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Exploitation By UN Peacekeepers Seriously Underreported

This report isn’t good, yet it’s still not as bad as you might expect — but investigators may be just getting started.

The draft by the Office of Internal Oversight Services looks at the way U.N. peacekeeping, which has about 125,000 people in some of the world’s most troubled areas, deals with the persistent problem of sexual abuse and exploitation.

The report, expected to be released this month, says major challenges remain a decade after a groundbreaking U.N. report first tackled the issue.

Among its findings: About a third of alleged sexual abuse involves minors under 18. Assistance to victims is “severely deficient.” The average investigation by OIOS, which says it prioritizes cases involving minors or rape, takes more than a year.

And widespread confusion remains on the ground about consensual sex and exploitation. To help demonstrate that, investigators headed to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

They found 231 people in Haiti who had been paid with “church shoes,’ cell phones, laptops and perfume, as well as money,” for sex. While far from wholesome, that kind of activity is hardly out of line with what visiting soldiers usually do with their free time. But knowing what we know about other peacekeeping missions involving underage prostitutes and far worse, it’s a safe bet that the investigators in Haiti have only scratched the surface.

The UN does perform some necessary, sometimes even noble functions. But the organization itself is corrupt, and its peacekeeping troops get “volunteered” from armies whose traditions aren’t always up to Western standards. Maybe the UN’s peacekeeping and public health duties could be transferred to something like a “League of Decent Countries,” with a fluid membership determined by good behavior and respect for human rights.

Hell, we might not always make the cut.