One third of United Nations staff have experienced sexual harassment in the past two years, according to new figures released by the agency.
The statistics come from an online survey which was conducted by Deloitte late last year, and involved 30,364 workers from the UN and its agencies.
The number represented just 17 percent of those eligible to take part.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres described the response rate as “moderately low”.
“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 wrote in an email to staff.
The survey was sparked by the worldwide #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.
According to the report, 21.7 percent of respondents said they were subjected to sexual stories or offensive jokes, 14.2 percent were subjected to offensive remarks about their appearance, body or sexual activities and 13 percent were targeted by unwelcome discussions about sexual matters.
More than 10 percent said they were subjected to gestures or use of body language of a sexual nature, which embarrassed or offended them, and more than 10 percent reported being touched in a way that made them feel uncomfortable.
More than half of those who experienced sexual harassment said it happened in an office environment, while 17.1 percent said it happened at a work-related social event.
Only one in three people said they took action after experiencing sexual harassment.
The survey found that two out of three perpetrators were male.
Mr Guterres said the report contained, “some sobering statistics and evidence of what needs to change to make a harassment-free workplace real for all of us”.
“As an organisation founded on equality, dignity and human rights, we must lead by example and set the standard,” he said.
The UN said it has tried to increase transparency and strengthen how it deals with accusations of sexual harassment over the past few years after a number of sexual abuse accusations against UN staff in Africa.
The head of the UN agency for HIV and AIDS is stepping down six months before his term ends, after an independent investigation found his “defective leadership” tolerated “a culture of harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying, and abuse of power”.
#MeToo continues to have an impact
George Calderon, lawyer and seconded consultant at Discrimination Claims, said the #MeToo movement continues to have an impact on organisations around the world.
“The campaign has really empowered women – and men – who have been subjected to this sort of conduct to come forward and speak up and make formal complaints,” he said.
“We’ve seen it in Hollywood, in huge corporations like Google and McDonald’s, and recently in the law profession, so it’s not surprising that the United Nations is having its own MeToo moment – and finding that it too has a problem with sexual harassment.”
Mr Calderon encouraged anyone who has experienced sexual harassment to seek urgent legal advice.
“No one should have to put up with this sort of unlawful conduct,” he said.
“Firms like ours can offer support and can take on legal fights against employers in various courts and commissions, and almost always win apologies and compensation and justice for victims.”
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If you have experienced sexual harassment, you may be entitled to compensation.
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