Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Statement of the United States of America
As delivered by Erin M. Barclay
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs

Human Rights Council 34th session
Geneva, March 9, 2017

Thank you Mr. President.

The United States welcomes this opportunity to hear from you, Mr. High Commissioner.  Thank you for your remarks as well as your advocacy to promote the protection of human rights throughout the world.

Yesterday you highlighted your concerns about sexual and gender based violence. Today, we’d like to take this opportunity  to call attention to your office’s important work in combatting sexual exploitation and abuse including by UN and non-UN peacekeepers.  In over half the alleged incidents that have been reported to the UN, the victims have been children.  Sexual exploitation and abuse erodes the discipline of peacekeeping units and undermines the confidence of local communities in peacekeepers – both of which are critical to fulfilling core UN mandates.  More broadly, when those entrusted with being protectors become perpetrators, it undermines the credibility of peacekeeping missions everywhere, as well as the legitimacy of the UN writ large.

We applaud your efforts to help address this problem and shine a light on these disturbing cases.  OHCHR clearly has an important role to play in the broader UN efforts to address sexual exploitation and abuse.  Human rights monitors embedded in peacekeeping missions must be involved in upholding the Secretary-General’s zero tolerance policy.  This includes applying the principle of “do no harm” and pursuing the best interests of the victim.  We understand that OHCHR plays a key role in addressing allegations whenever the alleged perpetrator is a member of non-UN forces.

High Commissioner, your continued leadership in speaking out against sexual exploitation and abuse and your office’s work in conjunction with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and other relevant UN entities are essential to combatting this stain on the UN’s work.

In the few seconds I have left, I would like to ask the following questions:

  • What is OHCHR doing to ensure accountability for countries with non-UN forces that commit sexual exploitation and abuse?
  • How is OHCHR facilitating investigations by these countries into such allegations against their personnel?
  • What transparency measures is OHCHR putting in place surrounding its own work following up with countries on individual sexual exploitation and abuse cases and victim support?

Thank you.