Lancet EDITORIAL: Sexual harassment and abuse—the sinister underbelly
Source: The Lancet
April 17, 2018
Originally appeared in The Lancet. View at: http://www.thelancet.com/pb/assets/raw/Lancet/pdfs/S0140673618309036.pdf
This week, The Lancet, publishes a Special Report on allegations of sexual harassment and abuse at UNAIDS. The report suggests that UNAIDS has at best marginalised and at worst buried allegations of sexual harassment. Its responses have been unduly weak and unacceptable, and the announcements of remediation are too little too late. Furthermore, internal loyalty to the existing leadership seems to trump integrity in the organisation, and has contributed to a culture devoid of transparency and accountability. Most striking has been our correspondence with senior policy advisers at UNAIDS: the corporate and defensive lines they have taken and their seeming inability to understand the existential crisis that UNAIDS faces.
It is time to be honest about global health. Too often, some white, privileged, relatively well-off people from the Global North go to poor, powerless communities, where the normal rules of behaviour are put to one side and the potential for exploitation is high. It is a structural problem that goes beyond the UN and is symptomatic of a disease that appears to be endemic within global health—a disease, where the entitlements and privileges of a relatively wealthy white class are leading to the exploitation and abuse of those they work with in countries (for example, the recent cases of Oxfam and Save the Children) and the staff around them. The allegations at the UN point to the same being true in the structure of patriarchal organisations, where gender power dynamics are also at play. There is something particularly egregious about a field that is supposed to be based on principles of equity, human rights, and justice that has provided a cloak of protection against sexual harassment and abuse. Instead of being leaders in these areas, some of the principal perpetrators are from the global health community.
Pressure on the Executive Director of UNAIDS Michele Sidibé is mounting. What really matters is that these and other allegations of harassment are properly and independently investigated by an independent authority so that justice is delivered for these women. If these cases are proven true, then the people responsible need to leave the organisation with, if necessary, referral to the police for criminal investigation. Zero tolerance should mean zero tolerance. — The Lancet
UN Photo / Eskinder Debebe
The Lancet Special Report: Claims of sexual harassment and assault threaten UN agency
Read The Lancet's Special Report on claims of sexual harassment and assault at UNAIDS.
SPOTLIGHT ON: UNAIDS
Read all of the relevant documents, news articles, and Code Blue statements related to sexual assault allegations at UNAIDS in one place.
Code blue Statements and Press Releases on unaids
December 3, 2018: AIDS-Free World has learned that the leadership of UNAIDS is actively working to suppress a report produced by an Independent Expert Panel (IEP) appointed to look into sexual harassment, bullying, and abuse of power at the UN agency. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)
October 2018: The latest news and updates from the Code Blue Campaign. (Photo: Screenshot of DFID Safeguarding Summit)
September 26, 2018: In an Op-ed published in Inter Press Service, Code Blue’s Paula Donovan takes on the UN’s handling of an investigation into sexual harassment of a senior UN Women official—demonstrating the UN’s inability to remedy its sex abuse crisis from within. (UN Photo / Cia Pak)
July 2018: In the inaugural issue of the Code Blue Bulletin, we provide updates on our multi-faceted advocacy. Read about Paula Donovan's appearance before the UK Parliament, our "community consultation" in Sierra Leone, a troubling case of UN immunity in India, problems with the UN's Victims' Rights Advocate, the latest on the ongoing UNAIDS scandal, and Saramba Kandeh's appearance at a Nairobi conference. (Photo: UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office)
June 5, 2018: Paula Donovan delivers an urgent message to the UK Parliament’s Inquiry on sexual exploitation and abuse. (Photo: ©AIDS-Free World)
May 4, 2018: This week the UN announced that it would “reopen” the case against Loures, this time with the UN’s New York-based Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) as investigators and the Director-General of the World Health Organization as the judge. In a new statement, Code Blue cries foul. We believe WHO’s Internal Oversight Service must become the subject of a new investigation, UNAIDS management must also be investigated, and, most important, Member States must monitor the investigations in real-time. (UN Photo / Manuel Elias)
April 27, 2018: Code Blue’s Paula Donovan and Stephen Lewis react to UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ decision to open a new OIOS investigation into sexual assault and sexual harassment claims against UNAIDS Assistant-Secretary-General Luiz Loures. (UN Photo / JC McIlwaine)
