Security Council resolution targets sexual violence

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A new United Nations Security Council resolution lays out strategies to combat violent extremism and terrorism via a new focus on women.[1] While a main focus is to improve and facilitate peacekeeping mechanisms, the Security Council also stressed to the United Nations the importance of taking steps to “better integrate gender perspectives into their work so as to address accountability defects.”[2] In other words, the United Nations is being forced to address numerous claims of sexual exploitation and abuse of women by its own peacekeeping personnel.

Adopted on October 13, Resolution 2242 recognizes the growing use of sexual violence as a “tactic of war or as part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilian populations.”[3] The Resolution emphasizes that in order to promote world peace and extinguish civil violence it is essential to promote and achieve “gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.”[4] The Security Council’s desire to combat sexual violence and gender inequality is an attempt to fight sexual exploitation and abuse of women; it comes amid numerous allegations of “sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by peacekeepers” and criticism of the United Nations for failing to adequately handle the allegations.[5] For example, there are allegations of SEA by soldiers in the Central African Republic who are associated with the United Nation’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA).[6] Still, allegations of SEA by Blue Berets are nothing new, and the outcry for the Security Council to encourage better treatment of women, such as by increasing funding for programs that encourage gender equality and prioritizing the appointment of more women to senior United Nations leadership positions, have been loud and clear for more than a decade.[7]

Brazilian peacekeeper in Haiti
The United Nations has conducted more than sixty peacekeeping operations
since 1948, from Israel to Korea to Somalia. Some of the operations have
resulted in allegations of sexual abuse, most recently in the Central African
Republic. Above is a Brazilian U.N. peacekeeping soldier in Haiti.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Allegations similar to the MINUSCA allegations surfaced in 2006 when the advocacy organization Save the Children interviewed over 300 people and concluded that “selling young women for sex has reached epidemic proportions in Liberian camps for the displaced.”[8] While the United Nations “promised” to investigate the allegations made in the study, these promises were harrowingly similar to promises following similar allegations in Liberia in 2002.[9] The earlier incident did result in a UN investigation and report on sexual exploitation of refugees "by aid workers" in West Africa, although the report repeatedly notes that the “stories” of sexual abuse could not be verified.[10] While the investigation did recognize that sexual exploitation is a “real problem” and listed seventeen recommendations for combating the issue, the report is not nearly as detailed as Resolution 2242 in terms of formulating a substantive plan of action.[11]

Resolution 2242 is the forty-seventh resolution adopted by the United Nations in 2015,[12] and is arguably one of the more powerful in that it was adopted unanimously. While a Security Council resolution only requires affirmative votes from nine of the fifteen members, Resolution 2242 received an affirmative vote from all fifteen members of the Security Council, showing the Council’s desire to pass a resolution aimed at combating sexual abuse against women. The Resolution addresses numerous issues of sexual violence, and establishes several initiatives to counteract sexual exploitation and abuse facing women around the world. For starters, the Resolution clearly identifies a commitment to integrating a “gender analysis on the drivers and impacts of violent extremism” with an emphasis on consulting with the women’s organizations that are impacted by such violence.[13] The Resolution also encourages new targets for numbers of female peacekeepers, and emphasizes the importance of implementing more senior female leaders throughout all levels of decision-making in global peace and security.[14]

There is no doubt that all of these initiatives, including pointing out the importance in addressing the “critical funding gap” in women’s organizations, are great steps forward for combating sexual abuse.[15] That being said, the most important aspect of the Resolution may be its reiteration of the “important engagement by men and boys as partners in promoting women’s participation in the prevention and resolution of armed conflict, peacebuilding and post-conflict situations.”[16] Holding men and boys accountable is an important step in eliminating sexual exploitation and abuse of women, because it encourages everyone to take proactive steps towards eliminating the problem, not just the victims.[17] A Security Council resolution shows sexual exploitation and abuse of women are clearly still global problems that will not soon disappear without substantial action; however, the unanimous support of this Resolution is certainly a step in the right direction.[18]


[1] Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution 2242 (2015) to Improve Implementation of Landmark Text on Women, Peace, Sec. Agenda, United Nations, para. 1 (Oct. 13, 2015), http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sc12076.doc.htm [hereinafter UN Meetings Coverage].

[2] Id. at para. 3.

[3] Resolution 2242 (2015), United Nations Security Council 2 (Oct. 13, 2015), http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/s_res_2242.pdf [https://perma.cc/9W8N-T8E9] [hereinafter Res. 2242]

[4] Id. at 1.

[5] Melanie O’Brien, Guest Post:UN Peacekeepers and Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Opinio Juris (last updated Feb. 16, 2016), http://opiniojuris.org/2016/02/16/guest-post-un-peacekeepers-and-sexual-exploitation-and-abuse/ [https://perma.cc/9AJF-HGZN] [hereinafter O’Brien].

[6] Id.

[7] See id. (explaining that the author has been researching and pleading for accountability on this topic for almost thirteen years).

[8] Kevin Jon Heller, More on Sexual Abuse by Peacekeeprs and Aid Workers, Opinio Juris paras. 1–2 (May 10, 2006), http://opiniojuris.org/2006/05/10/more-on-sexual-abuse-by-peacekeepers-and-aid-workers/ [https://perma.cc/B5HU-K4QN] [hereinafter Heller].

[9] Id. at para. 5.

[10] Investigation Into Sexual Exploitation of Refugees by aid Workers in West Africa, Report of the Secretary-General on the Activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services 1-14 (Oct. 11, 2002), http://www.un.org/news/dh/infocus/a-57-465.pdf [https://perma.cc/ZQ7A-8KJ3] [hereinafter Investigation].

[11] Id. at 3-4.

[12] Security Council Resolution: Resolutions Adopted by the Security Council in 2015, United Nations Security Council (last viewed Feb. 23, 2016), http://www.un.org/en/sc/documents/resolutions/2015.shtml [https://perma.cc/C2JX-UQAQ].

[13] Id. at para. 4.

[14] Id.

[15] Id. at para. 5.

[16] Res. 2242, supra note 3, at 2.

[17] Id.

[18] See UN Women para. 2 (stating that resolution was “unanimously” adopted).


Posted by Nathan M. Anonick on Tue. March 1, 2016 9:08 PM
Categories: U.N. Security Council, United Nations, Women's rights

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