Is the U.N fit for purpose?

by Chimene Suleyman

Who defines how the peace is kept? How can it ever happen without any bias? First you would have to remove any circumstance that shapes our understanding of race – the bits that make us like and trust some nationalities, then despise others. A well-varied group of internationals, gender and class. And so it’s this that remains a core problem within the UN; they are not world pacifiers, the most principled and careful. Really, how could they be?

French 'peacekeepers'

French ‘peacekeepers’

For some it may be a surprise that in the most troubled places UN peacekeepers have been fathering children over decades. The kids are poor, financially desperate and lacking paternity support. It’s shed light on a deeply concerning amount of sexual abuse, including rape of minors; the whistleblower for that particular report has been suspended and nobody has, until now, been held accountable.

It’s hardly the first time the UN has been criticised. On the opposite end of the same hideous scale, they have been accused in the past of supporting governments who have pushed for forced-abortions and sterilisation. And there are certainly hierarchies between countries that are looked after ahead of others. Oil-full Kuwait was a bigger consideration than, say, Rwanda who had little (resource-wise) to offer.

It’s all got a bit embarrassing for them. Paternity tests are being done to hold the men accountable, with proposed cuts from salaries that will go directly to the children. Well, that’s certainly a start. But repairs don’t put a stop to what’s creating the original problem. If you work for the UN and ask the question, ‘Who can I have sex with?’ you’ll be told ‘no-one’. Unless they’re another employee don’t even think about it. These are procedures for vulnerable communities to stay safe. So why would you break rules put in place to protect the very people you took a job to look after?

SIGN PETITION: We will not stand by when UN soldiers abuse, rape and murder

The comparisons with Western soldiers are all there. Both are heavily deployed to Africa and the Middle East. In fact, the vast majority of 125,000 peacekeepers are contained to those two regions. This kind of sexual violence and abuse of power is a war-time commonplace. It begs the question then, why have peacekeepers adopted the behaviour of soldiers?  Of course there is the matter of gender inequality the world over. Sexual violations and shirking paternal responsibilities do not need a war-zone to flourish. But it’s impossible to not consider the kind of environment a war breeds, whatever your role in it.

In fact the number of rape cases amongst civilians living in America went up during both the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions. War, it would seem, no matter what your involvement, has an impact on your psyche. People are dehumanised, ‘masculinity’ is shoved forward.

Add to this the effects of a war without any purpose. When it is difficult to identify who the enemy is – and more importantly why – surrounding military forces are left feeling more frustrated and doubly confused. Of course this kind of uncertainty leads to an imagined state of thinking everyone’s the bad guy. It’s easier to abuse people who don’t fit an identity we understand and respect, even when we’ve been sent there to look after them.

How then do we create a community of true safe-guarders who are not indoctrinated by military rhetoric, who do not fall prey to the same corruptions that war breeds? Greater counselling? More women? DNA tests and long overdue payments is better than nothing, but it is starting at the end and working backwards.

SIGN PETITION: We will not stand by when UN soldiers abuse, rape and murder

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Chimene Suleyman is a writer from London of Turkish / Middle Eastern heritage. She writes opinion pieces, contributing to The Independent as well as regularly featured writing for online blog and events organiser Poejazzi. She has represented the UK at the International Biennale, Rome 2011 with spoken word. Her poetry collection “Outside Looking On” published by Influx Press is out now. She collects photos of Canary Wharf. Find her on Twitter: @chimenesuleyman
 
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1 reply

  1. Is any organisation fit for purpose? They are Human beings, and Human beings will get away with anything if they are permitted. In terms of the United Nations, the problem lies with who regulates the UN outside the organisations the UN appointed. It would be nice to hear your reports on the regulators already appointed. *sighs* at the thought of the UN without an external regulator?

    Liked by 1 person

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