Angelina Jolie Speaks At U.N. Peacekeepers Summit, Says Sexual Abuse By Peacekeepers Exploits People Meant To Protect

Angelina Jolie made a surprise appearance at a U.N. peacekeeping summit, where she spoke to delegates from 80 countries about the tarnished reputation of the organization due to terrible acts by its own peacekeepers. The Guardian explains how Jolie shared about the fact that the reputation “had been undermined by intolerable cases of sexual abuse by peacekeepers.”

The actor and U.N. special envoy spoke on the desire for justice and the accountability of women she had met, who were refugees. A number of these women confided in Jolie that they had been abused sexually by international troops. Jolie spoke about how such acts are hypocritical and immoral.

“We all know that the credibility of UN peacekeeping has been sadly undermined by the actions of a few intolerable cases of women and children being sexually exploited by the very people in charge of protecting them.”

The actress and director called for the prosecution of peacekeepers who went about committing such abuses against these women and children and noted that there needed to be a new approach to peacekeeping that has the “rights and protection and involvement of women at its heart”

Angelina also stated that more women should be included in missions in regard to peacekeeping.

“Peacekeeping forces can only gain and keep the trust of local populations if they are able to engage with women as well as men in that community.”

The central issue of the summit included sexual abuse and exploitation by the U.N.’s own peacekeepers. The participation of women in missions was a pertinent theme of the gathering as well, following claims that there had been sexual assaults committed in countries including Haiti and Central African Republic.

Michael Fallon, defense minister, called for a “zero-tolerance approach” on the issue. He shared that there had been “some shocking examples of poor performance that we can all deplore.” He went on to say that such acts risk the loss of the “hearts and minds” of the people that these missions are intended to protect.

The Guardian notes additional strategies the U.N. is intending to utilize to ensure that such acts do not recur.

“Officials said the UN is taking sexual violence and other breaches of discipline increasingly seriously, and had set up a separate unit to investigate allegations that was separate from personnel on the ground. Where anyone misbehaves, the whole contingent will be sent home, and in some cases individuals have been prosecuted in their home countries.”

Campaigners said that this just masks the issue and that there is another problem which keeps the peacekeeping missions from being entirely benevolent. Paula Donovan, co-director of Aids-Free-World, an NGO that runs a campaign, Code Blue, on sexual abuse in the U.N., spoke on the matter.

“The problem is that the UN has a conflict of interest: it’s allowed to police itself, and it’s allowed to act as judge and jury.”

Code Blue is now calling for a change whereby independent organizations can be set up to investigate and prosecute any allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers. Officials do not believe this is the best solution to news of such violations and terrible acts, seeing as it is more cumbersome to implement than a U.N.-provided team that already has a diplomatic status, which allows team members to act quickly.

This particular summit at which Angelina Jolie spoke, was described by Herve Ladsous, U.N. undersecretary, as the largest gathering in the history of peacekeeping and it follows an event held last year that involved 50 nations, who pledged to increase contributions to U.N. missions to deal with challenging missions and threats.

[Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]

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