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UN Staff Survey Shows Fear of Retaliation, Inner City Press Asks, UN Calls Leak Selective

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon

UNITED NATIONS, March 2 – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says he has a "zero tolerance" policy for sexual harassment, and for retaliation. 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. The hypocrisy is known to UN staff - it seems a third of them admitted on a recent "engagement" survey that they witness unethical behavior and have no confidence they would not be retaliated against for reporting it. Having had a copy of the report for some time, Inner City Press on March 2 asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it, drawing a canned comment and promise of  briefer on March 5. From the UN transcript, followed by two links to the full report Dujarric claims was only selectively leaked, and a question about Guterres' stated commitment to whistleblower protection: Inner City Press: Do you have a comment on that, on the staff assessment? Spokesman:  Sure, sure. Inner City Press: because a number of questions today you've answered by saying that there's mechanisms in place for people to report, and so it's all… it seems like the… the… the UN surveyed its own staff.  Thirty-nine per cent responded and one third of them say that there's a lack of performance and ethical accountability, and that they are afraid to report misconduct due to fear of retaliation.  That seems like a lot of people. Spokesman:  I think, first of all, we will have — we're trying to have on Monday a senior briefer from the Department of Management or OHRM [Office of Human Resources Management] to come and… and brief you on… on the survey.  I think… and you'll get more details, but 72 per cent of staff responded favourably to questions of engagement, 70 per cent of staff responded favourably to questions of areas of… of alignment.  I think there were very positive answers also in terms of the… the alignment of the… their… the ideals with their work.  I think 79 per cent of staff indicated they would know what to do and who to approach if they saw unethical behaviour or wrongdoing.  There's always going to be positive and negative things in the staff of any organization, no matter how small or how large.  I think it's important for us to be able to understand where… what the staff is… is thinking.  I think it helps… it will help… it will help the Secretary-General in the reform process.  Also, engaging staff in pushing staff towards the change that this Organization needs.  Identify the gaps on issues of ethics.  I think the Secretary-General has been… as you know, [he] upgraded the whistle-blower policy very quickly after arriving and updated it again.  We have made a big push in ensuring that staff know what to do in the cases of sexual harassment, where to call.  All sorts of information were shared.  The hotline was set up.  The OIOS has been upgrading its ability to investigate issues of harassment.  So, as I said, you'll have… you'll have a bigger briefing, but I think there's more… it's a much… it's… the survey is there to show where the staff is.  I think what was leaked was selectively leaked and it gave a much more negative picture of what the survey actually said. Inner City Press: I mean, the whole report has been leaked." Here it is on Scribd and Patreon. And here is a question: whistleblower protection policies should have a shifting burden of proof , in order to even the odds when an individual staff member is disputing an action taken by an institution. This means that once the whistleblower has met a low standard of proof about his/her disclosure (The whistleblower must have a ‘reasonable belief’ that misconduct has occurred), the burden of proof shifts to the secretariat, which must prove by ‘clear and convincing evidence’ (a high standard of proof) that the adverse action would have been taken absent the whistleblower’s disclosure. The tribunal does not have a statute applying a shifting burden of proof to those retaliation cases that can now go to the tribunal.  Nonetheless, spokespeople for the Secretariat keep flogging the tribunal as if it met best-practice criteria in these cases. Question: does Guterres believes the tribunal should apply a shifting (or reversed) burden of proof in retaliation cases? Asking for a friend... Guterres through Dujarric he has tried to answer Press questions about complainants by declaring that sexual harassment is not involved, for example at UNFPA in India, below. That is contradicted by the complainant; Dujarric tells Inner City Press to "Ask UNFPA" while touting a hot line many staff call lame. More than a month after it was loudly announced that Frank La Rue was suspended and relieved of his job and being investigated for harassment at UNESCO, whistleblowers there exclusively tell Inner City Press that not only is La Rue still getting paid - the intention is to continue paying him until he retires, and then