PDF version of the study
Many peace support operations have faced allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by UN personnel against members of local communities. Some of these intimate relations result in children being born but there is little empirical data on the experiences of women and girls who conceive and bear these children. We analyse 265 self interpreted narratives from community members in Haiti about children fathered by UN personnel and born to local women or girls. The mixed methods results highlight three important themes: (a) poverty is a key underlying factor contributing to sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping personnel, (b) the repatriation of implicated peacekeepers often leaves the woman and child in exacerbated poverty, and (c) intimate relations with fair-skinned peacekeepers and having fair-skinned children are sometimes perceived as desirable. The data highlight that children fathered by MINUSTAH personnel are typically being raised in settings of extreme economic deprivation and are often denied access to education and other basic services that would enable them to break the cycle of poverty. While the overarching need identified in this analysis is financial, additional research with the children themselves in warranted to identify other needs and to inform policies and programmes intended to improve their well-being.
Featuring a reference to IJDH and BAI’s Open Letter to Victim Rights Advocate, Jane Connors.
A second point, raised in a significant number of stories about peacekeeper-fathered children is the UN practice of immediate repatriation of the peacekeepers found to have engaged in SEA or to have fathered children. Such repatriation polices exacerbate the difficulties of the mothers left behind with regard to seeking compensation or obtaining child support. These experiences align with the briefing note presented in April 2018 to the UN Victim Rights Advocate (VRA), Jane Connors, by Bureau Avocats Internationaux, a Haitian Law Firm representing eleven women allegedly impregnated and abandoned by UN Peacekeepers50 and followed-up with an Open Letter to the VRA in January 2019.51 The Open Letter gives insights into the reasons why local victims, even those who are represented by a law firm, struggle to receive assistance. Not only does the complexity of the multi-layered international legal system make it difficult for victims to seek redress, the UN, as the ‘sole actor with the information and resources to assist victims of SEA’ and children fathered by peacekeepers, is slow to respond to demands for support and/or the information needed in order to make a case for support. This ‘lack of follow-through’ by the UN of its own commitments to those affected by SEA makes it all but impossible for victims to obtain justice.52