Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The United Nations' agency to fight AIDS is in crisis over how its leadership has dealt with allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of power, and the executive director should be replaced, an independent investigative panel said Friday.
The investigators said UNAIDS leaders, including Executive Director Michel Sidibé, failed to respond to or put an end to the allegations of harassment, bullying and abuse of power. The report was the result of written submissions from more than 100 staffers and interviews with about 60 percent of the staff.
The survey found that 44 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat disagree that the culture at UNAIDS is effective in preventing harassment, bullying and abuse of power, while 42 percent strongly or somewhat agreed. Fourteen percent neither agreed nor disagreed. Female staffers were more likely to disagree than men.
Multiple respondents said that while they reported abuses and those reports were acknowledged, leadership failed to act on the allegations.
"I have witnessed bullying, misuse of the organizations' money for personal purposes, abuse of authority including pressuring and threatening staff ... all with no consequences even when senior management have been made aware," one staffer wrote. "In the current system, if the abuser is part of the 'inner circle,'" no one "would dare to report" them.
The panel recommended that even though Sidibé initiated the independent investigation, he should be replaced as leader of the agency.
"The panel has no confidence that the current leadership can deliver cultural change when that leadership has been largely responsible for the current malaise," the report said
Investigators said Sidibé's proposed solutions to the organization-wide problems are "superficial and insufficient."
UNAIDS released a statement after the release of the report saying it intends to make changes to ensure "safety and inclusivity" and uphold "the highest standards of accountability and integrity."
"Staff are our main asset and they must be able to perform their functions in a safe, enabling and nurturing environment," Sidibé said. "This transformation will ensure that we can attract the greatest talent and further empower our staff to deliver on our crucial mandate."