By M.K. Styllinski
[NATO soldiers, UN police, and Western aid workers] “operated with near impunity in exploiting the victims of the sex traffickers.”
– Amnesty International
In 2003, Kenneth Cain joined forces with former UN officials Heidi Postlewaite and Andrew Thomson, to write a book called Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Matters  which hit the shops in June of 2004. The book detailed widespread sexual abuse within the UN and its peace missions. It received significant exposure on many a Neo-Conservative website and newspaper and was gleefully pounced on by ardent anti-UN detractors. Mr. Cain, a Harvard law-school graduate and full time writer paints an unrelenting picture of decadence and corruption where drugs, alcohol and sex are the mainstay of some nations’ peace keeping forces. Dr. Thomson, a U.N. physician was equally unflattering about the world organization describing his missions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic as a “frustrating exercise in futility.”
An uncharacteristically vehement Kofi Annan tried to have the publication banned and then heavily censored, threatening the employees with redundancy if they did not reconsider. According to the UN they “violated staff rules” though in truth, the book is merely a distillation of widespread reports which began to gather pace long before the controversial book went to print. In 2001, about a half-dozen investigators from the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services in New York and investigators from the Office of the Inspector-General of the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees finally examined the allegations. Despite the deluge of referrals and submitted cases surrounding the inquiry the book gave substantial weight to the criticism levelled at the organisation for being far too slow in its general investigations. Dileep Nair, U.N. Undersecretary General and Chief of OIOS said: “We can barely cope with the cases that are being referred to us” with over 400 cases were demanding attention. 
Bearing in mind that these are only the recorded cases, the findings that the UN consistently ignored claims of abuse and refused to take action, dating back as far as the late eighties parallels the same methods of denial of the Catholic Church and other institutions. Aid workers for Non-Governmental Organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) and Save the Children UK were also implicated. A full copy of the joint study sponsored by the UNHCR and SC-UK noted the following: “Agency workers from the international and local NGOs as well as U.N. agencies were ranked as among the worst sex exploiters of children, often using the very humanitarian aid and services intended to benefit the refugee population as a tool of exploitation.” The findings further revealed: “In order for a refugee to make a report, they would have to go through the same persons who themselves are perpetrators of sexual exploitation. Most staff appear to connive to hide the actions of other staff.” 
Note the ponerisation of not only UN staff but affiliated NGO agencies. This made it easy for UN officials to keep it quiet, narrow down the scope of investigations and cover-up the abuse. Interestingly enough, the investigator himself, Dileep Nair was investigated after the UN Staff Council, the equivalent of a union, alerted Secretary-General Kofi Annan about alleged “violations of appointments and promotions rules in OIOS, as well as allegations of corrupt practices in the Office and “other misconduct” by Mr. Nair.” However, no “credible” evidence of wrongdoing was found. Whether a smear campaign was enacted against Nair in order to deflect further investigations by discrediting his probe or that the allegations had some grain of truth was never established.
“They took us to a small house. Then they tore the clothes from our bodies and raped us. I was just 17 and still a virgin!” Joari and her friend were raped by men thought to be their saviours: UN peacekeepers. Since 1999, the United Nations has maintained a peace keeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It aims to bring stability to the region and protect the civilian population from attacks and sexual violence of the warring parties. But many of the 20,000 peacekeepers become perpetrators, exploiting the extreme distress and poverty of women and girls.In addition to showing victims of UN soldiers’ sexual attacks for the first time, the film also proves that the issue of sexual violence by peacekeepers has long been known at UN headquarters in New York. For years, the UN has been trying to combat the abuse by increasing staff training and introducing a zero-tolerance policy. Officials claim that the number of incidents has been drastically reduced. At local level however, UN insiders tell us, these measures have no effect at all.”
Over four million people have been killed by war and preventable diseases in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the past eight years, or as one UN humanitarian chief mentioned: “…the equivalent of six Rwandan genocides”, where the ‘Military and civilian authorities are still virtually unaccountable for crimes against civilians…’”  The institutionalised abuse by UN personnel is a large part of that desperate picture. Didier Bourguet, a U.N. senior logistics officer was charged with running an internet paedophile ring in the region, where he established a sophisticated porn studio for the procurement of young boys and girls in a multi-media operation. Videos were freely available to buy. According to Human Rights Watch, some of the female victims were as young as eleven years old.