never release any finding against him. "This is to discourage whistleblowers from coming forward in the future," one told Inner City Press. And now, the day after Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric again about Luiz Loures and his murky exoneration at UNAID, Loures says he will not extend his contract. Guterres, some say to try to distract or distance himself from the scandals, held a photo op with "his" Women Leaders, at which Inner City Press was one of only two media present. Alamy photos here. Then it had nowhere to edit, thanks to ongoing restrictions and censorship by Guterres' Woman Leader Alison Smale. On February 23, Inner City Press asked Dujarric about Loures, whistleblower Emma Reilly ad his misstatement that UNFPA in India was not going to use immunity. Video here. Transcript here: Inner City Press: The UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] thing, I'm only asking about this because… because of what your answer was, that they were not citing immunity in India.  A criminal complaint has been now filed, so I wanted to know, given that, is the UN going to seek to… to now use its immunity to… to… as a response to that? Spokesman:  All… all these cases will need to be studied and a decision will be made." Yeah - a decision to cover up. On February 20, Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric if the UN system would waive immunity in India where the head of the UN Population Fund UNFPA is accused of #MeToo-style sexual harassment. Dujarric repeatedly claimed that the UN is not citing immunity, video here. But this is contradicted by what UNFPA filed with India's foreign minister, here. So the UN is lying about its defenses to sexual harassment, right in its own UN Press Briefing Room from which it had Inner City Press removed for covering UN corruption. Today's UN is corrupt. On February 21 at noon Dujarric admitted what he'd said was false - but he never emailed this to Inner City Press, allowing the false information to continue. Now the complainant has filed in criminal court, quoting Dujarric. Inner City Press asked about this - as the only questioner at the day's noon briefing, also the only one Dujarric evicted and restricts. Today's UN is corrupt. Dujarric on February 21 told Inner City Press, transcript here: "I'm not going to go into the details of the case.  What is important and, I think, to remember this case does not involve allegations of sexual abuse, sexual harassment.  It is for a different… it's a different issue, so it does not involve the issues that we discussed yesterday. Inner City Press: That's not what the complainant says. Spokesman:  I'm saying… I will… and I will leave it at that." Well, here's her interview in India: Q 1. When did you first meet Diego Palacios? How did it all start? A1: I had joined UNFPA's Bihar office in February, 2017. Diego came to Bihar in March and that is how the sequence of events unfolded. From day one, his behaviour towards me was inappropriate. He made unwanted sexual advances which were, ofcourse, uncomfortable for me. In fact, the kind of conversations between us were also very uncomfortable. Describing the kind of treatment he gave me, is inexplicable. However, I never succumbed to any pressure or demands. Q2. What followed when you showed restraint in accepting any of his alleged sexual advances? A1: When I didn't give into any of his demands, he continued to create pressure on me over a period of time by various means. He stopped the funding abruptly in December 2017 , then suddenly a zero value contract came in, following which he terminated the contract." This is what Antonio Guterres through his spokesman claims is not about sexual harassment. On February 26, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on this same issue of UN transparency on sexual harassment claims, I wanted to ask you again about this UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] India case, not just the statement that they weren't going to use immunity and then they are using it, but you'd said last week… you'd said: "what's important, I think, to remember is this case does not involve allegations of sexual abuse".  And, as you may have seen, Ms. Prashanti Tiwari has given an interview in India saying very much that she has suffered unwelcomed sexual advances by Diego Palacios.  That's her allegation.  I guess I'm just saying, is it the UN's right… did they misunderstand to… to characterise a claimant's claim as not involving sexual harassment when it obviously does? Spokesman:  I think all these claims need to be investigated, and I think you should… you should contact UNFPA or UNFPA India for further details, because I don't have the granularity on this. Inner City Press: I know, but I guess I'm just wondering, because people there have asked, then why did you say from this podium that it wasn't about sexual harassment? Spokesman:  I think I've said what I've had to say. Inner City Press: Then I wanted to ask you about UNAIDS [Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS] and… and the cases there of… of Malayah Harper, the head of the YWCA of… a well-respected… absolutely.  