21 Feb UN Refugee Chief Resignation: Accountability at Work?
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers resigned his post over the weekend, after the London Independent (sub. req’d) last week released details of an internal UN investigation into allegations made by a senior female UN official that Lubbers had sexually harassed her. Lubbers continues to deny the allegations, but Kofi Annan appears to have accepted Lubbers’ resignation after conferring with legal counsel. Although Annan himself had rejected the findings of the internal report, completed in July 2004, it apparently includes detailed statements by other women who had claimed to be harassed and subject to intimidation and fear of retaliation by Lubbers. Just as troubling, the report also noted that Lubbers attempted to abuse his authority to influence the outcome of the investigation.
Given the details of the report, Lubbers’ resignation appears to be the right thing for the UN. But it shouldn’t end here. The UN should share the results of the investigation and take whatever disciplinary or legal steps are available to send a message that the international organization charged with upholding human dignity takes seriously the dignity of women in the workplace.