WFP tightens sex harassment policy

WFP food distribution Afghanistan

ROME—The World Food Programme, taking the lead among UN agencies in the Eternal City, is tightening its policy against sexual harassment “to strengthen protection for victims as well as to find and punish perpetrators,” a spokesman for WFP Executive Director, David Beasley, said Wednesday.

 The Rome-based agency already has made it current policy that investigations will continue if a victim resigns during the process, Communications Manager Gary Karr told the Italian Insider. Policy changes that will be implemented in coming weeks will include ending the existing six month time limit for investigations as well as other changes, he added.

 “We do have several policy changes in the works right now that should be fully implemented in the next few weeks to strengthen protection for victims as well as find and punish perpetrators. This is a major priority for the Executive Director,” Karr said.

  “He said at a recent senior staff meeting that he had absolutely no tolerance for sexual harassment and abuse, and that if anyone in the organization is not willing to treat everyone with respect, ‘then there’s no place for them at WFP.’ He’s also pushing for more direct and concrete action on gender parity among all staff.”

 “it’s already current policy that investigations continue if a victim resigns during the process,” the spokesman said. The policy changes that will be implemented in the coming weeks will include ending the six-month time limit for investigations, as well as other changes to strengthen protection for victims and find and punish perpetrators.

 Mr Beasley’s crackdown follows the suspension last week-end, disclosed by Italian Insider, of the WFP country chief for Afghanistan following an external investigation into alleged sexual harassment.

 Despite the changes announced at WFP, the agency's reluctance to make public details of the case of the suspended country chief has baffled some observers, however. "The situation is eerily similar to the way that staff in New York reacted to the CAR Child Sex Abuse in 2015," said one veteran former U<n investigator, "the people responsible were so senior that absolutely nobody wanted to talk."

   Observers noted that there has been silence on the subject from the FAO, the sister agency of WFP, where harassment has reputedly reached the upper echelons of the human resources department.