'Zero-tolerance policy for misconduct of peacekeepers'

India adopts 'zero-tolerance' policy for serious misconduct of peacekeepers, says Tirumurti

Tirumurti said prevention lay at the core of India’s efforts to combat SEA and serious misconduct issues

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti. Credit: PTI File Photo

India pays great attention to the conduct of peacekeepers and has adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy for sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) related serious misconduct, and the country aims to strengthen mechanisms to ensure prevention and mitigation of these issues, India’s envoy to the UN has said.

Speaking at the high-level meeting with the UN Member States on 'Strengthening the Conduct of Peacekeeping Personnel' on Monday, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti said a clean image of the UN peacekeeper was the cornerstone for the success of United Nations peace operations.

India, which is among the largest troop contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions, is also the only country among the top 20 troop contributing countries that does not figure in the list of SEA-related cases on the UN website.

"India pays great attention to the conduct of the peacekeepers. We have adopted a ‘zero-tolerance' policy for sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) related serious misconduct and aim to strengthen mechanisms to ensure prevention and mitigation of these issues,” he said.

Tirumurti said prevention lay at the core of India’s efforts to combat SEA and serious misconduct issues, and screening, training, and awareness were the prime components of this approach.

India’s Center for UN Peacekeeping (CUNPK), which provides training to peacekeepers from India as well as partners with countries for the last 20 years, had introduced “peacekeeping conduct and discipline” related training modules some 10 years ago, he said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a video message to the meeting on Monday, said while the UN has steadily made progress on improving training and creating safe ways to report misconduct by UN peacekeepers, the organisation is working to increase transparency, strengthen internal accountability, and emphasise the needs and rights of victims and survivors.

Guterres said the UN Member States were “our vital partners” in these efforts and thanked those nations that have concluded a voluntary compact, joined his Circle of Leadership and contributed to the Trust Fund for the Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.

"I now ask all of you to go further. This is key to improving our ability to prevent misconduct, enforce standards, and remedy harm. We must support victims and survivors, as well as children born from acts of sexual exploitation or abuse by United Nations personnel. This includes ensuring that peacekeepers who father children take full responsibility for them, by helping women to make paternity and child support claims,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined the Circle of Leadership (CoL) on the prevention of and response to SEA in United Nations operations in 2017.

India signed the Secretary General’s initiative of voluntary compact on preventing and addressing SEA issues and has also been supporting UN’s “Pipeline to Peacekeeping Command Program” (PCP) which aims to develop the capacity of future commanders and managers to lead by example and raise awareness of UN standards of conduct among their personnel.

India has made a voluntary contribution of over half a million dollars to the programme in the last 3 years, Tirumurti told the meeting.

Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said the UN and the Member States are making progress in combating the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse, including through strengthening vetting, standardising the approach to training and misconduct risk management.

“But the risk of misconduct amounts to a risk to operational success. We must be proactive and understand where we have gaps and build on what is working and what demonstrates potential,” he said.

“We must continue to address our challenges, such as timely investigations and communications with the Secretariat on actions taken and ensuring sanctions commensurate with the gravity of misconduct including criminal accountability where necessary,” he said.

Noting that 89 out of 103 signatories to date of the Secretary-General’s Compact on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse are troop or police-contributing countries, Lacroix called on all Member States to join the Compact and underlined the need to approach the UN efforts at protection from sexual exploitation and abuse across the United Nations system.

“Misconduct is not unique to peacekeeping and requires an integrated ‘one UN’ response,” he said.

Pointing out that India has invested heavily in pre-deployment training, Tirumurti highlight some of the best practices institutionalised by India, including the identification of suitable peacekeepers for UN deployment.

“It is important to ensure that the peacekeepers identified for UN missions have an excellent track record of being disciplined and motivated soldiers and police personnel in their respective organisations. UN peacekeeping is showcased among our personnel as a chance to learn and contribute to India’s commitment to international peace & security,” he said.

Thematic modules have been included in the training programmes of the personnel, including those that remind trainees of a zero-tolerance policy of the government towards SEA misconducts and highlighting that perpetrators will be held accountable, he said.

Case studies and scenario-based exercises on various misdemeanors by UN personnel in mission areas in different settings have been incorporated into the training of peacekeepers; and necessary systems to ensure accountability at every level during the UN deployment of the peacekeepers, he added. 

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