The Democratic Republic of Congo hosts the longest-running and largest United Nations peacekeeping mission in history. The United Nations also has reckoned with sexual exploitation and abuse in its own ranks and, in 2003, recognized its importance with a Bulletin which became known as the ‘zero tolerance policy’. Policymakers and researchers have paid little sustained attention, however, to children fathered by peacekeepers. In this article, we share the results of our mixed-methods SenseMaker® research with community members who interact with peacekeeping personnel and interviews with 58 women who are raising children fathered by peacekeepers. Despite the United Nations policies in place, most women did not report children fathered by peacekeepers and did not receive systematic support. The analysis reveals a large gap between the aspirations of the ‘zero tolerance policy’ and its operationalization in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We uncovered deep poverty and insecurity as both driving and resulting from women’s sexual encounters with peacekeepers, with support needs largely unmet. We argue that there is a lack of enforcement of the United Nations policies, jurisdictional complexity and inaccessible justice, as well as significant gaps between the United Nations’ approach to investigating and supporting children fathered by peacekeepers and the expectations of mothers, resulting in worsened life conditions for mothers and their children.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.