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The United Nations is a Hotbed of Sexual Harassment

Regardless of where it’s done or who does it, there’s simply no excuse for sexual harassment. But such allegations, when credible and substantiated, ought to be particularly damning in the public sector where taxpayers are forced to foot the bill for the lavish salaries of predatory officials. Nowhere is this problem worse than at the United Nations, which receives more than $10 billion [1] per year from American taxpayers alone. A recent survey suggesting rampant sexual misconduct at the global bureaucracy underscores the need for the hundreds of nations bankrolling the UN to demand accountability. Governments around the world need to put a halt to the UN’s mission creep—and its other creeps.

An online survey conducted [2] by Deloitte in November asked tens of thousands of UN employees and contractors a straightforward question: have you experienced sexual harassment on the job? More than 30,000 workers responded (roughly a fifth of the total), and the answers were not good. Deloitte’s data suggests that a third of UN workers have experienced inappropriate behavior since 2016, and nearly 39 percent reported harassment at some point during their UN careers. While jokes and inappropriate stories were the most common forms of harassment, an astounding 10 percent of respondents reported being touched inappropriately. More than 1 percent reported attempted or achieved assault or rape.

These issues are hardly new. In November 2017, Reuters reported [3] that “thirty-one new cases alleging sexual abuse or exploitation by United Nations personnel” had been filed over the preceding few months. But the new report from Deloitte adds some context, highlighting a larger problem of inclusiveness. While UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to the need for an inclusive workforce where sexual and ethnic minorities are well-represented, Deloitte’s data shows that lesbian, gay, and queer staff reported the highest levels of abuse.

These findings couldn’t have come at a worse time for the UN, which recently faced accusations [4] that LGBT refugees in Kenya had been denied supplies and shelter by the UN refugee agency. Overcrowded, unsanitary conditions in refugee camps were exacerbated by rampant sexual discrimination against gay Kenyans who relied on the UN for survival. While the agency claims it is in the process of resettling hundreds of vulnerable refugees to a safer area with a lower risk of repression, Reuters reports [4] that these transfers typically take years. Mbazira Moses, a spokesman for the LGBT group Refugee Flag Kakuma, notes, “It’s three weeks and the situation is not any better here than in Kakuma. People are scared and facing death threats from other LGBT refugees here. Some sleep with knives under their pillows.”

Nor is the UN’s abysmal record of dealing with sexual threats and crimes limited to internal issues and isolated instances of refugee handling. In the Congo, hundreds of civilians have documented [5] sexual abuse complaints against the UN force entrusted to protect them. Fourteen-year-old girls in UN-guarded camps should not have to fear being violated by “peacekeepers.” There have been thousands of complaints worldwide over the last decade alone. And the UN’s habit of barring host countries [6] from participating in abuse investigations only furthers the perception of a corrupt, unresponsive organization.

Fortunately, the UN is finally taking steps in the right direction. Secretary-General Guterres recently spoke of efforts [3] to step up enforcement against sexual crimes and bar offenders from being rehired. The U.S. has recently applied pressure, but has failed to tackle this issue head on. America’s recent moves to withdraw from the useless Human Rights Council and Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization might push the UN towards curtailing wasteful operations, but they will do little to stop the underlying predatory culture.

The U.S. and the EU need to withhold funding unless the situation improves. Otherwise UN workers will continue to live in perpetual fear of harassment. Taxpayers cannot continue to be held hostage to the machinations of sexual predators hiding behind the veneer of a once-respectable organization.

Ross Marchand is the director of policy at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "The United Nations is a Hotbed of Sexual Harassment"

#1 Comment By cka2nd On February 8, 2019 @ 1:43 pm

Why am I just a bit skeptical that the main concern of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance regarding the United Nations is NOT sexual harassment? And why do I get the impression that the Taxpayers Protection Alliance could come up with any number of other reasons to withhold US payments to the UN, even if the latter had no sexual harassment problem at all?

By the way, I consider the UN to be a den of thieves. I just think the biggest thief of them all is the United States of America.

#2 Comment By prodigalson On February 8, 2019 @ 3:29 pm

Right, because the taxpayers alliance is very concerned about sexual assault at the UN. This is totally not at all about beating up the UN right?

