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UN reports increase in sex abuse allegations by UN staff

[UNITED NATIONS] A UN report released Monday showed an increase in allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by staff working in UN agencies and their partner organizations.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in an annual report however there was a drop in cases of rape and exploitation involving UN peacekeepers, down to 54 in 2018 from 62 the previous year and 104 in 2016.

Mr Guterres has vowed to stamp out sexual abuse at the United Nations following a string of cases over recent years that have severely tarnished the image of UN peacekeepers and staff.

In all, there were 94 allegations against UN personnel in 2018 and 109 targeting staff of local organizations that work with the United Nations worldwide, up from 25 in 2017.

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Eleven cases involve child rape, according to the report.

The World Food Programme received 19 allegations of sex abuse against its staff and partner organisations in 2018, compared to 26 over the previous 12 years.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR reported 34 allegations in 2018 compared to 19 in 2017 while there were 15 allegations at the UN children's agency Unicef last year compared to eight in 2017.

The increase was in part attributed to improved efforts to encourage victims to come forward.

The latest figures suggest that "awareness-raising and outreach efforts are having an impact and that there is increased trust among victims and witnesses and increased understanding of the need to report," said the report.

Among peacekeepers, the majority of claims - 74 per cent - in 2018 came from two UN missions, in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Under UN rules, it is up to governments to take action against their troops sent as peacekeepers who face credible allegations of rape or other misconduct but there were few details on prosecutions, with many cases still under review.

AFP