UN says it has “zero tolerance” of sexual harassment


The United Nations is fighting against sexual harassment and has a “zero tolerance” policy on the issue, the organization’s undersecretary-general for management said last week.

“Its a very grave issue; we’re all concerned about it,” Angela Kane told reporters at UN headquarters. “It leaves a very bad taste in everyone’s mouth.”

Kane was responding to questions about a Wall Street Journal article that the United Nations is struggling to deal with an embarrassing string of sexual harassment complaints within its own ranks, Reuters explains.

The report said many UN workers who have made or faced accusations of sexual harassment charge that the system for handling complaints is arbitrary, unfair and mired in bureaucracy. They said cases can take years to adjudicate and accusers have no access to investigative reports.

On July 1, the United Nations plans to make changes to its internal justice system for handling all employee disputes, including harassment complaints, the report said.

UN employees were mandated to take an extensive course on sexual harassment, Kane said.

“Does that mean that we have zero incidents? I don’t think so … because whenever you have thousands of people, there are possibilities … there are things that do occur,” she said.

Kane acknowledged that sexual harassment was a grave concern, but said she thought there were now fewer cases since attention had been focused on the problem and disciplinary action had been taken.

In September, a French court sentenced a former UN employee, Didier Bourguet, to nine years in prison for raping under-aged girls while serving on UN missions to the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1998 and 2004.