Saturday, May 31, 2008

A “Chronic Silence” on U.N. Child Abuse

A study released earlier this week by Save the Children, a British charity, dealing with sexual abuse of children by aid workers and United Nations peacekeepers showed that children affected by conflict or natural disaster rarely report abuse. They fear that the abuser might come back and hurt them, or that they might lose their aid, or even that their families might punish them.

Save the Children spoke with more than two hundred girls and boys in southern Sudan, Ivory Coast and Haiti. The group says peacekeepers and aid workers traded sex for food, money, soap and, in some cases, mobile phones. Children as young as six were abused.

The United Nations cannot punish peacekeepers for crimes; it can only send them back to their own countries to be tried. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called the issue very serious. He says the cases will be carefully investigated and that his policy is “zero tolerance” for abuse. Well, we’ve heard that before and no measurable improvement in the situation appears to have been made.

How can an organization that purports to speak with moral authority on the issue of human rights have any credibility whatsoever when this inexcusable kind of travesty is allowed to continue practically unabated amidst its own ranks? Given that Canada fancies itself a leading player in the United Nations and a force for good in the world, what the heck is the Harper government doing in this regard… anything at all?