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UN chief vows to fight sexual harassment, boasts gender parity of his senior aides
February 05,2018   By:Xinhua
UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 5, 2018 -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as part of his gender parity strategy for the world organization, announced on Friday that for the first time, "We have now reached parity in the UN Senior Management Group."
"That means 50-50 among the top leaders of the UN Secretariat," he said. "In fact it is slightly higher -- 23 women and 21 men. This is a start."
The group brings together the heads of UN departments, offices, funds and programs to discuss policy matters, planning and information sharing in the face of emerging challenges and cross-cutting issues and is chaired by Guterres.
In a brief statement to reporters outside Security Council chambers initially focused on efforts to bring to an end the civil war in Syria, he abruptly changed topics, saying sexual harassment "is rightly gaining the attention and visibility it deserves."
The UN chief reaffirmed his "total commitment to the UN's zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment."
Acknowledging "the male-dominated culture that permeates governments, the private sector, international organizations and even areas of civil society," he said it creates "obstacles to upholding zero tolerance policies on sexual harassment, including here at the United Nations."
Determined to remove the obstacles, Guterres said they are "rooted in the historic power imbalances between men and women" and that is why he sought gender-parity in the world organization.
"Equality at all levels, in line with the roadmap approved, is critical to taking on the challenge of sexual harassment," he said, laying out his five-step roadmap.
"First, we are committed to taking every allegation seriously -- past and present," the secretary-general said, adding that "I am pleased to see a strong institutional response from UN agencies in recent weeks."
"Second, we must make sure all staff affected by harassment know what to do and where to go for help," he said, announcing that a new helpline for staff within the Secretariat who seek confidential advice will be operational in a few weeks.
"I have established a task force of leaders from across the UN system to step up efforts to tackle harassment and boost support for victims," the UN chief said. "A Rapid Response Team is producing key guidance, information and services -- with an emphasis on improving support for victims."
Guterres called for strengthening of the protection of whistleblowers. He reminded staff of their duty to "call out sexual harassment and to support those affected."
The final step in the UN chief's plan is a survey among Secretariat staff "to give us better information on prevalence and reporting rates."
"In this effort and beyond, my message is simple: we will not tolerate sexual harassment anytime, anywhere," said Guterres.
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