Stopping Human Trafficking, Sexual Exploitation, and Abuse by International Peacekeepers

Trafficking in Persons Report
Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
June 12, 2007

In response to a Congressional mandate, this section summarizes actions taken by some key international organizations to eliminate trafficking in persons or the exploitation of victims of trafficking. This is the second year of reporting on the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Beginning with the 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report, the Department of State will also assess the efforts of national governments to prevent their nationals, deployed abroad as part of a peacekeeping or similar mission, from engaging in or facilitating human trafficking. Governments are ultimately responsible for holding their own nationals accountable.


In 2002, humanitarian personnel in West Africa were accused of sexually exploiting refugee children, primarily girls. Sixty-seven aid workers from more than 40 agencies were accused of offering children money, food, and promises of education in exchange for sex. While many of the allegations were anecdotal it was clear that there was a problem which had to be addressed. The wide publicity given to these allegations led humanitarian organizations to implement strict standards of conduct for their employees and volunteers. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a 2003 bulletin entitled Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (ST/SGB/2003/13) for all UN personnel. The bulletin characterizes sexual exploitation and abuse as acts of serious misconduct and subject to disciplinary action.

Unfortunately, similar reports came to light. In 2004 some 150 additional allegations of sexual misconduct were made against UN military and civilian peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As a result, Secretary-General Annan designated Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, Jordanian Ambassador to the UN, to be his Special Advisor on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN Peacekeeping Personnel. Prince Zeid and his team traveled to the DRC in October 2004, and reported that there was "zero compliance with zero tolerance" in response to the 2003 policy against sexual exploitation. Congo's Minister of Defense, Major General Jean Pierre Ondekane, was quoted in a December 23, 2004 article in The Times (UK) as saying that "peacekeepers" in Kisangani would be remembered for "running after little girls."

Prince Zeid's final report, released in March 2005, contained extensive recommendations for top-down reform of the UN system to address problems of sexual misconduct by UN peacekeepers. The 2005 UN General Assembly endorsed and broadened Prince Zeid's recommendations, making them applicable to civilian as well as to military peacekeeping personnel. In addition to the steps being taken to eliminate sexual exploitation and abuse of vulnerable populations by UN peacekeepers, UN agencies system-wide have developed or are developing standards of conduct for their personnel. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in humanitarian programs are taking similar steps.

Below is the status of key UN reforms that have been completed or are on-going, and those that have not been finalized.



  • UN Staff Regulations now classify sexual exploitation and abuse as a form of serious misconduct subject to disciplinary action, including summary dismissal.
  • Non-UN Personnel: Consultants, individual contractors, volunteers, military observers and civilian police are legally bound by the standards of the Secretary-General's 2003 bulletin. All contracts and "letters of undertaking" now include these standards.
  • Conduct and Discipline Teams: The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), which is charged with implementing the UN's comprehensive strategy on addressing all aspects of sexual exploitation and abuse, has "Conduct and Discipline Teams" (CDTs) in place at UN headquarters and at almost all UN peacekeeping missions, with some CDTs covering more than one mission.

The CDTs are charged with informing local communities of the UN's zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and procedures for reporting abuse, receiving complaints, carrying out initial assessments of allegations, and determining whether specific allegations should be reported to the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) as Category I (serious offenses) warranting full OIOS investigations. Category II (less serious) allegations are handled by the peacekeeping mission itself.


  • Mission Prevention Measures: Where there have been allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, UN peacekeeping missions have instituted additional prevention measures such as "off-limits premises and areas," curfews, telephone hotlines, and the requirement that all mission personnel must wear their uniforms at all times.
  • Case Tracking System: DPKO established a secure Web-based software program to track all sexual exploitation and abuse cases, and to ensure that those personnel who have been dismissed or repatriated for sexual exploitation and abuse violations are barred from serving in future UN missions. A comprehensive database that will be accessible to all UN missions is in the final stages of development.
  • Training Modules: DPKO implemented three training modules for different levels of personnel. DPKO's pre-deployment training modules on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse are mandatory for all UN military and civilian personnel; however, DPKO is not able to verify that troop contributing countries (TCCs) have carried out the training. All personnel arriving at UN missions are made aware of the UN's standards of conduct and "zero tolerance" policy, and receive sexual exploitation and abuse prevention training.
  • Women Peacekeepers: DPKO is encouraging TCCs to increase the number of women peacekeepers at all levels, in part to facilitate the UN's task of encouraging the local communities to report allegations and to promote an environment that discourages sexual exploitation and abuse. In January 2007, India was the first country to deploy an all-female civilian police unit to the UN mission in Liberia. In March 2007, DPKO convened a small conference at the UN's Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy with 30 gender experts to discuss approaches for increasing the number of women police officers in UN peacekeeping missions.
  • Implementation by Management: Heads of UN peacekeeping missions must now task civilian managers and military commanders with implementing the programs and policies of the UN to eliminate sexual exploitation and abuse. Civilian managers' efforts to implement the UN's zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation are formally evaluated.
  • High-Level Discussion: In December 2006, DPKO organized the "High-Level Conference on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse," attended at senior levels by UN agencies, funds, programs, Member States, TCCs and NGOs. The conference revealed an impressive level of attention to the issue, across the spectrum of international responders to conflict.


  • Recommendations by Legal Experts: A panel of legal experts completed its report on steps that could be taken to ensure that UN staff and experts on mission are held accountable, in accordance with due process, for criminal acts committed at their duty stations. A second panel of legal experts examined the question of whether the Secretary-General's 2003 Bulletin can bind national military and civilian contingent members until negotiations are completed in a revised memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the UN and the TCCs on standards of conduct. Member States are currently reviewing the recommendations of both legal panels.
  • OIOS has investigative personnel in the field covering 12 peacekeeping missions, and will hire additional staff.

