Panel investigating bullying, harassment at UNAIDS finds ‘boy’s club,’ calls for firing of head | Science

A report on the culture of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS callsfor the firing of MichelSidib é, its executive director.

Denis Balibouse/ REUTERS

An independent panel that examined the culture at the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in Geneva, Switzerland, has issued a scathing report that calls for the ouster of Executive Director Michel Sidib é. The panel, which was started in July by Sidib é after public accusations of bullying, sexual harassment, and abuse were leveled at UNAIDS, spoke with and surveyed an overall of 500 staffers. It concluded that a “boy’s club” culture exists that does not efficiently avoid or resolve sexual harassment, bullying, and abuse of power.

The panel stated UNAIDS has a “vacuum of accountability” and concluded: “The UNAIDS Secretariat is in crisis, a crisis which threatens its vital work.” UNAIDS problems reliable epidemiological updates about the epidemic, highlights drawbacks in reactions and financing, and leads projects to resolve issues.

“This is a damning indictment of the senior management of UNAIDS; radical reform is now essential. First Michel Sidibé has to resign. He was the right appointment once but now he is the biggest blockage to change,” states Gareth Thomas, a member of the U.K. Parliament for Harrow West and previous U.K. minister for worldwide advancement who supported Sidib é’s consultation.

AndPaula Donovan, co-director of the worldwide advocacy group AIDS-FreeWorld in New York City, provided a declaration stating, “The report points to one brutally obvious conclusion: Abuse of power reigns when the UN is allowed to police itself. The UN system must be overhauled to put oversight in the hands of authorities who are truly independent. In 30 years, I have never heard of an independent report that delivered such a scathing indictment of internal UN leadership.”

“This is a clear wake-up call for UNAIDS,” states Robin Gorna, previous executive director of the International AIDS Society inGeneva “The report demands big change and fundamental reform. Of course, it is distressing to see the agency’s failings laid bare. And it is also a massive relief for the women (and men) whose lives have been so badly damaged, to know that at last they have been truly heard. The UNAIDS Board must now find the courage to make the huge changes that are essential if the U.N. is to rediscover its moral compass, to refocus on its core mandate, and nurture the people who are determined to work together to end the AIDS crisis.”

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