February 23, 2018: The Code Blue Campaign reacts to the news of Luiz Loures, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director at UNAIDS' impending departure from UNAIDS. Code Blue asks: 'Will this start the #MeTooUN movement?'. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)
February 23, 2018: The Code Blue Campaign's proposal that Member States establish, on an emergency basis, a Temporary Independent Oversight Panel to closely monitor and evaluate, in real time, the UN’s response to individual allegations of sexual offences, and make expert recommendations on UN policies and procedures. (UN Photo / Jennifer S Altman)
February 12, 2018: A follow-up open letter from Code Blue to UN Secretary-General António Guterres regarding allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment at UNAIDS. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)
News coverage related to the UNAIDS case:
January 1, 2019: In a new editorial, The Lancet urges the UN Secretary-General to honor the noble history of HIV and AIDS activism and promptly dismiss the embattled UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. (UN Photo / Eskinder Debebe)
December 22, 2018: The Lancet’s John Zarocostas examines the UNAIDS scandal and the news of Michel Sidibé’s departure from the UN agency. Code Blue’s Paula Donovan comments. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)
December 22, 2018: The Lancet’s editorial board calls on UN Secretary-General António Guterres to step up his response to the findings of an independent expert panel examining sexual harassment, abuse of office and bullying at UNAIDS. (UN Photo / Cia Pak)
December 13, 2018: The Telegraph’s Anne Gulland reports on increasing pressure against the head of UNAIDS to step down. Code Blue’s Paula Donovan, “said Mr Sidibé should go immediately, not at a time of his choosing.” (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
December 13, 2018: AP’s Jamey Keaten reports on the news of Michel Sidibé’s announcement that he will leave his post in June 2019 after a scathing independent report revealed gross mismanagement at UNAIDS. Code Blue’s Paula Donovan comments on the decision. (UN Photo / Rick Bajornas)
December 13, 2018: Following the release of an independent report on harassment and mismanagement at UNAIDS, the agency’s Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, has offered to resign in June 2019. Code Blue’s Paula Donovan comments. (UN Photo / Mark Garten)
December 12, 2018: The Swedish government has announced it is to withhold funding to UNAIDS until its Executive Director, Michel Sidibé resigns, reports The Guardian’s Rebecca Ratcliffe. Code Blue’s Paula Donovan calls on the UN Secretary-General to fire Sidibé immediately. (UN Photo / Cia Pak)
December 11, 2018: After an Independent Expert Panel released a report highly critical of UNAIDS’ leadership amid a sexual harassment and management scandal, AFP reports on a meeting of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board to discuss the findings of the report. (UN Photo / Eskinder Dedebe)
December 7, 2018: The Guardian’s Rebecca Ratcliffe reports on the release of the Independent Expert Panel report on UNAIDS. The Code Blue Campaign’s Paula Donovan comments on the broader implications of the report. (UN Photo / Mark Garten)
December 7, 2018: AFP’s Ben Simon reports on a new report released by an Independent Expert Panel tasked with reviewing UNAIDS’ response to sexual harassment and abuse. Code Blue’s Paula Donovan comments. (UN Photo / Isaac Billy)
July 22, 2018: In an op-ed for Section 27 and the Treatment Action Campaign’s (TAC) ‘Spotlight’, Code Blue’s Paula Donovan reveals leaked information about UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé’s plan to dismantle the agency within the year. (UN Photo / Mark Garten)
June 3, 2018: Code Blue’s Paula Donovan revealed that the official chairing the board of UNAIDS said its leaders have “no appetite” for pursuing action over specific sexual harassment allegations, reports The Independent. (UN Photo / Cia Pak)
May 14, 2018: We’ve raised serious concerns about the UN’s decision to “reopen” the sexual assault and harassment case against Luiz Loures, former Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS. The UN has so far been unwilling to answer basic questions about the mandate and scope of the new investigation. Watch as Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, fields skeptical queries from members of the UN press corps. (UN WebTV)
April 30, 2018: AP reports the UN’s decision to reopen an investigation in sexual harassment claims at UNAIDS. Code Blue’s Paula Donovan, explains the need for a Temporary Independent Oversight Panel to monitor UN investigations and decision-making on sexual offenses. (UN Photo / John Isaac)
April 30, 2018: Martina Brostrom, the claimant in the high profile sexual assault and harassment case against former Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, Luiz Loures, has, “no confidence,” in the UN’s decision to reopen an internal investigation into the case. Code Blue argues that the same conflicts of interest that marred the first inquiry, will be present in the reopened investigation.