So, they've asked for an independent, i.e., non-UN, independent investigation of the claims that… not just the most recent one, but she claims that when she was there she suffered it.  So, what I'm wondering is, I've heard all the things that you're saying and maybe the… the response is evolving, but, given this call, is there a… is there a…? Inner City Press: I've seen the article.  I think, you know, there… there are mechanisms in place for people to come forward, internal mechanisms, external mechanisms, and I think they should be used to the… to the fullest.  We feel that claims need to be investigated.  People should feel free and safe to come forward and, if they need to lodge complaints, that they do lodge complaints." And here's what Guterres sent to staff: "Subject: Message from the Secretary-General to staff on sexual harassment in the workplace: As part of my commitment to encourage and enable staff to call out sexual harassment in the workplace, and to support victims and witnesses, I am pleased to announce the launch of a “Speak up” helpline. The helpline is a 24-hour resource for UN Secretariat personnel to speak confidentially with an impartial and trained individual who can provide information on protection, support and reporting mechanisms. Going live tomorrow, the helpline will complement existing reporting mechanisms. The goal is to attend to the needs of personnel, and to empower them to make informed decisions on action, if they choose. More details, including the phone number, will be provided by the Office of Human Resources. To improve and centralize our response capacity, the Investigations Division of the Office of Internal Oversight Services will, with immediate effect, take responsibility for investigating all complaints of sexual harassment, and implement a streamlined, fast-tracked procedure to receive, process and address complaints. A specialized team focusing on the investigation of sexual harassment is being created, and additional investigators are under recruitment. Particular attention will be given to increasing the number of female investigators. I reiterate my commitment to zero tolerance of sexual harassment, and underline that harassment of any type is antithetical to the principles for which we stand as an Organization. As members of a standard-setting institution, we must all be committed to fostering an inclusive environment in which every person is valued and respected. A harmonious, safe and civil workplace is a key to delivering on our mandates for the people we serve. António Guterres, Secretary-General." Many staff are calling the response lame. February 19 Periscope video here, the UN transcript here and below. Haq said he would check with UNFPA - but the written answer he came back with was not given to Inner City Press or even read out at the February 20 briefing, until Inner City Press asked Haq's boss Stephane Dujarric about it, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: in India, a consultant of UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund], Prashanti Tiwari, has asked that immunity be waived as to Diego Palacios, who she accuses of sexual harassment.  Given statements that… and I was trying to figure out yesterday whether this "we don't cite immunity" statement by the UN only applies to peacekeeper sexual abuse or to sexual harassment alleged in this context? Is immunity going to be waived in this case?  And if not, why not? Spokesman:  I will… hold on a second.  Let me see.  I need better glasses.  I have… I don't have the details of the case with me, but what I can tell you is that sexual abuse is a crime, and immunity is not there to protect people who commit crimes.  And immunity… so it's not even a question that needs to be asked.  It does not apply to crimes. Inner City Press: So if this person sues a UN official in court? Spokesman:  I don't… I'm not going to talk to you about the specifics of a case that I don't have that much detail about, unless somebody provides… Inner City Press:  But, I thought immunity exists unless you waive it, unless the UN chooses to waive it. Spokesman:  No, immun… most… the vast majority of UN staff have functional immunity.  If you commit a crime… to cover what they do for work.  If you commit a crime, that is, by definition, not part of your function.  UNFPA tells us that they're aware of some claims by a former employee of one of the Fund's contractors, an NGO [non-governmental organization] in Bihar, India.  The person is not, and has never been, employed by UNFPA.  Unless her claims… nevertheless, her claims will, like any others, be looked into according to UNFPA policies and procedures. Inner City Press: Right, but that doesn't answer the immunity question. Spokesman:  I think I've answered it to the best of my ability.  