UN survey finds more than one third of workers experiences sexual harassment in last two years

The United Nations, the largest human rights organization in the world, has a #MeToo movement, with at least one-third of its staff and contractors claiming to have been subjected to sexual harassment.

According to a newly released online survey conducted by auditing and consulting firm Deloitte, sexual references and offensive remarks about physical appearances were the offenses most frequently cited by both men and women who responded to the survey. Around 40 percent of women and 20 percent of men reported harassment, with 14.2 percent saying they were subjected to sexual stories or offensive jokes, and10 percent claiming to have been touched in a manner that made them feel uncomfortable.

Two out of three harassers were documented to be male.

Although more than 30,000 people from the UN and its agencies participated in the survey, the figure only represents 17 percent of those eligible – that in itself a cause for concern for secretary-general Antonio Guterres.

“This tells me two things: first, that we still have a long way to go before we are able to fully and openly discuss sexual harassment; and second, that there may also be an ongoing sense of mistrust, perceptions of inaction and lack of accountability,” he said in a statement.

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Guterres has, in recent months, put forth a “zero tolerance” policy regarding sexual misconduct within the organization and had made accountability a key component. Last year, a task force was established with the intent to boost investigation capabilities and develop a database to prohibit the rehiring of perpetrators of such misconduct.

“The results confirm that this issue has a debilitating effect on staff morale and work performance, and there are continued barriers to reporting, including a fear of retaliation and a perception that perpetrators, for the most part, end impunity,” Guterres added. “As an organization founded on equality, dignity and human rights, we must lead by example and set the standard.”