Since the beginning of 2018, the UNAIDS Secretariat has been in the spotlight due to allegations of harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power within the organisation. As Chair of the UNAIDS programme co-ordinating board (PCB), the UK played a key role in establishing an independent expert panel (IEP) on prevention and response to harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power. The resulting report published on 7 December, provides important recommendations to enable the UNAIDS Secretariat, and its leadership, to take action to tackle these issues, ensuring zero tolerance within the organisation.
The IEP report is highly critical of the UNAIDS Secretariat and its senior leadership. Like others, the UK is very concerned about these findings. As Chair we have worked with the board to ensure a robust response to the IEP report’s findings, to allow these critical issues to be addressed swiftly and comprehensively.
The UK recognises the critical role that UNAIDS plays in the global AIDS response. However, the UK Government have been very clear that we expect all the organisations we work with to operate to the highest standards on the issue of harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power.
The IEP made it clear in their report that addressing these issues within the UNAIDS Secretariat requires new leadership. While the UK welcomes the decision by the PCB to initiate the process for the recruitment of a new executive director immediately, it is also vital to signal a strong response on these critical issues within and beyond the organisation. For this reason, the UK expects the current executive director to step down.