In 2017, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “sexual exploitation and abuse is a global menace from which no country, institution, or family is immune” and “it is a moral and organizational imperative to put an end to sexual exploitation and abuse”.
Even if the vast majority of UN workers carry out their duties with professionalism and pride, one single case of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel inflicts with the purpose of the Organisation.
Thus, eradication of and zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse is critical. This requires addressing the root causes and working system-wide across all programmes – peace, humanitarian, and development.
Part of this system-wide approach is putting the victims first. For this, the Secretary-General recently shared a statement in which he took stock after appointing the Victim’s Rights Advocate – and highlighted the importance of putting the victim’s rights and dignity at the forefront. He reminded us that even after establishing the Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse: a new approach, the good practices established, and lessons learned, much work remains in putting zero tolerance into reality.
As in everything, also regarding PSEA, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse, with particularly women and children facing heightened protection risks. To prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse requires strong coordination and working together as the UNCT.
Thus, we must remember that this is a joint responsibility and targets are not achieved without collaboration and coordination. UN China can be a model of best practice for PSEA, and we must ensure we make this happen.
Earlier this year, the UNCT came together to sign an agreed Code of Conduct, in line with the UNDS Management and Accountability Framework, to commit to ensuring respect for gender equality and the support of PSEA efforts.
UN China has agreed on an Action Plan on Measures to Prevent and Respond to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) in 2020, recognizing the need for specific measures to address the risk of SEA in the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time, UN China also established a PSEA task force, chaired by UN Women and co-chaired by UNFPA.
UN China will accelerate these PSEA measures, and the PSEA Taskforce will be supported by a PSEA network, including focal points from each agency in the UNCT.
Thank you all for your contribution to this critical work, which is a key accountability for the UN globally.
A special thanks to UN Women and UNFPA for chairing the Taskforce and arranging this critical training for all UN China staff. This is just the start, and more will surely come as we tackle this matter together.
I wish you all a fruitful training and discussion.