Delegation of the European Union to Nicaragua

WHO Management Response to the Report of the Independent Commission to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation during the response to the tenth Ebola Virus Disease epidemic - EU Statement

Geneva, 14/10/2021 - 12:58, UNIQUE ID: 211014_9
Statements on behalf of the EU

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

I would like to thank the DG for today’s presentation of the WHO’s Management Response to the SEA-report by the Independent Commission.

Firstly, allow me to say that our primary thoughts go out to the victims and survivors, who suffered from these horrific offenses. Sexual exploitation and abuse, violence and other forms of misconduct are completely unacceptable in any sector. They are particularly heinous in the area of humanitarian and development aid, in which the main purpose of our work is to help and protect the most vulnerable.

The European Union and its Member States apply a zero tolerance approach to inaction on sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. We expect all our partners to apply a similar approach to such acts and to take appropriate action to prevent and address any misconduct by their personnel and/or contractors.

We would also like to recognise and express our gratitude to the victims for their great courage in reporting the serious allegations mentioned in the report, and acknowledge the role whistle-blowers played in the media in May 2020. It is now essential for the WHO to focus on justice for victims and survivors and to ensure that they receive full support, that the perpetrators and accomplices are held accountable and that shortcomings in WHO’s management system are identified, especially related to SEAH-allegations.

The EU and its Member States expect WHO’s Senior Management to take every possible action to consistently address the systemic issues and to follow up on each individual case, including possible judicial actions. It is clear from the report that WHO has a lot of work to do. The Organisation needs to ensure that effective and coordinated prevention, safe reporting and robust response mechanisms will be enhanced significantly at local, regional and global level.

In addition, we believe that WHO-member states have to be systematically informed about any future allegations and about appropriate measures.

We also request the WHO to provide additional information and clarity on the specific actions the Organisation will take in the following seven areas:

  1. Adequate protection, assistance and support to the victims and survivors of the abuse, when appropriate. The establishment of a UN Trust Fund in Support of the Victims of SEA is positive in this regard.
  2. A reliable and independent evaluation of individual responsibilities within WHO for the negligence in the treatment of allegations and evidence of inadequate follow-up, reported directly to the Executive Board.
  3. Actions taken by WHO to mitigate the risks and address the deficiencies identified in their prevention and response to allegations as well as the culture of impunity perceived by the served populations.
  4. Information in relation to the recruitment process of the staff and volunteers working or supporting WHO, including background checks.
  5. Actions to prevent sexual exploitation, violence, harassment and abuse, in close cooperation with other UN agencies to ensure a robust UN system-wide system of prevention.
  6. Clear and identifiable timeline, as well as a regular debrief from the independent monitoring mechanism that will ensure the full implementation of the recommendations.
  7. Any other element providing assurance that all necessary safeguarding measures are now in place and functional globally, regionally and locally.

We would welcome a regular update on the development and implementation of the WHO Management Response during the quarterly update on the prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment, or during the governing bodies.

The EU and its Member States will continue to support the essential work that WHO staff are doing around the world. It is essential to continue to provide necessary support to the WHO to urgently address the issues raised in this report and prevent them from happening again, wherever in the world. At the same time, we recognize the difficulty to come to zero incidents, although that should be our ultimate goal. We also understand that we might even see a rise in cases in the first phase due to strengthened PSEAH-policies. We will therefore be monitoring the progress of implementation closely and expect adequate prevention measures and policy responses.

The time to act is now.

Thank you.

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