UN troops 'regularly' trade food for sex
UN peacekeepers regularly paid for sex with people in the countries the world body is meant to be helping, a draft UN report says.
The document by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) found that hundreds of women in Haiti and Liberia have been motivated by hunger and poverty to sell sex.
They were paid with cash, jewellery, mobile phones and other items, including food.
The report says 480 sexual exploitation and abuse claims were made in 2008-13, more than a third of which involved children.
"Evidence from two peacekeeping mission countries demonstrates that transactional sex is quite common but underreported in peacekeeping missions," concluded the OIOS draft, dated May 15.
The United Nations currently has more than 125,000 troops, police and civilians deployed in 16 operations around the world.
The OIOS draft report also noted that "the number of condoms distributed, along with the number of personnel undergoing voluntary counseling and confidential testing for HIV ... suggest that sexual relationships between peacekeeping personnel and the local population may be routine."
In 2003, the UN banned transactional sex by peacekeepers, in part because it felt that it undercut the organisation's credibility.
The OIOS draft said missions in Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Haiti and South Sudan accounted for the largest numbers of accusations.
In 2014 it said 51 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse had been made against UN peacekeepers.
States providing troops to UN missions have the primary responsibility to investigate allegations against their soldiers and police.
"Despite continuing reductions in reported allegations, that are partly explained by underreporting, effectiveness of enforcement against sexual exploitation and abuse is hindered by a complex architecture, prolonged delays, unknown and varying outcomes, and severely deficient victim assistance," OIOS said.
The draft included a response by the UN Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support.
They regretted that OIOS did not evaluate prevention efforts and only focused on enforcement and remedial assistance efforts.
"This would have provided a much more complete view of the measures taken by the departments to address sexual exploitation and abuse," they said.
They did not dispute that underreporting was a concern, but noted there had been a significant increase in deployment of peacekeepers over the past decade and a large decrease in sexual exploitation and abuse allegations.
"This picture also supports an analysis that strengthened efforts ... are having a positive impact," they said.