April 30, 2018: The country director for UNAIDS in Ethiopia, a key witness in the sexual assault investigation involving UNAIDS’ Luiz Loures, has been suspended after giving evidence to support claims against Loures. Code Blue’s Paula Donovan calls the move “pure intimidation tactics”. (UN Photo / Manuel Elias)
April 27, 2018: UNAIDS has reopened a sexual assault investigation into a top official after a heavily criticised earlier probe cleared him of wrongdoing, a letter seen by AFP on Friday showed. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe).
April 27, 2018: The United Nations will reopen an investigation into allegations of sexual assault by the former Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, Luiz Loures, after the original inquiry, criticized as "deeply flawed" by his accuser, cleared him earlier this year. (UN Photo / JC McIlwaine)
April 26, 2018: In the weeks following revelations of gross mishandling of sexual assault and sexual harassment claims at UNAIDS, civil society organizations are speaking out against UNAIDS’ Executive Director, Michel Sidibé. (UN Photo / Rick Bajornas)
April 19, 2018: AFP's Ben Simon reports on mounting pressure on the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, to be held to account for sheltering top UNAIDS officials accused of wrongdoing, including sexual assault. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)
April 17, 2018: The Lancet issues a powerful editorial on sexual harassment and abuse at UNAIDS (UN Photo/ Eskinder Debebe)
April 17, 2018: In a special in-depth report, The Lancet's John Zarocostas reports on the mishandling of sexual harassment and assault claims at UNAIDS, and mounting pressure on its Executive Director. Code Blue's Paula Donovan remarks on the UN's flawed internal system and calls for Temporary Independent Oversight Panel to closely monitor and evaluate, in real time, the UN’s response to individual allegations of sexualised offences. (Photo: WikiCommons)
March 30, 2018: In an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, a United Nations staff member, Martina Brostrom spoke publicly about allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment against UN assistant secretary general, Dr. Luiz Loures, (UNAIDS). Code Blue's Paula Donovan, who brought Ms. Brostrom's appeal to CNN, makes the case for an, "external neutral, and independent body" to handle such allegations.
March 14, 2018: In a bizarre speech to UNAIDS staff, the head of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, took aim at harassment whistleblowers and praised his outgoing deputy accused of assault for taking taking the ‘high road’, reports The Guardian's Rebecca Ratcliffe. (UN Photo / Mark Garten)
March 8, 2018: Foreign Policy's Lauren Wolfe examines leaked reports on the mishandling of a sexual assault investigation in UNAIDS, revealing the UN's faulty investigative standards and a deep-rooted culture of impunity when it comes to sexual harassment and sexual assault. (UN Photo / Milton Grant)
February 27, 2018: Devex's Sophie Edwards reports on accountability gaps in the aid sector laid bare in the recent Oxfam scandal, and Code Blue's proposal for an independent Special Court Mechanism to address such abuses by UN Personnel. (Shutterstock.com)
February 23, 2018: Luiz Loures, UNAIDS' deputy chief who was investigated for sexual assault and sexual harassment, will not seek to extend contract, reports The Guardian's Rebecca Ratcliffe. Code Blue's Paula Donovan comments. (UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)
February 14, 2018: UNAIDS employees have been approached to sign a letter in support of a top UNAIDS official at the center of a recent sexual assault and sexual harassment investigation, reports The Guardian's Rebecca Ratcliffe. (UN Photo/Michal Novotny)
February 14, 2018: More details emerge on the mishandling of an investigation into a sexual assault allegation against a top official at UNAIDS. Code Blue's Paula Donovan comments. (Photo: WikiCommons)
February 7, 2018: AFP reports on the mishandling of an investigation into alleged sexual assault by a top-level official in UNAIDS. (Photo: WikiCommons)