SOURCE: The Guardian
By Rebecca Ratcliffe
February 23, 2018
Luiz Loures, a UN assistant secretary general and the subject of a recent sexual assault allegation, is standing down from his position.
UNAids said Loures would not seek renewal of his contract, which is due to expire at the end of March, adding that the decision had no connection to the allegations against him.
An internal inquiry recently cleared Loures of wrongdoing following complaints from a female employee that he assaulted her in a lift. While investigators found the allegations to be unsubstantiated, campaigners said the investigation process was flawed and should have been handled externally.
UNAids said in a statement that Michel Sidibé, the agency’s executive director, had accepted Loures’ decision, adding: “Mr Sidibé also thanked Dr Loures for his 22 years of dedicated service to UNAids.”
Loures had been attempting to rally support within UNAids. Last week, staff were approached at their desks and asked to sign a letter stating that Loures behaves respectfully and is committed to advancing women’s rights.
One employee told the Guardian at the time: “The letter said that as a staff member working at UNAids I can attest that I’ve only ever seen irreproachable and respectful behaviour from Luiz and that he has always supported the meaningful participation of women’s rights organisations.” Another added that they feared their loyalty would be questioned if they did not sign the letter.
UNAids said its staff were free to exchange and express their views, and that policies were in place to protect them from retaliation.
Last week, Britain’s secretary of state for international development was urged to call for an independent inquiry into allegations of harassment and sexual misconduct within the agency. In the letter, the Labour MP Gareth Thomas warned of “inadequate processes” for dealing with complaints at UNAids. There has been “a decade’s concern about a declining culture in the organisation, described to me as misogynistic and patriarchal”, wrote Thomas, a former minister at the Department for International Development.
Sidibé has been criticised for his handling of the recent inquiry into Loures. During an investigation by the World Health Organization’s inquiry team, Internal Oversight Services, Sidibé was questioned over allegations that he attempted to interfere in the case.
UNAids said the investigation was independent and had “followed due process and complied with applicable procedures, both in letter and spirit”.
The agency does not tolerate sexual harassment, it said, adding that there are numerous confidential channels available to staff. “This includes the ethics office and the anonymous and confidential integrity hotline, which is open 24 hours a day, every day, to report complaints.”
A staff member within UNAids welcomed Loures’ decision to stand down, but said a wider investigation into cases of sexual harassment within the agency was needed. “He is just one example. But this is certainly a step in the right direction,” they said.
Paula Donovan, co-director of the campaign group Code Blue, said that the UN’s handling of the case fell short of its claim to have “zero tolerance” for sexual exploitation and abuse. “I truly hope that this courageous claimant has opened the floodgates to a #MeTooUN movement,” she added.
Loures has yet to respond to a request for comment.
(UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)