Sexual harassment rampant at UN, survey results suggest

Survey results released Tuesday show that a third of United Nations employees reported experiencing sexual harassment at the agency within the last two years.

According to the findings, some 33 percent of respondents reported at least one instance of sexual harassment in that time, but the figure rose to nearly 40 percent when they were asked about their entire career at the U.N.

Instances of sexual harassment included offensive jokes or stories, or inappropriate remarks about someone’s appearance or sexual activities. Other employees said they had been the victims of unwanted gestures or touching. Some 60 percent of reported harassers were men, with 25 percent being supervisors or managers and 10 percent being senior leaders, the survey said.

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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the results “sobering” and “evidence of what needs to change” at the agency. He said the U.N. needed to set a higher standard than other organizations and vowed to enforce a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment.

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More than 30,000 staff -- or, 17 percent of the U.N. workforce -- provided answers to a confidential questionnaire, Agence France-Presse reported.

The release of the survey’s findings come one month after the resignation of Michel Sidibe, head of UNAIDS, the U.N.'s program on HIV/AIDS, whose management style was found to enable a culture of sexual harassment.