This is an important moment in time for UNICEF and all the aid sector – a moment to make swift and tangible changes that guarantee a safe environment for all of those who work at – and with – our organizations.
Our current data indicates there were 27 reports of sexual misconduct against UNICEF staff members over the last five years. Of these 27 cases, three are currently under investigation, and nine ended with the staff member’s dismissal or separation. In three cases, no formal complaints were filed, or they were withdrawn. Twelve other complaints could not be substantiated.
Even one case of sexual misconduct is one too many; each one bolsters my determination to change the culture at UNICEF.
We have processes in place, but they are not enough. This is why I announced last week a number of immediate changes to ensure that the 13,000 people who work for us are safe, heard and empowered. More measures will follow in the months to come, but these are our initial steps.
- I am engaging an outside firm to conduct an independent review of how the organization has dealt with claims of sexual misconduct and harassment in the past. Their report, with lessons learned and recommendations on the way forward, will be made public.
- We have enhanced our investigation process to ensure that reports of sexual misconduct can be promptly investigated, even if the victim does not file a formal complaint.
- I will assemble a task force of external and internal advisors – including representatives from UN and non-UN women’s organizations, private sector and civil society – that will make recommendations on how UNICEF can improve our culture and policies.
- I am providing our staff with more and easier ways to report harassment – and we have made new resources available so staff members can more easily obtain stronger ethics, legal, and medical support, as well as counselling services.
- We launched a one-touch button on a new webpage to make it easier for our people to anonymously alert managers if they have experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct.
- We will improve our screening for recruitment to ensure our new hires and promotions meet the highest standards of conduct.
We are committed to a new era at UNICEF – one anchored by our strong, enduring commitment to achieving results for children and young people, and one grounded in openness, transparency and respect.
Please know that speaking up and speaking out is encouraged at all levels – and that is what we need most right now. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions.
Henrietta H. Fore