One notices that our president is on tape talking about assaulting other men’s wives, Democratic governors are being accused of rape, and sexual assault seems to be a problem in our society.

Maybe there are dragons closer to home than the UN that need slaying on this topic?

TAC has been featuring a lot of dumb, boiler-plate 80’s conservative shibboleth articles lately. I don’t come to this site to read CATO/AEI garbage.

We’ve got much bigger problems in our country than “oh noes, tax dollars wasted on one-world govt black helicopters.”

#3 Comment By polistra On February 8, 2019 @ 5:03 pm

Why do you want to FIX a problem that could help to bring the UN down? None of its actual genocides have removed its support. Maybe #metoo can do it. Don’t get in the way!

#4 Comment By Cererean On February 9, 2019 @ 10:56 am

‘Fourteen-year-old girls in UN-guarded camps should not have to fear being violated by “peacekeepers.”’

Are you implying that there is something wrong with the countries that the peacekeepers are drawn from, which are overwhelmingly poor ones that can make a profit on hiring out their soldiers to the UN?

Maybe if the UNSC members stepped up to the plate and provided peacekeepers directly, instead of hiring them from the Third World, they’d be more effective and less abusive. About 5000 per member should do it.

#5 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 9, 2019 @ 12:01 pm

Since the United Nations is hosted within the U.S., and the U.S. government can control access to it, the obvious conclusion is that the entity being hosted here is more beneficial to the interests of the U.S. than not. It is used for political cover for U.S. policy when it can be, and completely ignored when it cannot. It is therefore highly unlikely it would ever be relocated to neutral ground, and if it were, that would be the end of both its usefulness to the U.S. and to its existence. Like complaints about allies not shouldering their share of military costs, in reality paying so much guarantees U.S. dominance.

Look at the supposed equality of the agreement with multiple countries on ending Iran sanctions. The United States was the only important signatory, because when it unilaterally abrogated that agreement, every signatory was forced to fall into place behind the changed U.S. position, just as if they were satrapies. Such supposedly international coalitions are mostly a fig leaf for a reality of U.S. hegemony.

#6 Comment By Not Your Father’s UN On February 9, 2019 @ 6:01 pm

Fourteen-year-old girls in UN-guarded camps should not have to fear being violated by “peacekeepers.”

“UN peacekeepers” of yore tended to hail from relatively civilized precincts. Not any more. This is the kind of behavior you get when you recruit “peacekeepers” from the same kind of places to which you “render” terrorists for interrogation.

#7 Comment By Robert On February 10, 2019 @ 6:08 pm

Why does this site have so many trolls with left-wing memes?

#8 Comment By Jo On February 11, 2019 @ 12:27 am

“And the UN’s habit of barring host countries from participating in abuse investigations only furthers the perception of a corrupt, unresponsive organization.”


The U.N. has never been a “respectable” organization, despite Marchand’s claim. Its one-world agenda has been on the go since its inception and it’s high time the United States withdraw its membership and funds, give the “diplomats” and bureaucrats 7 days to leave, and claim eminent domain to take the land on which the building stands. The monolith should be taken down by controlled demolition (a la WTC 1,2, and 7) and the land should be exorcised of its demons. Perhaps the 16 acres can be restored to something approaching its former natural beauty.

#9 Comment By Allen On February 11, 2019 @ 11:41 am

UN peacekeeping missions are really just ATM’s for failing nations. Many of the “peacekeepers” come from countries where they cannot keep their own peace. If the UN patrols your streets, you shouldn’t be sending your cops and military on international missions.

Check out the nations who participated in operations in Kosovo and Haiti. Some were among the poorest countries in the world and their military and police were totally incompetent. Like, pistols rusted shut incompetent.

The UN solution? Lower standards. The charity must flow. But when you get these untrained, unqualified peacekeepers, you also get abuses of every kind.

#10 Comment By Jim Phelan On February 11, 2019 @ 1:13 pm

The UN is the least of our concerns. What about the Victims Slush fund from CONGRESS? I would like to see an accounting of who has paid victims because they cannot keep their hands to themselves.

#11 Comment By c On February 25, 2019 @ 8:22 am

Before Deloitte points the finger over harassment and bullying in the work place, they should attempt to get rid of the infestation they have of it, especially against female staff, at their offices in Spain.