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Sexual Exploitation and Abuse on Peacekeeping Operations

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Is the United Nations Responsible?

Allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) have been made against many United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations. Whilst it may be argued that the UN should be held responsible for these violations, establishing the responsibility of the UN under international law is not straight forward. This article will examine the extent to which the responsibility of the UN can be established for SEA on its peacekeeping operations. This article will begin by considering the status of the UN as an international legal person and its legal rights and responsibilities. Then, the sources of law for the responsibility of international organisations will be discussed, including prohibitions against SEA and the obligations that these prohibitions may create for the UN. In particular, the Articles on the Responsibilities of International Organizations (ARIO) will be examined and the application of the ARIO to the case of SEA on peacekeeping operations will be explored. It will be concluded that the international law in this area is far from settled and, hence, many challenges remain in being able to establish the UN’s responsibility for acts of SEA on its peacekeeping operations.

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