While Bourguet had engaged in similar activity in a previous UN posting in the Central African Republic, he was not alone in his endeavours. Claude Deboosere-Lepidi, Bourguet’s lawyer, said his client admitted he assaulted minors and that his sex crime spree included other U.N. officials. He was insistent in his belief that the UN as a whole was partly to blame for tolerating the continued attacks on Congolese women and young girls. The UN has since confirmed this belief admitting that its peacekeepers regularly raped, abused and prostituted children in their care. A range of sexual abuses from UN troops and aid workers were catalogued including: “Reported rapes of young Congolese girls by blue-helmeted U.N. troops as well as aid workers; a colonel from South Africa accused of molesting his teenage male translators; hundreds of under-age girls having babies fathered by U.N. soldiers who have been able to simply leave their children and their crimes behind. Despite the UN’s official policy of “zero-tolerance” there were 68 allegations of misconduct in the town of Bunia alone. Another case included a 14-year-old girl who had told UN investigators that “she had sex with a UN peacekeeper in exchange for two eggs. Her family was starving.” 
A sex trade flourished in Monuc where scores of local women and girls had been made pregnant by Moroccan and Uruguayan peace keeping soldiers as well as two UN officials. One Ukrainian and a Canadian were obliged to leave the country after getting local women pregnant and two Russian pilots based in Mbandaka paid young girls with jars of mayonnaise and jam in order to have sex with them.  It appears that a virtual industry has grown up, including the production and selling of pornography and bartering goods for sex.
The lack of screening of UN peace keeping soldiers provided a new opportunity for rebuilding more than just infrastructure and aid. It can hardly be surprising if sexual exploitation infiltrates institutions on the ground, regardless of their humanitarian intentions. It is the proverbial honey-pot for those who have no conscience, or as a Times report so aptly quoted: ‘Never forget this is Heart of Darkness country. People do things here just because they can,” one female UN employee said, in a reference to Joseph Conrad’s novel about the abuses of the former Belgian Congo.” 
With UN officials accused and suspended after scores of abuses, one would have thought that it may have dawned on Kofi Annan that these crimes had been occurring for a number of years. Annan was previously head of the UN’s peacekeeping force and acknowledged that “acts of gross misconduct have taken place”. Asked whether he could have, given his experience, done more to prevent abuse in Congo, he said: “You never know when you send that many people out. There may be one or two bad apples.” 
Annan is being a little disingenuous to say the least. There is no question that this was a systematic manifestation of variable abuse which the UN consistently hushed up for many years. As such, he is ultimately responsible and should have resigned. Instead, after 150 reported claims of abuse, many of them involving minors, he continued the tradition of secrecy and suppression further damaging what remains of the UN’s standing. A hotline set up to receive complaints about past and future abuse was a case of too little too late.
In March of 2006 another report, this time on the military arm of the UN, concluded: “deeply flawed and recommends withholding salaries of the guilty and requiring nations to pursue legal action against perpetrators.” It also included a host of other recommendations to be fully implemented by 2007. However, as a recent report in May from the Associated Press shows, far from coming down hard on such crimes, the activities actually doubled in 2004. Though this may in part, be due to the heightened awareness of such activities, the vast majority of allegations were still levelled at UN peace keepers. In 2002, the UN was beginning to form its defence against shocking abuse allegations in the Congo. It would finally send an investigation team in 2004 after a seemingly “outraged” Annan decided enough was enough. Whether this was due to media pressure or concerns about his own image, is far from clear.
In any event, within the same year, an exact same pattern of abuse surfaced in Sierra Leone where the UN and NGOs were running programmes to reintegrate former child soldiers from the bloody civil war between the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels and the Civil Defence Force (CDF) a pro-government militia known as the Kamajors. Both committed atrocities that are astonishing for their ferocity. Child protection agencies estimated that the warlords abducted as many as 6,000 children, out of which about 3,500 actually fought in the war. The rest were used for sex and for carrying weapons. Sierra Leone was plagued by the slow deployment of UN troops and the apathetic defence of civilians habitually caught in the cross-fire between the warring sides. One NGO chief executive described the reality: “These atrocities are taking place practically under the noses of government and international troops …Innocent civilians are suffering, and it’s the responsibility of these troops to protect them. They should do their job.”
These atrocities included systematic rape of women and girls, some as young as ten, and the murder of whole families. Infants and children were thrown into burning houses, the hands of toddlers as young as two were severed with machetes and girls as young as eight were sexually assaulted. A newspaper reporter in Sierra Leone told Human Rights Watch: “There was rampant raping. I saw a fifteen-year-old girl raped right before me. They left her, but they captured others, and among them was a seven-year-old girl.” 
Amputation of limbs came to be the most prominent horror of the ten year old war but sexual abuse was actually more common. As discussed in Rape: Corporate Camouflage and Across the Gender Divide the practice of rape as a strategic weapon is no longer rare. By forcing members of families to rape each other and to watch the atrocity, the belief was that this would reduce the likelihood of support for military operations. Even worse was the evidence of sexual atrocities being committed by troops from the regional intervention force, Ecomog, and the UN peacekeeping mission: “Women were used by all sides as chattels, kidnapped from their homes often in rural areas and forced to act as sex slaves for the troops as well as domestic maids responsible for cooking and household chores.” 
