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With Oxfam Exposed for Sex Abuse in Haiti, UN Claim of Zero Tolerance Amid Impunity

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video here, doc here

UNITED NATIONS, February 10 – The abuse of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake was not limited to the UN, which killed 10,000 plus by negligently introducing cholera and lying about it - now the UK based charity Oxfam is being exposed for sexual abuse. What will new DFID official Matthew Rycroft do? "Oxfam is far from alone with current and past sex harassment, rape and child rape becoming more well known in the entire aid industry. The UK’s former National Criminal Intelligence Service, which registered and monitored the activities of paedophiles, warned as far back as 1999 that the scale of the problem of pedophiles in the aid world is on a level with sex tourism. The most shocking crimes, child rape of the most vulnerable children, are now coming to light with very senior people, including former Secretaries General of the United Nations being aware. In 2016 the UN admitted to 311 victims from 145 reported cases just in one year and just in peacekeeping. For a number of years the UN has had ‘nominal transparency’ around sexual abuse and child rape by UN peacekeepers." UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says he has a "zero tolerance" policy for sexual harassment. But his chief of "Global Communications" Alison Smale argued that all UN staff including victims should "speak with one voice" which several staff told Inner City Press they took to mean, Don't make the UN look bad. Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it, despite getting cut off (Vine here), UN transcript here and below, longer tweeted video here. Then on January 24, after publishing the UN's troubling finding of "mitigating circumstances" for abuse and payments to abuses, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: The question has to do with not about policy the… the rights of staff to speak but about the UN's actual action on… on cases of harassment.  There's a… there's this document that's circulated to staff about disciplinary actions taken, and I… I saw it yesterday, and I was pretty surprised, because under the rubric of abuse of authority, harassment and discrimination, it says, for example, a staff member performed a sexual act at the workplace in the presence of… of employees.  Mitigating factors included the staff member's long service in mission settings.  And in most… in many of these cases, people are… are… even if they're relieved from service, they're paid compensation.  So, I wanted to know, number one, is there… have… have… the things that are being said now, how seriously the Secretary-General takes… takes such allegations, these were from 2017, and so it seems like there are cases of… there's another case if you want to… harassed an individual… Spokesman:  I can't comment on the specific cases you mentioned… Inner City Press: Right.  It's not a leak.  This is an official disciplinary document. Spokesman:  I'm not saying… I'm not going to comment on specific cases, because I don't have the information in front of me.  There are administrative rules and procedures and an internal justice system here, and we are an organization of rules.  Those rules are followed.  What is important is that everyone understands that there is an environment in which they should feel comfortable and empowered to come forward and report cases of harassment or abuse of power without any fear of retribution.  That's the Secretary-General's focus, to ensure that people feel free to come up.  We are fully aware, like any other organization, that these issues are probably underreported, because people do not feel comfortable in coming forward. Inner City Press:  But in… beyond just coming forward, it seems important what the UN actually does.  So there are unwanted advances… mitigating circumstances, payola to the person… Spokesman:  The case… you know, there… you're using.  You're throwing around terms.  I mean, obviously each case is looked at.  I'm not going to go into the details of each case." But it's not hypothetical. From the UN's transcript: Inner City Press:  I heard there was a call about speaking with one voice on sexual harassment at the UN this morning.  And I wanted to… I guess I wanted to ask you, because some staff members have had a question, this idea of speaking with one voice, does it in any way contradict the idea that staff are free without speaking with the same voice as the rest of the UN, or is UN management to speak to the press, is there…Spokesman:  There's no… it's just to ensure… I think it's important from a communications standpoint that all our colleagues are fully aware of the current state of play of rules and regulations.  I think you're con… I don't know the English word, but you're mixing up the two.  I'll come… I'll come back to you." This while a UN compendium on the discipline it meted out from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017, obtained by Inner City Press and put online here, cites "mitigating circumstances" including "long service in mission settings" for harassment, abuse and public sex, and provides those accused with compensation From the UN document: "A staff member sexually harassed an individual, who had worked for an entity external to the Organization and then joined a United Nations agency, by making unwanted advances, sending improper messages of a sexual nature and continuing to attempt to contact the individual. There were mitigating circumstances. Disposition: separation from service, with compensation in lieu of notice and with termination indemnity.... A staff member repeatedly and inappropriately touched the body of another staff member who was working in a subordinate position in the office of the former.
