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28 May, 2021 16:42

EU, UK, and US join dozens of states in demanding answers over sexual abuse allegations against WHO staff

EU, UK, and US join dozens of states in demanding answers over sexual abuse allegations against WHO staff

A joint statement from 53 countries has called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to address “deep concerns” about allegations of sexual abuse, exploitation, and harassment by staff at the agency.

The statement delivered to the WHO’s annual assembly by Canadian Ambassador Leslie Norton called on the UN agency to provide “credible outcomes” to address concerns about sexual abuse allegations made against its staff, and the failure of others to report their actions.

“Since January 2018, we have been raising deep concerns about allegations relating to matters of sexual exploitation and abuse, and sexual harassment, as well as abuse of authority, in regard to WHO activities,” Norton said on Friday.

We expressed alarm at the suggestions in the media that WHO management knew of reported cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, and sexual harassment and had failed to report them.

The remarks on behalf of the 53 signatories come after a media report earlier in May highlighted internal emails from the WHO that suggested the organization’s management was aware of claims made against staff working in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2019.

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The group statement said that the request for the concerns about abuse to be investigated in a “robust and transparent manner” had been discussed at a meeting of the WHO executive board’s program, budget, and administration committee last week. It also urged the WHO to make cultural changes throughout its organization so as to adequately tackle the problem.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus responded to the joint statement, stating that the organization was “greatly disturbed by these allegations” and making clear that “any form of abusive behavior is totally incompatible with WHO’s mission.”

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