Thank you Madame Chair.
Over the past three years, UNAIDS has been confronted with various external and internal challenges and thus had to reinvent and question itself and to present solutions for different areas. In order to find common paths, our Delegation has worked with Member States, with the secretariat and co-sponsors to strengthen this institution, not to weaken it: we review its operating structure and reinforce strategies to mobilize new resources and build partnerships. In particular, we discuss how best to communicate the values and unique work done by UNAIDS, as well as its strategic importance for the global response to HIV and for many of the successes achieved over the years.
It was with this perspective, that of strengthening UNAIDS, our delegation welcomed the request of the Executive Director and the following decision of the Board to establish the Independent Expert Panel on harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power at UNAIDS Secretariat. Through the Board, we have worked hard to ensure the independence of this panel whose methodology allowed us to have a diagnosis of the working environment at UNAIDS.
It is important to mention the STATEMENT BY THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE STAFF ASSOCIATION and I quote “that the majority of staff felt that they had had a chance to provide inputs into the Panel’s work, trusted the process to have been confidential and were kept sufficiently informed”.
The diagnosis before us is extremely serious and requires nothing less than a strong, powerful and politically bold response. It requires Zero Tolerance, immediate redress and strong measures against perpetrators of violations. Not just because the world is watching us, but because UNAIDS has advocated everywhere that sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power help to fuel this epidemic and we have to walk the talk. To ensure that in this House all women and all persons working here are protected and treated with respect and dignity is a moral imperative and it directly affects the capacity of UNAIDS to continue responding to HIV. Credibility matters, but people matter more. Protecting and supporting people are the reasons this organization exists.
Although it is a fact that the culture of sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power still dominates the world and the institutions, this can not be used to undermine the importance of the IEP report or to normalize this type of culture. As feminists and defenders of human rights this has been our daily struggle: to challenge the power relations that violate rights, bodies and deeply mark workers’ soul and mental health.
UNAIDS makes us proud of its pioneering efforts, its data production and its many policies that have been essential in the global response to HIV and AIDS. However, its various cases of programmatic success can not free their leaders, including their Senior Leadership from being accountable for what has happened in the institution – let’s recall that the staff association has firstly brought (and I quote) “the issue of incivility and harassment to the attention of senior management and the Program Coordinating Board in 2011”.
Therefore we – collectively – need to do better and remember that we are in a “SDG era” when finally gender equality actually begins to matter. We are witnessing a period of cultural transition, which is difficult for all of us, but also very promising because it challenges us to turn this diagnosis into an opportunity for change and to ensure broader wellbeing at work.
In order to do that, we welcome the idea of a Plan of Action to follow the proposals presented in the Management Response, which is a staff-centered approach and its commitment to measure progress through indicators. But this Plan of Action also needs to respond to the IEP report and to the additional proposals presented by the Staff Association.
Over the year we have been campaigning for the “UNAIDS We Need”. Now we are adding another chapter to it: the “UNAIDS Leadership we need”. We need reinvigorated leadership.
Capable of eliminating harmful behaviors at all levels of UNAIDS work. Able to inspire this change, starting with being an example. Able to show perpetrators that, finally, the Age of Zero Tolerance of sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power has arrived at UNAIDS – and has arrived to stay, under the guidelines of the 2030 Agenda, and the cultural uprising brought about by the #MeToo movement.
The message that we will send to the world with this PCB can not be doubted: we are united by the goal of achieving a strong UNAIDS, one that sets an example of inclusiveness and respect within the United Nations. And, in this sense, we call on the UN General Secretariat to continue taking all the necessary measures and to continue being a champion for gender equality and in ensuring that all UN employees enjoy a safe and enabling working environment.
Agenda item 3Delivered by Alessandra Nilo, NGO Latin America and Caribbean
Tags: 43rd PCB Meeting