Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sexual-Harassment Cases at the U.N.

From the Wall Street Journal, "Sexual-Harassment Cases Plague U.N.," via Memeorandum:

The United Nations, which aspires to protect human rights around the world, is struggling to deal with an embarrassing string of sexual-harassment complaints within its own ranks.

Many U.N. workers who have made or faced accusations of sexual harassment say the current system for handling complaints is arbitrary, unfair and mired in bureaucracy. One employee's complaint that she was sexually harassed for years by her supervisor in Gaza, for example, was investigated by one of her boss's colleagues, who cleared him.

Cases can take years to adjudicate. Accusers have no access to investigative reports. Several women who complained of harassment say their employment contracts weren't renewed, and the men they accused retired or resigned, putting them out of reach of the U.N. justice system.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls sexual harassment a 'scourge.'
"No matter which way the cases go, they mishandle it," says George G. Irving, a former U.N. attorney who now represents clients on both sides of such cases.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged that the system is troubled. "I fully share your concerns regarding sexual harassment and sex discrimination," he wrote in February to Equality Now, a women's rights group that had complained to him. "This scourge remains a high priority issue for me."

On July 1, the U.N. plans to make changes to its internal justice system for handling all employee disputes, including harassment complaints.

Yasmeen Hassan, an Equality Now attorney and former U.N. employee who met with Mr. Ban in December to discuss the issue, says she has "no faith" that the new system will be better, in part because complainants apparently still won't have access to investigative reports to help them with appeals.

The Wall Street Journal examined the U.N.'s handling of five sexual-harassment cases, reviewing hundreds of pages of confidential U.N. documents and interviewing U.N. employees who brought the complaints, supervisors they accused, the lawyers involved and U.N. officials.

It is impossible to know whether sexual harassment is a bigger problem at the U.N., whose global staff numbers about 60,000, than at other large multinational organizations. Officials in the secretary-general's office say they don't know how many sexual-harassment cases are filed at the world body because each U.N. entity tracks cases separately, and confidentially. The secretariat, the U.N.'s main administrative body, says it handles between five and eight cases a year. But those figures include only cases referred to its human-resources department for possible disciplinary action, not complaints that have been dismissed.

Changes to Internal Justice Coming

The planned overhaul of the United Nation's internal justice system is set to take effect July 1. Its goal is to create a more independent and professional system for resolving disputes, including sexual-harassment claims ...

A spokesman for the United Nations Children's Fund, or Unicef, said it has handled 15 complaints since 2004. Five alleged perpetrators in those cases have been dismissed, and two others were issued lifetime employment bans from Unicef because they resigned during investigations. Disciplinary proceedings are being initiated against another accused staffer.

In one important respect, the U.N. handles such problems differently than other large organizations, such as multinational corporations. Many U.N. managers have diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution or civil litigation. Except when the U.N. lifts immunity, its internal justice system is the only one workers can turn to.

Read the whole thing at the link.

The U.N. bureaucrats are basically above the law. No one is commenting on this at
Memeorandum, but I'll update if I see anything good.

Remember all the big U.N. backers in 2003? The "
Let Inspections Work" crowd? Die hard defenders or fair weather friends of the U.N.? We'll see ...


shoprat said...

The UN is a very bad joke and is taken seriously only by itself.

tomas said...


Congratulations on forming an in depth analysis of the UN. Maybe you should file that formal, well thought out complaint so that they can look into your allegations?

mmmmm yehhhh

Tom the Redhunter said...

shoprat is wrong. Pontificating American liberals also take it seriously.

tomas said...

Redhunter, if you a referring to me, I am neither American, nor a "Liberal" but feel free to call me what you wish, if it floats your willy.