WHO Launches A Full Policy To Prevent Sexual Misconduct

The Policy on Preventing and Addressing Sexual Misconduct has been released by the World Health Organization. It emphasizes that there is “no excuse” for sexual misconduct, sets strict standards of zero tolerance, and places the victims and survivors at its core.

The previous policy was replaced with a new one in 2017 because, according to audits and investigations, it did not adequately address the issues that victims and survivors of sexual misconduct face.

According to WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,

“The suffering of the survivors of the abhorrent cases of sexual misconduct during the response to the 10th Ebola outbreak in DRC has been the catalyst for a profound transformation of WHO’s approach to preventing and responding to sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment”.

“This new policy builds on the work we have already done in implementing the recommendations of the Independent Commission, and is a key part of making ‘zero tolerance’ a reality and not merely a slogan.”

The policy establishes six minimum standards to protect individuals from sexual misconduct by WHO staff or collaborators (consultants, contractors, partners) in locations where WHO operates.

The policy provides several reporting options that safeguard the confidentiality of victims and survivors and outlines the responsibilities of individual employees, managers, and the Organization as a whole to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct. To be recognized as a victim or survivor of sexual misconduct, a person need not be a direct or indirect beneficiary of WHO.

According to Dr. Gaya M. Gamhewage, Director of Prevention of and Response to Sexual Misconduct (PRS),

“With our new policy, we aim to ensure that our personnel and implementing partners do no harm to the people we serve or the people we serve alongside with”.

“Going forward, we want to ensure that no victim goes unheard or unsupported; no perpetrator goes unpunished; no member of staff has an excuse for misconduct or for inaction; and no partner is exempt from meeting our standards.”

In response to the findings of the Independent Commission that the WHO Director-General established in 2020 to look into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse during the response to the 10th Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the new policy is a key component of the comprehensive program that the WHO is rolling out.

WHO Speaks About The Value Of Pleasure In Sexual Health Interventions

The World Health Organization established a Survivor Assistance Fund with a US$ 2 million allocation for 2022 and 2023 to provide victims and survivors with services, including medical assistance; support for psychological, mental health, and case management; legal assistance; and assistance with socioeconomic reintegration as well as instruction in an activity that generates income.

Additionally, WHO has invested a lot of money to speed up investigations into sexual misconduct and improve WHO’s core capabilities for preventing and responding to it.

The backlog has since been cleared, and the investigations team has set a deadline of 120 days to investigate any new allegations of sexual misconduct or other forms of abusive behavior. In cases of sexual misconduct, WHO now publishes a dashboard that lists completed investigations and disciplinary actions.

Credit: Organization for Global Health

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