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The United Nations received 138 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse last year and nearly half of them were against the personnel deployed at its peacekeeping and special political missions, a report said on Wednesday. The report compiled by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on implementing a zero-tolerance policy for these crimes, the number of such allegations brought against the personnel serving with the UN dropped from 165 in 2016 to 138 last year. Special Coordinator on Improving UN Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Jane Holl Lute said yesterday that the report underscored the Secretary-General's consistent message that no one serving under the UN flag should be associated with sexual exploitation and abuse. "It remains one of his key priorities," she said. Lute said that data from 2017 indicates a "downward trend in the number of allegations reported. Overall, there were 138 allegations last year, compared to 165 in 2016. Of this number, 62 concerned personnel deployed to UN peacekeeping and special political missions: down from 104 the previous year, she said. However, she said allegations emanating from other UN entities and their implementing partners increased over the same period from 42 to 75. At the same time, there was "a sharp decline" in allegations involving non-UN forces, from 18 in 2016 to one in 2017. The UN has implemented several measures over the past year to tackle the scourge since Guterres launched a system-wide strategy to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse. The initiatives' focus on areas such as putting victims first, ending impunity and increasing partnerships; for example, with civil society. They include the appointment of a Victims' Rights Advocate, responding rapidly to allegations and ensuring that UN staff understand their responsibilities and obligations to prevent and report incidents. "On ending impunity, the Secretary-General has strengthened mandatory reporting through the development of a uniform incident reporting form," Lute said. "We have strengthened investigations in cooperation with Member States.
We have encouraged Member States to promptly appoint and deploy national investigation officers where allegations have been reported, and we continue to support the capacity building and training of national investigative officers," she added. Lute added that a trust fund to support victims had seen a three-fold increase in contributions, and she encouraged countries to "maintain this positive momentum". The trust fund was established in March 2016. As of December 2017, it stood at USD 1.89 million in commitments and/or contributions. Additionally, grants have been made available or approved to support victims through projects, services and training in Congo, Central African Republic and Liberia. Over 90,000 military personnel are assigned to UN peacekeeping operations.