So, it does not… if you have functional immunity and you commit a crime, it is clearly not part of your function, so the issue of immunity does not arise." Then why does Ms. Tiwari have to ask her country's foreign minister? From the UN's February 19 transcript: Inner City Press: I'd wanted to ask you about UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) and India.  There's a complaint to the Foreign Minister of the country by a contractor, Prashanti Tiwari, that the head of UNFPA in India, Diego Palacios, sexually harassed her.  And they've asked the UN system,  or they've asked India to ask the UN to waive immunity so that she can pursue these "Me Too"‑related charges.  The not asserting of immunity, I'm not sure what it applied to.  What's the UN's system response to a case like this? Spokesman:  Well, we'll need to check with our UNFPA colleagues." Hours later, nothing. Meanwhile Inner City Press hears that UN staff in Vienna have sexual harassment issues to raise when Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl  has lunch with the Directors General of CTBTO, IAEA, UNIDO, UNOV and UNOOSA on February 20. We aim to have more on this. On February 6, Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq how it was that UNAIDS deputy Luiz Loures was "cleared" of harassment charges, "how was the decision made within UNAIDS?" Haq said, "it was immediately referred to the Office of Internal Oversight of the World Health Organization." UN transcript here. Video here. [The Guardian says "OIOS," as in the UN Secretariat's OIOS - which is it?]. Inner City Press then specifically asked, "does the director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, then make a final determination?"  Haq said, "It has to follow the recommendations by the investigators, in other words, by the World Health Organization investigators." That does not appear to be the case: Sibide, a witness in the case, is said to have made the decision, after staff members were pressured. On February 16, Inner City Press asked Haq's boss Stephane Dujarric, video here (second half after Lubbers), UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I'm sure you've seen The Guardian article in continued reporting on the UNAIDS [Joint United Nations Programme against HIV/AIDS] clearing of Mr. [Luiz] Loures beyond… beyond the role of the executive director.  They've said that staff members… many of them have said they were virtually ordered to write letters of support for Mr. Loures, which seems to be pretty much almost the definition of… of… of cover-up Spokesman:  Look, I think these are allegations.  I would encourage you to speak to UNAIDS.  They are… you know, and they will speak for themselves in this case and answer what is… what are really just allegations.  The investigation was done.  It was done under the authority of the World Health Organization’s Office of Independent… of Investigative Services, so questions regarding that should go to UNAIDS and the World Health Organization. Inner City Press: And can you say anything more about this March meeting that the head of UN-Women team said that the Secretary-General was going to convene, I guess, on the sidelines of an upcoming conference, an all-agency meeting about sexual harassment? Spokesman:  "Not at this point." So, when? On February 13, Inner City Press asked Haq's boss Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask you again about this UNAIDS [Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS]/Luiz Loures case, because, yesterday, it emerged or Code Blue stated — and I'd like you to confirm or deny that the claimant in that case wrote to the Secretary-General in the midst of it to say… you know, alleging that Mr. [Michel]Sidibé had a conflict of interest, had actually offered to mediate an apology by Mr. Loures to the claimant to resolve the whole thing, which makes his ultimate decision-making or appointing of the decision maker problematic from their view.  Given the importance of this issue… given what the Secretary-General said at the stakeout about zero tolerance… did he receive the letter from the claimant?  Why didn't he…?  Okay.  First question. Spokesman:  I don't know if he received the letter from the claimant.  This process was handled by UNAIDS.  UNAIDS is an agency which, for these types of issues, deals through the World Health Organization's Office of Internal Oversight.  As you know, UNAIDS is a joint project bringing together various parts of the UN system.  UNAIDS management had no role in the investigation, and the Executive Director specifically had no role in the issuance of the independent IOS [Office of Internal Oversight] report or in the decision-making process in this case.  The complaint was handled by the rules and regulations that are in place and that govern UNAIDS. Inner City Press: Well, two things.  Number one, they say that he appointed his Deputy Executive Director, ad interim, Mr. Joel Rehnstrom, to be the decision maker and that this individual relied on Mr. Sidibé to either get or not get the final job.  So, they don't think that that's really a recusal.  