Survey: One in Three U.N. Employees Have Suffered Sexual Harassment

One in three UN employees have been sexually harassed: survey

A survey released on Tuesday found that a third of United Nations employees claim to have suffered sexual harassment or other sexual misconduct on the job in the last two years.

The survey, carried out by Deloitte last November, found that 21.7 percent of respondents claimed they heard sexual stories or offensive jokes, 14.2 percent say they were insulted about their appearance, body or sexual activities, and a further 13 percent were pressured to join discussions on sexual matters.

Another 10.9 percent of people claimed they were exposed to gestures or body language of a sexual nature, while 10.1 percent percent claimed they were touched inappropriately or in ways that made them feel uncomfortable.

More than half of the incidents reportedly took place within an office environment, while 17.1 percent say it happened at a work-related social event. According to the survey, two out of three every harassers were male.

In a letter to U.N. staff, the body’s secretary general Antonio Guterres described the findings “some sobering statistics and evidence of what needs to change to make a harassment-free workplace real for all of us.”

“This tells me two things: first, that we still have a long way to go before we are able to fully and openly discuss sexual harassment; and second, that there may also be an ongoing sense of mistrust, perceptions of inaction and lack of accountability,” he said.“As an organization founded on equality, dignity and human rights, we must lead by example and set the standard.”

However, Guterres contended that the survey sample size was “moderately low,” with responses from around 30,364 people from the U.N. and its agencies, equivalent to around 17 percent of those eligible.

The report provides further bad publicity for an organization that has already dealt with damaging misconduct allegations by its employees. In 2016, the body launched a “get-tough agenda” in response to a wave of allegations of child rape and sexual exploitation by U.N. peacekeeping troops, particularly within the war-stricken Central African Republic.

Last month, it was announced that the head of the U.N. agency for HIV and AIDS, Michel Sidibe, will step down from his position in June after a scathing report by an independent panel concluded that his “defective leadership” had tolerated “a culture of harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying, and abuse of power.”

Follow Ben Kew on Facebook, Twitter at @ben_kew, or email him at


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.