Advisory Note by the National Working Group on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse on Handling Allegations of Staff and Affiliated Personnel Engaged in “Child Booking” in South Sudan – South Sudan

Attachments

Introduction

  1. This note is intended for use by all UN and non-UN entities working in South Sudan to address allegations that staff and affiliated personnel are engaged in “child reservations”. By virtue of their employment, staff members hold positions of disproportionate economic and social power. UN staff and affiliated personnel must not abuse or use their power or position in a manner that is offensive, humiliating, embarrassing or intimidating to another person.

  2. Given the seriousness of the allegations and the harm that these traditional practices cause to girls, the Working Group has undertaken to review existing policies and procedures within the United Nations in order to identify possible response measures. The first step is to determine whether the involvement of United Nations staff members and affiliated personnel in the custom of child reservation is consistent with United Nations standards of conduct, which require the highest standards of integrity and respect for human rights. In this context, the Working Group a. examines whether the custom is directly contrary to human rights instruments adopted by the United Nations system and, therefore, incompatible with the obligations imposed on staff members and affiliated personnel.

b. examines whether the custom violates child protection policies applicable to United Nations peace operations and humanitarian partners.

c. reviews existing policies on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) and assesses their potential applicability to the custom of child reservation.

Based on this review, the Task Force concludes that the knowing or intentional participation of staff members and affiliated staff members in the practice of registering children constitutes a violation of United Nations standards of conduct and, depending on the specific circumstances presented, may also violate international protocols adopted by the General Assembly prohibiting human trafficking, child marriage and sexual exploitation and abuse. Headquarters leadership should be requested to provide guidance on establishing a consistent system-wide approach to such potential disciplinary violations in order to ensure consistency and fairness in the application of disciplinary standards.

At the same time, the country team should explore ways to prevent possible violations through targeted advocacy and awareness-raising campaigns.

  1. In addition, experts estimate that the overall human cost of the COVID-19 pandemic could be extraordinary. The economic and physical disruptions caused by the disease could have far-reaching consequences for the rights and health of women and girls. The pandemic is also expected to cause significant delays in programs to end child marriage. These delays, combined with growing economic hardship globally, could result in an estimated 13 million additional child marriages over 10 years.