Disposition: a fine of one month’s net base salary and separation from service, with compensation in lieu of notice and without termination indemnity. A staff member performed a sexual act at the workplace in the presence of employees of a contractor, and in a second instance, performed a sexual act in public view. Mitigating factors included the staff member’s long service in mission settings. Disposition: separation from service, with compensation in lieu of notice and with termination indemnity." This (mis) use of mitigating factors hearkens back to the just-previous head of UN Peacekeeping, the fifth of six Frenchmen in a row atop DPKO, saying that peacekeepers committed sexual abuse due to a lack of "R&R," which most in the UN(CA) press corps ignored. On January 12 Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric had no comment at all when Inner City Press asked about the widely reported sexual harassment allegations against the deputy chief of UNESCO, Frank La Rue. When Inner City Press asked a second time on January 17, Dujarric said La Rue is no longer in his position. But what are the UN's policies, now in light of the Guardian's report and UN official Jan Beagle's letter to the editor about it? Inner City Press is informed that on January 23 there was a UN wide conference call on which two contradictory positions were expressed: let staff talk freely to the media, or in the alternative, "speak with one voice," meaning control. Could this be Guterres' "Global Communications" strategy, a continuation of censorship? On January 22, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: as I'm sure you know, Jan Beagle has written to The Guardian about the series about sexual harassment.  And, among other things, she said, unequivocally, the UN staff are free to speak… free to speak to the media, which, if true, is a great thing.  I just wanted to ask you about, there's a UN rule that says that for statements or announcements to the press, permission is required, and I'm aware of a number of cases, but, for example, the case of Emma Reilly in the UN system at the Office of the [United Nations] High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), she was explicitly told that she could not speak to the press.  And I know that because that was explained to me and… so… so can you just… what I want to do, rather than…?  Can you make clear… if, in fact you're announcing that staff can speak freely and will not be retaliated against, this would be the time. Spokesman:  I understand.  Okay.  There are media guidelines in which staff members are told they can speak to the press in their areas of responsibility.  Obviously, I think it's clear that they should tell… they should do it in concert with their supervisors.  There need to be some coherence.  But, I think the larger point is, if a staff member feels they have been wronged, they have not… they have exhausted every avenue, they feel they live in a climate of fear, the press remains an outlet. Inner City Press: I understand, as whistle-blowers, there's all kinds of rules of what… you have to exhaust your ability inside the system before you speak, but that's not what Jan Beagle told The Guardian.  She said staff aren't… aren't prohibited at all, and I want to read you something that… that Emma Reilly… this was quoted to her.  “As a conduct provision, within the UN system, it would not be proper for international civil servants to air personal grievances or criticize their organizations in public.”  And, obviously, the type of harassment we're talking about… Spokesman:  As I said, there are media guidelines, and, obviously as… I'll repeat what I've said.  If people feel they've exhausted every avenue and they need to “blow the whistle” on a situation, the press remains an outlet. Inner City Press:  Right, but if they get retaliated against, can they hold up the letter and…? Spokesman:  We do not want to have… We are working, I think, with great effort in ensuring that we create an atmosphere in which staff members are… feel they can speak up to their supervisors, to other outlets, and report on harassment or retaliation.  That is our focus.  Yes, sir. " Back on January 18, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: the article just came out, but it describes some policies that I think you could address.  One policy that it mentions is that some UN agencies have a six-month statute of limitations on complaints.  Is that something the Secretary-General is interested in changing, and another… Spokesman:  I don't know which UN agencies the article is referring to.  What is clear is that the Secretary-General wants to see, across the board, in parts of the UN over which he has no direct-line authority — as you know, some specialized agencies and others, he has no direct authority — but through the Chief Executives Board, he wants a harmonization and he wants effective policies to be put in place to ensure that people feel free and comfortable coming forward. Inner City Press: How about comfortable speaking?  