And I guess my other question is, maybe you can say it in retrospect.  Given how important this issue has become, given what his stakeout said, if it's a UN system and a claimant writes to the Secretary-General and says, I believe the process is broken out here, does he… did he acknowledge… I think I [inaudible] find out.  Can you find out? Spokesman:  As I said, let's find out what the… you know, if we've received the letter.  As… as we said, our colleagues at UNAIDS have told us specifically that the Executive Director had no role to play in the issuance of the report or in the decision-making or the process.  And I don't particularly agree with Code Blue's logic. Inner City Press: One last thing in terms of the claimant letter, because it seems like it's… that's a yes-or-no question, but I've heard complaints from others who've tried on a variety of issues to… to… to reach and at least feel that they reached the Secretary-General.  And I know that, under Ban Ki-moon, there was such a process, and letters were acknowledged.  How would you say, from this podium, to… to people, for example, a claimant like this, how are they supposed to know that their… their… their pleas weren’t lost in the mail? Spokesman:  I would hope that every letter is answered or at least acknowledged.  I will check on the specific letter. Inner City Press: That doesn't seem to be the case currently. Spokesman:  I mean, you're… it's asymmetrical warfare here.  You're talking to me about letters that I don't… I have no knowledge of.  Let me find out if that specific letter was acknowledged." Two days later, nothing. So Inner City Press asked Dujarric again on February 15, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: did you ever find out if the… if the letter from the claimant in UNAIDS [Joint United Nations Programme against HIV/AIDS] was, in fact, received by the 38th Floor? Spokesman:  Yes, the letter has been received by the Secretary-General.  Obviously, as we've said here, issues of harassment are taken seriously.  The Secretary-General, as you know, has taken a number of steps to ensure that there is a strength in capacity to prevent and respond to allegations of sexual harassment and to support and protect victims.  In terms of the letter, I can confirm we've received it.  As you know, it's the policy of the UN, as provided by the General Assembly resolutions concerning the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and by staff regulations, to maintain confidentiality and not to publicly discuss individual cases or complaints of, or investigations into, misconduct.  Therefore, we're not in a position to comment further on the details of the case, but, as I said, the letter has been received." And then what? The same day, Guterres offered unmitigated praise of Ruud Lubbers, who left the UN for sexual harassment . We'll have more on this. Code Blue recounts, "The claimant stated that while the formal investigation was underway, Mr. Sidibé approached her to say that Luiz Loures would like to apologize and to suggest that he himself would facilitate a meeting between accuser and accused, thus putting the whole issue to rest. Appalled and offended by Mr. Sidibé's attempt to informally resolve the case and halt the investigation, the claimant refused and reported Mr. Sidibé's interference to IOS. When brought in for questioning by IOS, Mr. Sidibé denied that Luiz Loures confessed to him, and he told conflicting stories about why he had broached the meeting idea with the claimant. First Mr. Sidibé told IOS that Luiz Loures suggested he intercede with the claimant. “He [Loures] told me clearly that it will be better if we could really make sure that three of us, we could meet to clarify these issues, and not make it a big problems [sic],” Mr. Sidibé said. Then, in a subsequent interview with IOS, Mr. Sidibé said he decided to approach the claimant without Luiz Loures’ knowledge. The press release continues: “The UNAIDS Executive Director recused himself from the final decision-making role in the case to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest. Instead, the UNAIDS Executive Director delegated authority over the case to the Deputy Executive Director for Management, a.i.,” Joel Rehnstrom. It hardly counts as a recusal for Mr. Sidibé to delegate his duties to a subordinate who, at the time, was not only his personally selected interim Deputy Executive Director for Management but was also a candidate for official appointment to the position. Further, Mr. Rehnstrom was a close colleague of Luiz Loures. We fail to see why this case was not removed from the purview of UNAIDS altogether. As you know, Mr. Secretary-General, the claimant wrote to you directly, asking that you assume the responsibility for making the final decision in the case.  