An Overview is a series of short pieces examining UN Secretary-General António Guterres' policy responses to sexual offences committed by UN personnel. The pieces will be released one at a time, beginning on February 20, 2019.
In the Overview series, the Code Blue Campaign outlines UN Secretary-General António Guterres' policies for addressing sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment by UN personnel and presents the current status of each policy, according to the UN’s own public accounts.
During his first week in office in January 2017, Mr. Guterres established a high-level task force to develop “ambitious new proposals” to address an institution-wide sexual abuse crisis that has festered for more than two decades. Two months later, he used the annual “Report of the Secretary-General on Special Measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse” to outline a four-pronged New Approach to eradicating what he—like his predecessor, Ban Ki-moon—described as a scourge: sexual offenses by UN personnel against the populations they’re mandated to serve.
The crisis was not new to this Secretary-General, who first joined the UN in 2005 as High Commissioner for Refugees after the incumbent, Rudd Lubbers, was asked to resign after facing subordinates’ accusations of sexual assault. During Mr. Guterres’ decade-long tenure at the helm of UNHCR, the refugee agency had the highest annual totals of personnel accused of committing sexual exploitation and abuse.
Late in 2017, in the midst of the burgeoning #MeToo movement, Mr. Guterres announced that in addition to his New Approach to sexual exploitation and abuse, he was introducing initiatives to address the problem of sexual harassment—the designation used by the Organization to describe sexual offenses committed by UN personnel against other UN personnel.
In sum, the Secretary-General has presided over the planning of a number of policies over the past two years that constitute the Organization's current response to so-called sexual misconduct committed by personnel operating “under the UN flag," as the phrase has it. The Code Blue Campaign has chosen the policies that are central to the Secretary-General’s sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment response—as gauged by the frequency of mention by the Secretary-General or his senior staff—and written brief encapsulations of each policy without editorial content. We have relied solely on the UN’s own descriptions of and progress reports on the component parts of Mr. Guterres’ approach. The facts speak for themselves.
Secretary-General António Guterres has consistently pointed to the Victims’ Rights Advocate concept as central to his sexual exploitation and abuse strategy.
In the Special Measures report on the New Approach, Secretary-General Guterres described the Circle of Leadership as a "means for Heads of State and Government to demonstrate resolve and commitment at the highest political level to stand with us against this scourge."
From the beginning of his tenure, Secretary-General Guterres has promised to meet personally with victims so that he could "hear from them directly."
The Voluntary Compact between Member States and the UN was one of the signature initiatives of the New Approach, "a demonstration of the political will to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, demand accountability and provide meaningful support to victims."
The “Trust Fund in Support of the Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse" has been described by the UN as "a powerful indication of the vital support and partnership of the Member States in this critical area."
Jane Holl Lute has served as the Special Coordinator on Improving the United Nations Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse since 2016, acting as the Secretary-General's point person on the Organization's "SEA" strategy.
Propelled by the #MeToo movement, the Secretary-General established a task force to address sexual harassment in the UN system. He chose Jan Beagle, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Management, to lead it.