Peter Dalglish built up a glittering career in international aid, but it was all a front to allow him to abuse children. What can the aid sector learn from this shocking case?

Peter Dalglish, a Canadian and former high-level United Nations (UN) official, was arrested in the Republic of Nepal on child sex trafficking charges in April 2018.

He was found guilty in June this year and sentenced on July 8 to nine and seven concurrent years in jail for child sexual abuse, as well as being ordered to pay around $10,000 to two survivors.

While Dalglish’s arrest prompted shock on social media, about a man many called a ‘hero’, humanitarians occupying new safeguarding and protection from sexual abuse and exploitation (PSEA) positions created across the international aid sector, post-Oxfam scandal, are oddly silent.

Because Dalglish’s resume reads like so many criminal complaints I have reviewed in my extensive research on child traffickers, when I learned of Dalglish’s arrest my response was, “of course”. Dalglish is no hero. Instead, it appears, he is a typical sexual predator — a highly-placed paedophile. Research shows those convicted for child pornography (the trade in child rape) in North America are disproportionately white, male and powerful.

They consistently place themselves in positions of influence and proximity to vulnerable children. Dalglish is a well-heeled white man with a Western passport. His career, awards and pattern of behaviour all fit the profile of men who sexually abuse and exploit vulnerable children.

No one should be surprised or silent. Yet so many seem to be. Why? I believe people are expressing disbelief and anxiety over Dalglish’s arrest on child sex trafficking charges because so few people understand how paedophiles operate.

Let me explain

Paedophiles typically clad themselves in prizes and prestige. This is their armour. Dalglish sought out, and received, as many honours as he could muster, including the Order of Canada. His titles indicate “this man is untouchable and protected”. He rubs shoulders with prime ministers. He has formidable friends in the UN system. He travels with global leaders. Think twice before speaking out against him. Intimidation is what Dalglish’s extensive accolades convey — not merit.

At schools all over Asia, Europe and North America Dalglish made the same speech describing himself as a self-sacrificing humanitarian who abandoned a lucrative career to help children in the developing world. He repeats, nearly word for word, that he gave up luxury cars to help children in disaster zones. Like this speech at a school in Bali where he describes how dedicating himself to poor children meant: “I would never race around in a convertible BMW in the streets of Vancouver with the top down and there would be no ski chalets.”

The reality is, he sacrificed nothing. Dalglish’s worth is estimated to be in the millions of dollars. He can certainly afford extravagant cars and ski chalets. When a white privileged man whines about not being able to own a BMW due to his ‘sacrifice’ for poor children, this is a blatant tip-off regarding the veracity of his ‘humanitarian spirit’.

Yet, it seems, few clued in.

Why did Dalglish repeat this lie at schools all over the world?

This is called grooming. Dalglish was grooming school administrators. He was grooming parents. He was grooming targeted communities to gain access to their children. This is what pedophiles do. This is how they create a supply-line of children to abuse. Many, it seems, obediently swallowed the lies Dalglish told about himself and bestowed on him the title of hero.

Yet, not everyone was being groomed. If Dalglish is the typical pedophile he appears to be, he would have also been networking with other paedophiles. The tributes, honorary degrees, and amply paid UN positions would have been given to him by men like him. Doing the same thing.

Paedophilia is a highly networked criminal activity. Paedophiles collectively engage in child abuse, share children they have access to, tip each other off on where to locate vulnerable children and teach each other how to ensure impunity for their crimes. Paedophiles also help each other obtain authoritative professional positions, titles and awards. They use these positions to protect each other and their crimes. As mentioned, this is their shield — their criminal defence.

At the moment, humanitarians are using the hashtag #AidToo on social media to discuss the #MeToo movement within the international aid sector. Critically lacking in this debate has been the inclusion of child sex trafficking.

What does Peter Dalglish’s arrest mean for the #AidToo discussion?

Female humanitarians are not operating within a merit-based professional playing field. This much is understood in #AidToo conversations. Frequently men protect, promote and award each other senior positions where they do very little work, are ridiculously over-paid and enjoy almost no accountability. It is largely agreed this is typical across the humanitarian sector.

Many of these men fit the Peter Dalglish profile. Are they all sexual predators? Probably not. Are many of them sexually exploiting both junior female humanitarian staff, female beneficiaries and children? Probably far more than most people can imagine.

What has remained misunderstood in #AidToo movement is that, disproportionately, male humanitarians confer on each other positions of significance they are rarely qualified for in order to use these positions to prey on vulnerable children and women.

The influential, lucrative positions and lack of oversight are not random occurrences. These are intentional structures often done with the explicit purpose of enabling and protecting sexual predators among us.

Humanitarians should educate ourselves on how paedophiles operate. We should recognise the warning signs. We should demand structures be built into our agencies so predators are detected at the earliest possible stage. Software, like NetClean, should be installed to monitor and report criminal activity to appropriate law enforcement. If the UN agencies where Dalglish worked, UN Habitat and the World Health Organization, had such systems in place, Dalglish may have been caught years ago; the abuse of many children might have been prevented.

Dalglish’s sentencing should be a ‘teachable moment’ for the humanitarian community to understand and recognise how predators exploit the cover of ‘heroism’ to commit crimes.

Let’s be clear. Peter Dalglish is not a hero. He never was.

There is, however, a group of heroes in the Dalglish story — men and women we should all be celebrating — those in Nepal’s Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) who were courageous enough to investigate and arrest a highly-placed paedophile who spent a lifetime building a fortress against just such an arrest.

Bravo to Nepal’s Central Investigations Bureau. More power to you.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

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