UNITED NATIONS — A new volunteer “first responder” network to address sexual harassment and abuse at the U.N. human rights office in Geneva could be easily replicated at other offices across the United Nations and outside the U.N. system — but not without a commitment of leadership, the architects of the program at OHCHR say.
“It's very important to stress the leadership commitment. If you don't have that, [it] is much more difficult. With the [OHCHR] deputy high commissioner, we are quite confident this will get somewhere in the coming months,” said Saori Terada, a policy officer responsible for executive direction and management.
OHCHR announced earlier this month that they were establishing a new program, “Dignity@Work,” which would train volunteers to serve as point-people for peers who have experienced sexual harassment or abuse, as Devex reported. Formal channels of recourse would still remain in place.
“People may feel concerned about going to the staff committee or human resources when they are not sure about whether what is happening to them is something that should be brought to their attention or when they have other concerns,” said Veronica Birga, the head of the women’s human rights and gender section at OHCHR. “As we create this network, we will also, of course, train first responders and develop and share material so there is more awareness, and greater flow of information on how cases are handled.”