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The United Nations (UN) has authorized the deployment of 69 peacekeeping operations since 1948 and as of July 2016, a total of 118,792 personnel from 123 countries were serving in 16 peacekeeping operations (mostly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia). Where foreign soldiers, during war, occupation or peacekeeping operations are on foreign soil, military-civilian relations develop, including those between soldiers and local women.


Peacekeepers have increasingly been associated with sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) of the vulnerable populations they had been mandated to protect. Missions have been tarnished by reports of rape, paedophilia, and prostitution in a variety of countries including Haiti, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), East Timor, and Liberia. Consensual relationships also occur between peacekeeping personnel and locals and many of the intimate relations of both voluntary and exploitative character have led to pregnancies and to children being born. These so-called ‘peace babies’ and their mothers face particular challenges in volatile post-conflict communities ranging from stigmatisation, physical and mental health issues, and disproportionate economic and social hardships.

UN Glossary on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse:

Zero-tolerance policy: 'The United Nations policy establishing that sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations personnel is prohibited and that every transgression will be acted upon.'

Sexual abuse: 'Actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. Comment: All sexual activity with a child is considered as sexual abuse. "Physical intrusion" is understood to mean "sexual activity". “Sexual abuse” is a broad term, which includes a number of acts described below, including “rape”, “sexual assault”, “sex with a minor”, and “sexual activity with a minor”.'

Sexual exploitation: 'Any actual or attempted abuse of position of vulnerability, differential power or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another. Comment: “Sexual exploitation” is a broad term, which includes a number of acts described below, including “transactional sex”, “solicitation of transactional sex” and “exploitative relationship”.'

Our Project

This project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). It explores the lives of peacekeeper - fathered children and their mothers. Focusing on peacekeeping in Haiti and the DRC, our work considers how gender relations, economic/security contexts, and socio-cultural processes affect relations and power imbalances between UN staff and local host communities. What are the life experiences of “peace babies” and their mothers and what difficulties do they face? What are some of the main factors influencing their social, economic, and psychological welfare? This project also analyses the legal structures that inform UN approaches to accountability of PPSEA and its lack of responsibility for children fathered by UN peacekeepers. One aim of these investigations is to progress policies and programs centred on peace babies by providing information about their experiences to the UN, to the states giving militarised peacekeeper - assistance and to the governments of nations hosting peacekeepers. Another objective is to trigger tangible changes to the ways peacekeeper - fathered children and their mothers are supported and the greater integration of children in their local communities, by sharing our research findings with host governments, non-governmental organisations, and women’s rights groups.

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