In the past 10 years, United Nations personnel have raped tens of thousands of people worldwide, a former U.N. senior official said, as similar sexual exploitation scandals come to light in British humanitarian group Oxfam.
According to the Sunday Times, Andrew MacLeod, who served as chief of operations at the U.N.'s Emergency Co-ordination Centre, estimated that in the past decade approximately 60,000 rapes had been committed by U.N. staff, with around 3,300 pedophiles working in the organization and its agencies. These "predatory" abusers used their development jobs in order to prey on vulnerable women and children, he said.
"There are tens of thousands of aid workers around the world with pedophile tendencies, but if you wear a Unicef T-shirt nobody will ask what you're up to," MacLeod told The Sun.
"You have the impunity to do whatever you want. It is endemic across the aid industry across the world. The system is at fault, and should have stopped this years ago."
As to how he arrived at his figures, MacLeod maintained that though he did not claim to be making a scientific calculation, he estimates only 1 in 10 rapes and assaults by U.N. staff get reported. He then examined the numbers for 2016, which indicated that there were 311 cases of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers that year. He was inclined to double that number per a further suggestion of the U.N., and then multiplied that number by 10 to cover the past decade to reach the 60,000 approximation.
Last year, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres published a report which said that in 2016, 103 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. staff were made. Nearly half of those allegations were against peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic, and many of them involved one or more children.
The U.N., which deploys tens of thousands of uniformed military and police professionals as well as civilian employees, has been plagued for many years with charges of sexual exploitation. The international body has "wrestled for many years with the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse," according to Guterres, and has faced heightened scrutiny in recent years.
MacLeod's words come amid ongoing revelations that aid workers from the British anti-poverty charity Oxfam — an organization the U.N. regularly uses as an implementing partner — used prostitutes and had "wild sex parties" while delivering aid in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake that killed over 220,000 people and injured thousands more.
Other aid workers dispute his claim as sensationalist, not reflective of their experience.
The BBC reported Thursday that Oxfam is fearing a donor backlash.
MacLeod reportedly also suggested that U.N. aid workers committing abuse could get away with it since they enjoy diplomatic immunity.
The secretary-general's spokesperson pushed back against that this week, tweeting: "Let's be clear about this. The answer is no."
"Sexual abuse is a crime. The UN does not and will not claim immunity in such cases."
Despite the scandal, MacLeod and others have stressed fixing the problem, not cutting off aid, is the best response.