Allegations of sexual misconduct, namely exploitation and abuse, keep the United Nations in the spotlight.
In an annual report to the UN General Assembly circulated on Monday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the fact that there has been an increase in the number of such allegations against those UN personnel employed in areas other than UN missions and against staff of organizations that implement UN programs.
Women and children make up the largest group of alleged victims.
In 2018, there were 94 allegations against UN personnel and 109 — up from 25 in 2017 — targeting staff of local organizations that work with the UN worldwide.
The World Food Programme received 19 allegations of sex abuse against its staff and partner organizations in 2018, compared to 26 over the previous 12 years.
The UN refugee agency, also known as UNHCR, reported 34 allegations in 2018 compared to 19 in 2017. There were 15 allegations at the UN children’s agency UNICEF last year compared to eight in 2017.
On the other hand, in cases of rape and exploitation involving UN peacekeepers there was a drop down to 54 in 2018 from 62 the previous year and 104 in 2016. The majority of claims in 2018 came from the UN missions in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A media report quoting staffers said last year that sexual harassment was widespread and there is a culture of impunity for the perpetrators at UN offices around the world.
Guterres has vowed to stamp out sexual abuse following a string of cases over recent years that have severely tarnished the image of peacekeepers and staff.
The UN comprises more than 90,000 staff and over 100,000 uniformed personnel.
Highlighting the “zero-tolerance” policy adopted by the UN, Guterres said he has embarked on “a cultural transformation” to eliminate sexual abuse and exploitation throughout the UN system.