much Progress
The U.N.’s investigating arm, however, also came under heavy criticism by senior Western diplomats for the slow pace of its work on the ground in the three countries. The limited number of investigators at the oversight office, less than 20, partly explains the grinding pace of the inquiry.
“We can barely cope with the cases that are being referred to us,” Dileep Nair, U.N. undersecretary general and chief of OIOS, told UPI.
In 2001, the burdened OIOS had more than 400 cases referred to it ranging from petty to serious alleged breaches linked to U.N. matters.
Some officials close to the investigation reckon a final report could be ready by the end of the month.
Parallel investigations in the field have also been initiated by many of the nearly 40 non-governmental organizations such as Save the Children-UK and Doctors Without Borders.
Brendan Paddy, a spokesman for Save the Children-UK, told UPI on Sunday that the agency has conducted its own investigation and sacked one staff member in Guinea and stopped two community volunteers from participating in its aid work.
Similarly, a spokesman for Doctors Without Borders, Rafael Vilasanjuan, told UPI the group has also been conducting an investigation into the allegations but so far “we have not found any concrete evidence.
“If there is any evidence, we will take all the measures.” He said Doctors Without Borders had “no tolerance” for such behavior.
In the meantime, U.N. agencies and many of the NGOs were busy at work putting in place new checks and balances in the field to prevent sexual abuse of refugee children.
Some of the measures have included beefing up staff by more than 35 in areas such as UNHCR emergency, protection and community services in the three countries, including 12 solely to respond to sexual exploitation.
Rotation of staff to different camps has also been expanded.
Moreover, the U.N. World Food Program has increased the number of female monitors and held meetings with all staff and NGOs to highlight the agency’s “zero tolerance” policy over sexual abuse, said WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume.
Reactionary U.N. Knew of Atrocities
However, the United Nations has not always been that proactive on this issue.
A full copy of the joint study sponsored by the UNHCR and SC-UK, obtained by UPI, notes that during debriefing sessions in all three countries:
“UNHCR staff, government representatives and the agency staff, including senior managers, acknowledged that they knew such practices happened. Regrettably, even in situations where such information had been brought to their attention in the past, no action had been taken to monitor or redress the situation.”
The number of allegations documented “is a critical indicator of the scale of this problem,” it said.
U.N. Workers Among ‘Worst Sexual Exploiters of Children’
“Agency workers from the international and local NGOs as well as U.N. agencies were ranked as among the worst sex exploiters of children, often using the very humanitarian aid and services intended to benefit the refugee population as a tool of exploitation.”
The assessment team listed sexual allegations and called for further investigation against workers from 42 agencies and 67 individuals.
“The details of these allegations were submitted to UNHCR in confidential lists as the mission was ongoing,” the report said.
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