Cairo, Egypt – Acts of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) is a breach of the trust bestowed on peacekeepers. They contravene the values of protection that underpin peacekeeping and undermine, not only the operational effectiveness of UN peacekeeping mission and the safety of its members but also--and equally important--the credibility of the United Nations (UN) and the entire peacekeeping enterprise.
As a top troop and police contributing country, Egypt has been a staunch supporter of the UN zero-tolerance policy on SEA in peacekeeping operations. In 2018, it played an important role in the development and passage of UN General Assembly Resolution A/72/L.69 - United Nations action on sexual exploitation and abuse. The resolution "reaffirms its commitment to the zero-tolerance policy on SEA throughout the UN system, including the agencies, funds and programmes ." It also includes "in the provisional agenda of its 73rd session the item entitled 'Sexual exploitation and abuse: implementing a zero-tolerance policy' and requests the Secretary-General to continue to report, , on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, including on progress made in implementing a zero-tolerance policy within the UN system, for consideration by the General Assembly, in line with existing mandates and procedures." Moreover, President Abdelfattah al-Sisi is a member of the Circle of Leadership on the Prevention of and Response to SEA in UN Operations.
In line with Egypt’s commitments in this regard, CCCPA, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand and UN Women, organized a Training of Trainers (ToT) course on “Preventing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) in Peacekeeping Operations”, from 24 -28 February 2019.
Held shortly after Egypt assumed the chairmanship of the African Union (AU), the training is the first ToT to be conducted on the continent addressing this important issue, following the release of the AU Policy on the Prevention and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse for Peace Support Operations (PSOs) and the AU Policy on Conduct and Discipline for PSOs.
The training “is in line with the priorities of the Egyptian chairmanship of the AU, including supporting the operationalization of the AU’s normative frameworks, and advancing the cooperation between the UN and the AU in matters of peace and security,” highlighted Ambassador Ashraf Swelam, CCCPA’s Director General.
On his side, Ambassador Greg Lewis (Ambassador of New Zealand in Cairo) expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to contribute to the enhancement of the protection of women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by sexual exploitation and abuse in times of conflict, a high priority for New Zealand. Ambassador Lewis also recognized the important role that African countries play in peacekeeping, as well as the important contribution of CCCPA to building African capacities.
Rachel Dore-Weeks, UN Women Deputy Regional Director in Cairo, emphasized the role of peacekeepers in "protecting millions of displaced people and supporting the delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid around the world," while noting that these sacrifices should not be undermined by the crimes of the few. She went to underscore the importance of a “systematic effort and political will to collectively address this challenge.”
The ToT brought together 17 trainers from top African troop and police contributing countries to AU and UN peace operations, including Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, with the aim of enhancing the delivery of peacekeeping pre-deployment trainings on the issue of SEA. The training team included experts from the Conduct and Discipline Team and the Office of Internal Oversight Services, with extensive practical insights and knowledge on the topic.
Participants were familiarized with the fundamental concepts of gender and peacekeeping in conflict settings, gender and cultural considerations, international and legal frameworks, and the role of peacekeepers in the protection of civilians. The training also provided an opportunity for enhancing participants’ knowledge on the UN standards of conduct, the difference between SEA and other types of violence, the consequences of SEA, the allegations cycle, and the reporting and investigation mechanisms.
In accordance with the UN Standards, CCCPA has integrated an intensive training module on “gender in peacekeeping”--with a special focus on preventing SEA--in its core pre-deployment trainings delivered to Egyptian peacekeepers. In addition, and as part of its contributions to improving training tools on the issue of PSEA, the Center developed a handbook (in English, Arabic and French) for Egyptian, Arab and African peacekeepers on the issue in 2018. The handbook is designed as a reference for military contingent personnel (working at the tactical level) of the standards of behaviour that are expected of them during their deployment. UN Women and the UN Department of Peace Operations were involved in developing the handbook and endorsed its approach and content. Thanks to the government of New Zealand, the handbook has been reproduced and will be distributed to troop contributing countries, as a means of sharing this valuable tool with peacekeepers and those responsible for their pre-deployment training.