Addressing Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment results from a culture of discrimination and privilege, based on unequal gender relations and power dynamics. It has no place in the United Nations system. Leaders of UN System organizations reiterate their firm commitment to uphold a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment; to strengthen victim-centred prevention and response efforts; and to foster a safe and inclusive working environment.
CEB STATEMENT ON ADDRESSING SEXUAL HARASSMENT WITHIN THE ORGANIZATIONS OF THE UN SYSTEM
Harassment of any type is antithetical to the principles of the UN, and sexual harassment in particular undermines its credibility and degrades its staff. The Secretary-General and UN system leaders committed to a zero-tolerance approach to tackling sexual harassment, to strengthening victim-centred prevention and response efforts, and fostering a safe and inclusive working environment across the UN system.
In May 2018, CEB issued a CEB Statement on Addressing Sexual Harassment within the Organizations of the UN System in which UN system leaders unequivocally declaring their firm commitment to upholding a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment.
To realize these commitments, the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) established in November 2017 the CEB Task Force on Addressing Sexual Harassment within the organizations of the UN system (‘Task Force’), under the leadership of the former Under-Secretary-General for Management, Strategy, Policy and Compliance, and former Chair of the HLCM, Ms. Jan Beagle, to drive joint action in key priority areas. Since September 2019, Ms. Kelly T. Clements, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees and Vice-Chair of HLCM, is the Chair of the Task Force. The Task Force is currently in its third phase of work.
A Victim-Centred Approach in Practice
The Office of the Victims' Rights Advocate, in collaboration with IOM, OHCHR and the CEB Task Force on Addressing Sexual Harassment, has produced a United Nations System-wide Training Module to provide participants with a clear and practical understanding of what the victim-centred approach means and what needs to be done to put a victim/survivor first. The training module, intended for all United Nations staff and related personnel, outlines the responsibilities of each person working for the United Nations so they will know how to respond in accordance with the victim-centred approach when they become aware of an allegation of sexual misconduct.
More information about the training module, including all materials, can be found on the Victims’ Rights First website through the below link.
Annual Survey on Reporting of Sexual Harassment
The Task Force’s technical sub-group on improved reporting of sexual harassment has developed a survey to annually collect an overview of the state of reporting of sexual harassment in the organizations of the UN system. The survey, which aggregates data from across participating organizations, has been reviewed and improved for the collection in 2022 of data on reporting of sexual harassment from 2021. In a further effort for openness and transparency, the Task Force has decided at its meeting in fall 2022 to publicly share the narrative results report, which can be found below.
Policies and guidance
Developed by the CEB Task Force, the model policy, is expected to lead to the issuing of consistent and strengthened sexual harassment policies throughout the UN system. It includes, among others, model provisions for formal and informal reporting of sexual harassment, prevention, support to affected individuals, and protection against retaliation.
CEB, in November 2018, endorsed the UN System Model Policy on Sexual Harassment on recommendation of HLCM which had approved the model policy at its 36th session on 10-11 October 2018.
The organizations of the United Nations system are committed to enabling events at which everyone can participate in an inclusive, respectful and safe environment. UN system events are guided by the highest ethical and professional standards, and all participants are expected to behave with integrity and respect towards all participants attending or involved with any UN system event.
This practical guide assists managers to fulfil their obligations to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in the workplace by providing a checklist of measures to take, possible signs of sexual harassment to watch out for and principles to follow when being approached with a complaint.
The document “Advancing a Common Understanding of a Victim-centred Approach to Sexual Harassment within the Organizations of the United Nations” includes a set of aspirational principles and intends to engender trust and confidence in victims/survivors to speak up when they experience sexual harassment. The principles are designed to assist UN system organizations in adopting a victim-centred approach. United Nations system organizations will operationalize them in light of their regulations, rules and policies.
These ongoing events are part of the CEB Task Force on addressing sexual harassment within the Organizations of the UN system‘s ongoing efforts to engage actors from within and outside of the UN to strengthen approaches and actions on sexual harassment. This is the objective of the Task Force’s outreach and knowledge sharing efforts (see workplan).
After having run sessions on values, attitudes and organizational culture in relation to misconduct, UNHCR produced a facilitators guide for all organizations to reproduce such sessions. The guide can be found here.
The Screening Database is a critical system-wide tool to avoid the hiring and re-hiring of individuals whose working relationship with an organization of the system ended because of a determination that they perpetrated sexual harassment. The Database also allows for the inclusion of individuals with pending allegations of sexual harassment who leave the organization before the completion of the investigation and/or disciplinary process.
Strengthening Investigative Capacity and Improving Investigations of Sexual Harassment
In November 2018, the Task Force established a Sub-working Group on Strengthening Investigative Capacity and Improving Investigations of Sexual Harassment within the Organizations of the UN System. Membership of the Sub-working Group was sought from those with responsibilities for undertaking investigations, taking decisions on disciplinary matters and providing legal advice. The Sub-working Group of 14 members is Chaired by the UN Office of International Oversight Services (UN/OIOS), with a steering group composed The World Bank Group), UN Office of Legal Affairs (UN/OLA), IAEA and UNHCR.
In addition, to strengthen investigative capacity for sexual exploitation and sexual harassment cases across the United Nations entities and partners, the CEB and IASC Secretariats brought together heads and senior staff of investigatory bodies, from the CEB Task Force and of the IASC. The objectives of the joint meetings were to foster constructive dialogue and closer coordination between investigatory bodies, harmonise standards, align methods, ensure consistency, strengthen capacities throughout the aid sector, and integrate a victim-centred approach.
The Task Force's sub-group on investigations, under the lead of OIOS and with the input of a wide range of actors, has developed a Manual for investigations of sexual harassment, which will lay the foundation for consistent, effective and efficient investigations. This tool, approved by the High-level Committee on Management in March 2021, is also the fruit of the effort of the Task Force to put victims/survivors at the center of efforts to address sexual harassment in the UN system. The Manual is looking to reduce the burden for victims/survivors, for which the investigation process can be difficult. It is also intended to be a living document, taking into account emerging evidence and is at the disposal of the UN system's diverse partners in the spirit of knowledge sharing.
CEB Task Force Factsheet.pdf
PDF | 144.27 KB
Narrative Report - Survey on reporting of Sexual Harassment 2021 Data.pdf
PDF | 588.57 KB