In 2004 The UN’s UNICEF reported that Sierra Leone, led the world in child mortality with one in four children dying before the age 5, while in Iraq, one in 10 do not make it to their fifth birthday. The UN has within its ranks those that were willing and able to mop up what was left of the shells that were once children. Yet despite the UN “Personnel Conduct Officers” representing system-wide focal points designed to deal with charges of gender-based violence and abuse, the United Nations is facing new allegations of sexual misconduct by U.N. personnel in Burundi, Haiti, and Liberia. This is probably due to the familiar buffering of the fact that such measures alert patterns of abuse but do not address the key issues as to why they arise. Even if this is known, it represents a flow that is hard to stem.
This is exacerbated by the rhetoric of Annan’s earnest bulletin setting out directives for UN personnel yet excluding military troops who are only answerable to their own national military authorities. This amounts to more tinkering at the edges of the cause. With sex workers appearing en masse at the borders needing to feed their families and with thousands of peace keeping soldiers present, the market and so will extensive forms of abuse. Reports of these abuses continued to surface though this was not limited to UN military deployments and operations.
One case in many includes the presence of a weapons inspector who led several sado-masochistic sex rings. “Harvey ‘Jack’ McGeorge, a former US Marine and Secret Service agent, [was] a founding officer of ‘Leather Leadership Conference Inc.’” and recommended by the US State Department. Another report showed UN personnel who were involved in bringing girls from Thailand to East Timor as prostitutes. As abuse allegations have increased, so too the variable unsuitability of those employed by the UN. 
NATO forces, UN peace-keepers and the local mafia have all been implicated in sex slavery in Kosovo. UN personnel exploited the victims of sex traffickers for their own ends, adding to the already dire situation in the Balkans since NATO troops and UN administrators took over the province in 1999. The question of why patients at United Nations mental institutions in Kosovo were raped and physically attacked under the eyes of UN staff, also suggests that this was more than an isolated incident but part of a well formed network. 
And what of the progress being made to stem this tide? Well, UN soldiers forcing young women and minors to have sex in exchange for material aid still appears to be occurring more than ten years after these initial reports. A UN report interviewed over 200 Haitian women—a third of whom were minors and collated enough data to suggest this was systematic and organised. 
While the spectre of sexual abuse is being tackled by UN officials, disturbing questions still remain about the overall functioning of an institution that is seen by many to be dangerously flawed, contributing to chaos rather than the betterment of nations and their peoples. What are we to make of the United Nations that cries out to be a beacon for the world’s poor and oppressed when the reality sees it failing those who are most need of its protection and support? Is this rot from within a mere blip or a peek behind the curtain?
 Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Matters – A true Story from Hell on Earth’ By Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, Andrew Thomson 2004 published by Miramax books/Hyperion ISBN 140135201-4
 ‘U.N. Finally Forced to Probe Its Paedophilia Scandal’ NewsMax.com Wires and NewsMax.com, Tuesday, May 7, 2002.
 ‘Thorough probe finds no evidence of wrongdoing by UN official’ 16 UN News Centre, November 2004, http://www.un.org/
 UN calls rape ‘a cancer’ in DRC, BBC News, 15 September 2006.
 ‘UN moves to answer child sex allegations’ Sydney Morning Herald, February 18 2005.
 ‘Sex scandal in Congo threatens to engulf UN’s peacekeepers’ The Times, December 23, 2004
 ‘Secretary-General ‘absolutely outraged’ by gross misconduct by peacekeeping personnel in Democratic Republic of Congo UN Press Release, 19/11/2004. http://www.un.org/
 Peter Takirambudde, Executive Director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, quoted from Focus on Human Rights: ‘Civil War in Sierra Leone Rebel Abuses Near Sierra Leone Capital’ United Nations Should Act, Says Rights Group, (New York, March 3, 2000.www.hrw.org/
 Human Rights Watch, ‘Getting Away with Murder, Mutilation, and Rape: New Testimony from Sierra Leone’ (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999), p. 50.
 ‘UN troops accused of ‘systematic’ rape in Sierra Leone’ by Tim Butcher, The Daily Telegraph, January 17, 2003.
 ‘UN weapons inspector is leader of S&M sex ring’, The Washington Post, November 30, 2002.
 ‘UN ship ‘carried child prostitutes’ August 21, 2003 http://www.news.com.au.
 ‘UN ‘ignored’ abuse at Kosovo mental homes,’ The Guardian, August 8, 2002.
 ‘UN peacekeepers sexually abused hundreds of Haitian women & girls – report’. RT, June 10, 2015.