UNAIDS Executive Director Letter to Partners

3 March 2018

Dear Colleagues,

We are reaching out to you today to ask for your support and guidance, during a difficult period for UNAIDS. The MeToo movement has brought the world’s attention on the need to do more to prevent and address all forms of harassment, including sexual harassment, and violence against women. The United Nations is not exempt from this, neither is UNAIDS.

As a champion for zero discrimination, UNAIDS is well placed to address these issues, and we want and should to be at the forefront of this movement.

However, we are painfully aware that our actions so far have not been enough. We need to do more, and we need to do better. As a leader and a women’s rights ally, I commit both myself and UNAIDS to do more to prevent and address sexual harassment. For UNAIDS to advance, we need your advice, ideas and guidance.

Today, I announced my intention to establish an external high-level independent panel made up of women leaders, civil society, government partners and experts, to provide, within 30 days, recommendations to UNAIDS to further strengthen its implementation of its zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment. We will share the terms of reference with you shortly and seek your suggestions on the composition and scope of work.

Yesterday, I put forward a five-point plan to prevent and address harassment, including sexual harassment, and unethical behaviour within UNAIDS.

These include:

First, focal points will be appointed in each department, country office, liaison office and regional office, who will have structured reporting mechanisms in place, reporting back directly to UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director for Management.

Second, an open platform will be created for staff to report on harassment, abuse of authority or unethical behaviour within the organization. The open platform will also enable staff to propose innovative options for preventing harassment.

Third, training will be stepped up, with face-to-face training to help staff recognize inappropriate behaviour, improve their skills to prevent harassment and empower them to rapidly report any cases of abuse they may encounter or witness. The training will also include recognizing unconscious bias and encourage increased understanding and tolerance within the multicultural environment of the United Nations.

Fourth, UNAIDS will develop and conduct an annual comprehensive and independent, organization-wide survey on staff well-being that includes questions on harassment, sexual harassment and unethical behaviour.

Fifth, the recently introduced performance management system will be further enhanced. As well as being evaluated on work-based performance, targets met, management effectiveness and progress achieved, staff at all levels will also be evaluated on their ethical behaviour in the workplace. A 360-degree evaluation will be incorporated as part of the assessment process.

We hope these steps will immediately foster a stronger environment at UNAIDS to address issues of harassment and unethical behaviour. Staff will be empowered to speak and to be heard and timely action will be taken—this is our commitment.

This letter is the beginning of a dialogue. For transparent accountability, we will regularly report to our partners on the progress we make. We will also further strengthen and implement the UNAIDS Gender Action Plan and achieve gender parity at all levels of the organization.

Over the years, with your support and leadership, we have achieved great progress in accelerating gender equality and women’s empowerment as we work towards ending the AIDS epidemic.

I would like to reiterate my commitment to zero tolerance for sexual harassment. What we have done so far to strengthen these efforts is not enough. We want to reflect best practice. We want to lead by example.

Let me take this opportunity to also apprise of you two senior staff developments. Gunilla Carlsson has joined as Deputy Executive Director, Management. Luiz Loures has communicated his wish not to seek a renewal of his appointment as Deputy Executive Director, Programme after March 2018. We have already started the recruitment process for his replacement.

I am looking forward to your support, ideas and guidance as move forward together.


Michel Sidibé
UNAIDS Executive Director