Statement Attributable to Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF
NEW YORK, 27 February 2002 - UNICEF welcomes the efforts of UNHCR and Save the Children to throw light on the often unreported but widespread problem of child sexual abuse. We are particularly outraged that some humanitarian workers have betrayed the trust of the children they are charged to assist and protect.
UNICEF takes very seriously the findings of the report - "Sexual Violence and Exploitation: The Experience of Refugee Children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone." A summary of the report was released late Tuesday.
UNICEF is deeply concerned about the sexual abuse and exploitation of girls and boys wherever and however it occurs. Addressing this problem is a major priority for UNICEF and has been a key part of our ongoing work to protect the rights and dignity of children.
UNICEF upholds a zero-tolerance policy toward the sexual abuse and exploitation of children by its staff. UNICEF is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which sets clear standards for the protection of children. UNICEF workers are further bound to uphold the UN Charter and UNICEF Guiding Principles, which require all staff to maintain the highest levels of integrity in all their actions, on and off the job. These high standards underpin all our work on behalf of children, and we believe they should guide the work of all humanitarian actors.
Over recent years UNICEF has strengthened its efforts to address the issues of child sexual exploitation around the world, including in West Africa. Among other things, UNICEF has worked to raise awareness of the problem among governments and encouraged them to adopt legislation criminalizing all forms of sexual exploitation; has supported public information campaigns through the mass media; and was a leading organizer of the Yokohama Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, held in December 2001 in Japan.
As the lead agency for children within the United Nations family, UNICEF has worked to sensitize UN staff, including UN Peacekeepers, to children's rights. UNICEF is currently working with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to strengthen the Code of Conduct for Peacekeepers.
All of us at UNICEF are committed to ending the sexual abuse of children. We will redouble our own efforts to end this pernicious abuse. In addition, we stand ready to work with UNHCR, Save the Children, and other partners and governments to ensure the issues raised by this week's report are fully explored, understood and addressed.
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For further information, please contact:
Liza Barrie, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326-7593
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326-7261