"When Pauline Philippe found out she was pregnant with twins, she felt a flash of happiness. Then she burst into tears in front of the ultrasound technician...
The man who fathered Philippe's twins was part of the international assistance effort, a UN policeman on temporary assignment in Port-au-Prince. Married with a family back home in Niger, she says, he did not stick around...
Philippe is one of untold numbers of women and girls around the world raising children fathered by UN peacekeepers and staffers. From 2010 to February of this year, the UN has recorded 463 paternity claims against its personnel, of which 55 have been verified. In 298 cases, action remains ‘pending.’ Those are only the people who have come forward.
Largely abandoned by the fathers, these mothers are trying to raise children in some of the most difficult conditions in the world -- in the wake of natural disasters, violent and ethnic conflict, or in refugee camps -- and often face harsh social stigma.
But while the societies in which the women live may judge them, the UN itself is clear about who's at fault for what it calls ‘sexual exploitation and abuse.’
In 2003, then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a bulletin discouraging sex between UN workers and the people they are sent to help, with the bulletin explaining that such relations ‘are based on inherently unequal power dynamics,’ and ‘undermine the credibility and integrity of the work of the United Nations.’ Peacekeepers and military police -- like the father of Philippe's children -- are banned from any ‘fraternization’ with the civilian population.
Current Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has vowed to get the UN's ‘own house in order.’ In 2017, he unveiled a four-pronged strategy focused not only on ending impunity, but also on prioritizing victims' rights and dignity. He appointed the UN's first Victims' Rights Advocate and created a ‘trust fund’ to support victims.
But Philippe and six other Haitian mothers interviewed by CNN say support has been meager and conditional. And their demands for justice -- child support from the fathers, to which they might be entitled by Haitian law, and even compensation as victims -- have come to almost nothing.
‘They treat us as less than human,’ one woman said, describing their interactions with the UN...
Meanwhile, sex scandals involving UN personnel have continued. In June this year, 60 Tanzanian peacekeepers were sent home from the Central African Republic over allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse involving four victims, two of them children..."