​44th PCB - Intervention by Jonathan Gunthorp - Agenda item 3 Report of the Working Group of the Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) to strengthen the PCB’s monitoring and evaluation role on zero tolerance against harassment, including sexual harassment...


Delivered by Jonathan Gunthorp, Africa NGO Delegate

Thank you Chair,

The NGO Delegation welcomes the MAP as a crucial tool in bringing about a necessary cultural change within the organisation in order to transform UNAIDS into a workplace with zero tolerance for bullying, abuse of power, or harassment (including sexual harassment).

We would like to thank the chair of the Working Group for the excellent report, that under her skillful leadership reached consensus on most of the discussed items within the TOR, and did so within a seemingly impossible timeline.

We note with appreciation that since the last PCB in December, much has been improved in the way leadership is addressing these issues. We commend the Secretariat for the transparent process, including the involvement of staff in every step of the way in shaping the MAP.

We remind those inside and outside UNAIDS who seem to think we should now put this issue behind us, that inequities in power, and their abuse, are not marginal to the work of UNAIDS, but stand at the very centre of the global epidemics. We must model inside UNAIDS the world we want outside.

Moving to three crucial issues on which there is yet no consensus:

Standard of proof in harassment cases

It is imperative to act on this as swiftly as possible, and to consider moving to a system that applies different evidentiary standards in a proportional manner so that the standard of proof required is proportionate to the gravity of the ensuing disciplinary action. To continue to apply “beyond reasonable doubt” to all cases is to continue to weigh the system against those reporting abuse and to discourage reporting. The speed at which the greater UN system moves cannot be a brake on UNAIDS creating a just and functional workplace.

Better Board Functioning

The Delegation agrees with the many PCB members who feel that the PCB needs to improve its governance in ways that fulfill its responsibilities to staff and brings it closer to accepted global, and UN best practices. This needs to happen not at some distant time in the future, but with urgency. It may not, however, need to happen here and now at this PCB session. We will, within a matter of weeks, have a new Executive Director. One of their key management priorities will be to take leadership and manage the changes already begun. Let us establish our relationship with the new ED and take urgent collective action on governance.

Support to the PCB

It is self-evident to the NGO Delegation that this body needs a dedicated capacity to support our responsibilities. We strongly call upon the PCB to request the Bureau to draft a TOR for such a capacity and to bring them back to us via intercession.

In conclusion, moving a culture to put staff and a healthy working environment at the centre of UNAIDS’ work is not like switching on a light. Cultural change here, as in all organisations, is a marathon and not a sprint. It will require stamina and endurance for the change to be effective, to be lasting, and to be sustained. But effective, lasting and sustained change is what we need for UNAIDS to become the UNAIDS we all need.

Photo from UNAIDS Communications and Global Advocacy

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