The press release says that IOS concluded the investigation, determined that the allegations against Luiz Loures were “unsubstantiated,” and recommended that the case be closed. Upon receipt of the investigation report, Mr. Rehnstrom “requested the Chair of the standing Global Advisory Committee on Harassment to constitute a panel to review the report and to make recommendations to him.” The press release does not mention that all three members of the Global Advisory Committee are UNAIDS employees in a chain of command that ultimately reports to the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Mr. Sidibé. The IOS conclusions are damning. IOS "found it perplexing" that Mr. Sidibé stated he did not seek Luiz Loures’ agreement for broaching the meeting idea prior to making that suggestion to the claimant. IOS "found it perplexing" that Mr. Sidibé approached the claimant to suggest a meeting given that he "was aware at the time that the matter was under official investigation by IOS, having referred it to IOS himself in November 2016."  In addition, IOS "found it perplexing" that Luiz Loures didn't ask Mr. Sidibé what Mr. Sidibé had discussed with the claimant, "especially given that Dr. Loures had been interviewed as a subject of allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault approximately one month earlier." IOS said the statements by both Mr. Sidibé and Luiz Loures contained “inconsistencies and anomalies.” The UNAIDS press release concludes by stating that the Global Advisory Committee "fully concurred with the findings and recommendations of the independent investigation and recommended" to Mr. Rehnstrom "that he close the case." He did so. We have been reluctant to use the phrase "cover-up" in relation to the Luiz Loures case. But it is becoming harder to avoid the conclusion that the Executive Director of UNAIDS knew the truth about Luiz Loures’ shocking behavior toward a female subordinate. We are beginning to believe that Mr. Sidibé did everything in his power to protect his friend and colleague from the consequences of his actions. The UN internal "justice" system, we have long argued, is dysfunctional and biased."  How then could Guterres says he was declaring "zero tolerance" at his stakeout with pre-picked questions on February 2? Inner City Press first reported about this UN buck-passing on sexual harassment in 2008 (before UN's retaliatory eviction), here: "the International Computing Center, administered by the World Health Organization which has also refused questions. This ICC, it turns out, does not defend those who work for it. One ICC technician, faced with sexual harassment by a high UN official, was told by the UN in New York that nothing could be done, to reach over the Atlantic to the ICC.  There, the answer was that the ICC does not process, or apparently favor, such complaints." We'll have more on this. On February 7, Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Haq, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I'd asked you yesterday about this clearing of [Deputy Executive Director, Programme] Luiz Loures in UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS), and you'd said that the… essentially, the decision was made by, I think you said, OIOS of the World Health Organization. Spokesman:  It's not called OIOS.  It's the Internal Oversight body of the World Health Organization. Inner City Press: Okay.  It's being alleged and it's by Code Blue and as reported in the Guardian that, in fact, the decision… while… they don't say… they call it Internal Oversight Services, the UN's investigation team.  Then they say that the report is reviewed by a three-person panel within the agency.  The panel then presents recommendations to the agency's Executive Director.  And they say that Mr. [Michel] Sibidé [sic], although chall… once challenged by investigators, appointed a subordinate but still called himself the final decision maker and that he was also a witness in the case, i.e., he was interviewed by the investigators apparently seeking to exonerate Mr. Loures and then was the final decision maker.  So, given what the Secretary-General said about zero tolerance, it seems like it's important to get a clear answer whether Mr. Sibidé or his designee made the final decision to clear Mr. Loures. Spokesman:  Well, you'd need to get the details from UNAIDS.  As far as I'm aware, Mr. Sidibé, not “Sibidé”, Mr. Sidibé had recused himself from the process, but any further details, you need to get from UNAIDS. Inner City Press: It's reported publicly that he still maintained his position as the final decision maker and that he appointed the person who would make the decision, which is not really what recusal is about. Spokesman:  Again, you'd need to get the details from UNAIDS about how the process was conducted. Inner City Press:  Is the Secretary-General comfortable… given today's Guardian report about essentially a cover-up of sexual harassment at UNAIDS, is he comfortable with this as the way the UN system deals with such allegations? Spokesman:  I wouldn't agree with your characterization of it as a cover-up. They went through an investigative process." What process? 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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