Reform not finalized

  • MOU between UN and TCCs: The proposed model MOU for use between the UN and TCCs has been revised to include provisions for addressing sexual exploitation and abuse; however, the MOU has been in negotiation among members of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C-34) since January 2006.
  • Standards of Conduct: While the model MOU is under negotiation, the UN is also discussing with current TCCs ways to incorporate standards of conduct into existing MOUs.
  • Welfare and Recreation Reform: The UN has not finalized a comprehensive strategy on welfare and recreation reform for mission personnel to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. This draft document is expected to go to Member States for approval. In July 2005, UN headquarters instructed its missions to improve welfare and recreation facilities within existing budgets.
  • Victim Assistance Strategy: The UN has not finalized a comprehensive victim assistance strategy, which was to have been completed by the end of 2005 and presented to the UN Security Council for approval. The issue of how and what assistance should be given to alleged victims without it being construed as admission of peacekeeper misconduct attributed to the delay. In the interim, the UN advised its missions to refer victims to local medical and psycho-social services.

Discipline and Accountability:
According to the UN Secretary-General's report on Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (A/60/861) released in May 2006, seven UN agencies received 373 new sexual exploitation and abuse allegations during 2005, of which 340 involved UN peacekeeping personnel. This report notes that the annual total was considerably higher than the 121 allegations reported for 2004. The former Secretary-General attributed the dramatic increase, in part, to greater awareness and use of the UN's reporting mechanism. In 2006 there were 357 allegations reported, but declined each month. In January 2006 there were 97 allegations and by December 2006 there were 12 allegations. This change may be due in part to introduction of Conduct and Discipline Teams to all missions in early 2006.

Discipline and accountability of accused members of national military and civilian contingents ultimately rests with the TCCs. France, India, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Tunisia, and Uruguay have taken some form of disciplinary or criminal action against a total of 29 repatriated military and civilian personnel. However, there are many other repatriated personnel from these and other countries who have faced no further penalties for their abuse of power in cases of sexual exploitation and abuse. The UN is working with TCCs to ensure that staff and volunteers, and approximately 90,000 military and civilian peacekeepers serving in the UN's 18 missions do not add to the suffering of women and children in conflict or humanitarian crises. TCCs must take action to ensure 100 percent compliance with the UN's zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.

For further information on the UN's sexual exploitation and abuse prevention measures please go to


NATO is proactively undertaking measures to prevent military or civilian personnel assigned to NATO-led missions from engaging in human trafficking or sexual exploitation and abuse. There are no known allegations of sexual misconduct against NATO officials or staff. NATO currently has seven on-going missions with tens of thousands of soldiers, and undertakes numerous other activities throughout the year. In June 2004, NATO Allies and Partners adopted a Policy on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. Among its provisions, NATO Allies and Partners committed to provide appropriate anti-human trafficking training to personnel taking part in NATO-led missions, support host-country law enforcement in anti-trafficking investigations, incorporate contractual provisions prohibiting contractors from engaging in trafficking, and evaluate implementation of efforts as part of on-going reviews. Anti-human trafficking directives are incorporated in all NATO operational plans. NATO employs three anti-human trafficking awareness training modules for troops, commanders, and military police. These modules are available online to personnel and are also offered at NATO's two training facilities. NATO Allies and Partners committed to provide anti-trafficking training for personnel and international staff prior to deployment. Officials and staff are subject to disciplinary action including dismissal. NATO Allies and Partners are responsible for taking any legal action against nationals participating in NATO missions. Personnel taking part in NATO missions are instructed to refer victims to local NGOs in order to receive legal or social services, and to work cooperatively with local law enforcement officials if they encounter a human trafficking situation.

Since the release of the 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report, staff from NATO Allies and Partner nations have spent several months reviewing practical aspects of the implementation of NATO's anti-human trafficking policy to identify areas for improvement. A report with recommendations was submitted to senior-level NATO representatives in November 2006. NATO has appointed its Assistant Secretary-General for Defense Policy and Planning as Senior Coordinator on Counter-Trafficking in Human Beings to oversee its anti-human trafficking implementation efforts.

For further information on NATO's anti-human trafficking prevention measures please go to


The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is proactively undertaking measures to prevent personnel from engaging in human trafficking or sexual exploitation. There are no known allegations of sexual misconduct against OSCE officials or staff. The OSCE has 19 field missions and approximately 3,450 personnel, including contractors, seconded staff, and international and locally-based employees. The OSCE Secretary-General is responsible for overseeing OSCE's efforts to prevent misconduct by personnel. The OSCE's Code of Conduct For Staff and Mission Members (Appendix 1 to Permanent Council 550/Corr.1, 27 June 2003) addresses general conduct of officials and staff while on mission, and "Staff Instruction 11" specifically focuses on preventing trafficking in persons. Both documents are incorporated into OSCE training modules provided during orientation training for all OSCE personnel, including for locally-hired staff at missions. Officials and staff are subject to disciplinary action including dismissal. However, OSCE member states and partners are ultimately responsible for taking any legal action against nationals participating in OSCE missions who violate the policy. Personnel at field missions are instructed to refer alleged victims to local NGOs for legal or social services and to work cooperatively with local law enforcement officials if they encounter a human trafficking situation.

Since the release of the 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report, the 2006 OSCE Ministerial Council issued a decision on Combating Sexual Exploitation of Children (MC/DEC/15/06). Among the various provisions, the Ministerial Council tasked the OSCE executive structures to ensure the issue of child sexual exploitation is incorporated in code of conduct trainings and awareness-raising materials targeted at OSCE Officials.

For further information on the OSCE's anti-trafficking prevention measures please go to