UN Climate Office Sets Zero Tolerance Policy After Veteran Diplomat Declares #MeToo
After Climate Home News broke the story of a veteran negotiator disclosing sexual harassment she experienced at past UN climate conferences, the UN climate secretariat and Climate Action Network-International have both declared zero-tolerance policies for harassment.
“I am really very sensitive to this,” UN Climate Secretary Patricia Espinosa told a news briefing Monday, responding to a question from Climate Home’s Megan Darby. “I have people in my own family, women in my own family, who have suffered in different circumstances.”
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Espinosa added that she has “sought to strengthen” the UNFCCC’s response to gender issues since taking over the secretariat last year. Onsite in Bonn this week and next, “we have assigned the gender focal point in the secretariat to listen to any [harassment] situation that could arise,” she said. “As you know, there are many situations where people do not come forward formally…it takes a lot of courage. I hope by strengthening the capacity to deal with that…we can look in the future to a situation where everybody is comfortable coming forward.”
Darby at Climate Home has set up this form to enable anyone onsite at COP 23 to anonymously report incidents of sexual harassment or assault.
Chatham House Associate Fellow Farhana Yamin brought the issue to prominence in a personal account on Climate Home three days ago, citing two incidents from the early 1990s when she was either undermined in front of professional colleagues or placed at personal risk.
“I’ve been privy to many unaired and hushed conversations over the last three decades of my life as a climate change lawyer and know for a fact that many incidents have been brushed under the carpet,” she wrote.
“I too have kept quiet about my share of painful experiences, especially as a young woman. These range from unwelcome comments on my appearance to being made to feel as though I had to choose between my dignity and my career. Such incidents left me in a jumble of nerves or seething, sometimes both.”
CAN International Executive Director Wael Hmaidan said the organization had announced its own zero tolerance stance, an extension of its existing staff policy, as a matter of principle, not in response to any specific report. “We should have done it of course a long time ago,” he told Darby. “It is important for all of us to care about.”