One of the… one of… the article says that… that… that those interviewed spoke on condition of anonymity, quote, partly because they are precluded from talking publicly by UN rules governing staff.  Can you say from this podium that UN staff are free to speak to the press about abuse they suffer within the UN from superiors? Spokesman:  No one is putting a gag order.  I don't… but you know, obviously, those quotes are anonymous quotes.  I can't address them.  But the whole point is to create an atmosphere in which people who have suffered harassment or who are… feel comfortable to come forward and speak and comfortable enough without any fear of retaliation, which would be unacceptable. Inner City Press: And the one last thing, it talks about OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] and… and interviewing the wrong people and bungling investigations.  And I just wondered, since… I think since Ms. [Heidi] Mendoza took over, I haven't seen her have a press conference, and I'm just wondering if… on this issue, if this issue is important enough in order to understand how investigations are done. Spokesman:  Look, we will have people come forward to talk about investigations.  I can't speak for OIOS, but I know… you know, I know as for… they have been investigating these cases, I think, 15 reports in 2016 and about 17… 18 in 2017." So he had those numbers, if-Pressed. Inner City Press asked, if UNESCO's investigation finds the allegations, including that the victim had a mental breakdown, are well founded, should La Rue remain a UN official?
Periscope video here. Dujarric had no comment. Here's video of La Rue answering Inner City Press' questions in October 2016, saying he wants "transparency in UN bodies." Having heard nothing back from Dujarric, despite sending him a link about the La Rue case, on January 17 Inner City Press again asked Dujarric about it, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I'd asked you, it was last week about this Frank La Rue complaint or case at UNESCO, and so what is the position, I understand that he's entitled to due process… Spokesman:  "No, I think you may… you may have seen that UNESCO announced that he was relieved of his… of his post.  Whether it's administrative leave, I don't know what the exact term is, but he's no longer in that… in that function.  UNESCO has its own investigative mechanisms, which are fully… fully under way.  And whether it's UNESCO or the Secretariat, there's obviously zero tolerance for… for sexual harassment, and the case will be… will be investigated." We'll have more on that - and this: throughout 2016 New Zealand documentary maker Gaylene Preston and her crew staked out the UN Security Council along with Inner City Press, awaiting the results of the straw polls to elected Ban Ki-moon's sucessor as UN Secretary General. Preston's focus was Helen Clark, the former New Zealand prime minister then in her second term as Administrator of the UN Development Program. Preston would ask Inner City Press after each poll, What about Helen Clark's chances? Suffice it to say Clark never caught fire as a candidate. Inner City Press told Preston, as did many other interviewees in her documentary “My Year with Helen,” that it might be sexism. But it might be power too - including Samantha Power, the US Ambassador who spoke publicly about gender equality and then in secret cast a ballot Discouraging Helen Clark, and praised Antonio Guterres for his energy (yet to be seen). Samantha Power's hypocrisy is called out in Preston's film, in which New Zealand's Ambassador complains that fully four members of the Council claimed to be the single “No Opinion” vote that Clark received. There was a private screening of My Year With Helen on December 4 at NYU's King Juan Carlos Center, attended by a range of UN staff, a New Zealand designer of a website for the country's proposal new flag, and Ban Ki-moon's archivist, among others. After the screening there was a short Q&A session. Inner City Press used that to point out that Guterres has yet to criticize any of the Permanent Five members of the Council who did not block him as the US, France and China blocked Clark, with Russia casting a “No Opinion.” And that Guterres picked a male from among France's three candidates to head UN Peacekeeping which they own, and accepted males from the UK and Russia for “their” top positions. Then over New Zealand wine the talk turned to the new corruption at the UN, which is extensive, and the upcoming dubious Wall Street fundraiser of the UN Correspondents Association, for which some in attendance had been shaken down, as one put it, for $1200.  The UN needed and needs to be shaken up, and hasn't been. But the film is good, and should be screened not in the UN Censorship Alliance but directly in the UN Security Council, on the roll-down movie screen on which failed envoys like Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed are projected. “My Year With Helen” is well worth seeing.


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