Information note

Five-point plan to prevent and address all forms of harassment for greater accountability and transparency within UNAIDS

27 February 2018

The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, has announced a five-point plan to prevent and address harassment, including sexual harassment, and unethical behaviour within UNAIDS. The plan will ensure that inappropriate behaviour and abuse of authority are identified early on, that measures taken are properly documented and that action to be taken follows due process and is swift and effective.

“I am putting mechanisms in place to review all UNAIDS policies on sexual harassment, abuse of authority and unethical behaviour and ensuring a professional assessment of all actions taken to date to identify if there are any gaps in implementation,” said Mr Sidibé. “This will further enhance the transparency of our processes and allow us to continue moving forward.” The five-point plan will be led by the newly appointed UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Management and Governance, Gunilla Carlsson.

First, focal points will be appointed in each department, country office, liaison office and regional office, who will have structured reporting mechanisms in place, reporting back directly to Ms Carlsson.

Second, an open platform will be created for staff to report on harassment, abuse of authority or unethical behaviour within the organization. The open platform will also enable staff to propose innovative options for preventing harassment.

Third, training will be stepped up, with face-to-face training to help staff recognize inappropriate behaviour, improve their skills to prevent harassment and empower them to rapidly report any cases of abuse they may encounter or witness. The training will also include recognizing unconscious bias and encourage increased understanding and tolerance within the multicultural environment of the United Nations.

Fourth, UNAIDS will develop and conduct an annual comprehensive and independent, organization-wide survey on staff well-being that includes questions on harassment, sexual harassment and unethical behaviour.

Fifth, the recently introduced performance management system will be further enhanced. As well as being evaluated on work-based performance, targets met, management effectiveness and progress achieved, staff at all levels will also be evaluated on their ethical behaviour in the workplace. A 360-degree evaluation will be incorporated as part of the assessment process.

In addition, the Executive Director of UNAIDS has announced that he will establish an external high-level independent panel made up of women leaders, civil society, government partners and experts, to provide, within 30 days, recommendations to UNAIDS to further strengthen implementation of the zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment.

The new initiatives will be integrated with a number of progressive policies that UNAIDS has already in place to facilitate the reporting of cases of abuse, including an anonymous, free, 24-hour hotline accessible from anywhere around the world. Wellness and capacity-building teams with specialized staff will visit and work with field offices or departments to address management and operational concerns in order to ensure a constructive working environment in all UNAIDS offices worldwide.

This initiative is in line with the United Nations Secretary-General’s action plan on sexual harassment. UNAIDS has been a frontrunner of United Nations reform and is leading work to ensure gender equality in the workplace. In 2013, UNAIDS launched a Gender Action Plan, which had six targets to reach to ensure gender balance across the organization, including ensuring a 50/50 gender balance in the UNAIDS Secretariat and that 50% of UNAIDS country directors are women. By the end of 2017, 48% of UNAIDS country directors were women and the gender balance across the organization was 53/47, with slightly more women working for the organization than men.

“UNAIDS’ vision stands for zero: zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths,” said Mr Sidibé. “Zero tolerance for sexual harassment is part our mission and is central to our work,” he added.

UNAIDS is continuing to strive to ensure a safe and conducive working environment for its staff in order to continue leading global efforts towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.