UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday encouraged staff to report sexual harassment in the workplace — particularly promoting a new hotline going into operation — and to support victims and witnesses, chief UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The "Speak up" 24-hour helpline going into operation on Tuesday "will be a resource for UN Secretariat personnel to speak confidentially with an impartial and trained individual who can provide information on protection, support and reporting mechanisms," the spokesman said.
"The goal is to attend to the needs of personnel, and to empower them to make informed decisions on action, if they so choose," Dujarric said.
In his message, the secretary-general reiterated his commitment to zero tolerance of sexual harassment and underlined that "harassment of any type is antithetical to the principles for which we stand as an organization."
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"As members of a standard-setting institution," Guterres said, "we must all be committed to fostering an inclusive environment in which every person is valued and respected. A harmonious, safe and civil workplace is key to delivering on our mandates for the people we serve."
To improve and centralize the secretariat's response capacity, internal investigators will immediately take responsibility for probing all complaints of sexual harassment and for implementing a streamlined, fast-tracked procedure to receive, process and address complaints, the spokesman said.
"A specialized team focusing on the investigation of sexual harassment is being created, and additional investigators are under recruitment," Dujarric said. "Particular attention will be given to increasing the number of female investigators."
Members of the UN Secretariat as well as some peacekeepers have been accused of sexual exploitation and abuse even before the #MeToo campaign in the general population came to prominence and a zero tolerance policy was implemented in the world organization to encourage the calling out of offenders.
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However, there also had been some accusations of a lack of investigation or prosecution of some cases, which the organization hopes to overcome with the "Speak up" program.
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