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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and my own country, Norway.
The issue of criminal accountability of UN officials and experts on mission remains of critical importance. Once again, we have to stress the need for both the UN and its Member States, through policy, legislation and action, to exercise a zero-tolerance policy towards crimes committed by UN officials and experts on mission.
To begin with, we would like to thank the Secretary-General for the report that has been submitted under the present agenda item (A/74/145). The report provides valuable information on Member States’ reporting on, and national follow-up of, cases of criminal offences committed by UN officials or experts on mission.
Unfortunately, the Secretary-General’s report continues to paint a very worrying picture. The overview of all reported cases since 2007 currently shows 190 serious criminal offences committed by UN officials or experts on mission. In very few of these cases has the sending state informed the UN of investigative and/or persecution measures taken. The Nordic countries find this insufficient response unacceptable.
As the list of referred cases of this kind lengthens, without Member States providing the necessary information on their follow-up at the national level, the pressure against the UN and its Member States to address this serious problem increases. Moreover, the insufficient response puts the credibility and integrity of the UN and its missions at stake. The Nordic countries therefore strongly encourage States that have not provided the required information regarding these cases to do so.
As for the General Assembly resolution on criminal accountability of UN officials and experts on mission, the Nordic countries have previously suggested including in the Secretary-General’s report information indicating which Member States have, and which Member States have not, provided feedback on their national follow-up of reported cases. This year, the Nordic countries would instead like to propose the compilation of a list of UN Member States that have indeed followed up cases at the national level. This approach could incentivize States to inform the Secretary-General of their national responses and promote information sharing and exchange of experiences among Member States, including about challenges that they may have concerning national follow-up of these matters.
The primary responsibility for addressing the serious issue of accountability of UN officials and experts on mission lies with Member States and their respective national jurisdictions. Hence, it is crucial that States establish jurisdiction over crimes committed by their nationals while serving as UN officials or experts on mission. The Nordic countries would like to welcome the fact that the Secretary-General’s report includes an overview of Member States’ national legal frameworks pertaining to the investigation and possible prosecution of these cases. This is certainly a step in the right direction of improved information sharing.
At the same time, the Nordic countries urge all Member States that have not yet done so to submit, at their earliest convenience, relevant information to the Secretary-General regarding the status of their domestic legislation on this matter, in accordance with paragraphs 26 and 27 of resolution 72/112.
In addition to reporting, further measures to ensure transparency and provide incentives for Member States to undertake the necessary legislative amendments must be considered. In this regard, the Nordic countries would like to reiterate our previous proposal on developing a general policy on minimal requirements for States whose nationals serve as UN officials or experts on mission. A policy of this kind could draw on the Voluntary Compact on Preventing and Addressing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. An essential requirement in this respect should be that all States have established relevant jurisdiction to enable the effective investigation and prosecution of potential crimes committed by their nationals while in service for the UN abroad.
The Nordic countries look forward to a constructive debate on a comprehensive international legal framework to address criminal conduct by UN officials and experts on mission. This could be an important step towards fighting impunity. We would once again like to thank the Group of Legal Experts for the Draft Convention.
Finally, we would like to address a topic of particular importance to the Nordic countries, which is combatting sexual exploitation and abuse. We welcome the important steps taken by the UN over the last few years in this area. The Nordic countries support the ongoing work of the Special Coordinator on improving the United Nations’ response to sexual exploitation and abuse, and the Secretary-General’s strategy to improve the organisation’s system-wide approach to preventing and responding to such exploitation and abuse.
The Nordic countries also welcome the fact that, as of 18 September 2019, 102 Member States have signed the Voluntary Compact on Preventing and Addressing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. We hope that the Compact will continue to send a strong signal of joint commitment and mutual accountability on the part of the UN and its Member States on preventing and addressing sexual exploitation and abuse. The Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy is still far from being fully implemented.
In closing, the Nordic countries would like to reiterate the importance of ensuring accountability for crimes committed while in service for the UN. As for Member States’ willingness and ability to hold their own nationals accountable for crimes committed while in UN service, nothing less than full transparency is acceptable. Let me assure you, M(r/s). Chair, of the complete and constructive cooperation of the Nordic countries in this respect.