WFP to ‘bolster zero tolerance stance’ against sexual abuse in agency


At least 28 employees said they had experienced rape, attempted rape or sexual assault while working at the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP). More than 640 other people of the 8,127 employees surveyed, said they were victims of, or had witnessed sexual harassment. And 950 staff said they witnessed retaliation for speaking up about abusive practices.

“If we have a claim of rape by anyone in the WFP, if we can substantiate, I can’t begin to tell you how aggressive actions will be”, David Beasley, the head of WFP told news agency Associated Press following an internal survey that found multiple allegations of rape and sexual assault at the agency.

The confidential draft survey, first published by the Italian Insider, revealed claims that senior management at the agency had abused their authority, committed or enabled harassment, discriminated against female employees and ethnic minorities and retaliated against those who spoke up in protest.

The claims were a blow to Beasley, who in January 2018, wrote to staff with changes he said would “bolster our zero tolerance stance” to better protect victims of sexual abuse as well as finding and punishing abusers.

A UN-wide report of 30,000 staff published in January, showed one in three employees and contractors experienced sexual harassment in the last two years. Beasley said that, over the last year, the agency fired and banned five staff implicated in sexual abuses, doubled the number of its investigators, extended the time limit for reporting abuses, and encouraged staff to speak up about abuses of power.

The WFP chief, who took over in 2017, ordered changes in the agency’s policies against harassment and abuse of power last year. (Source: The Guardian)