Eight men accuse Indian UN official of sexual misconduct

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An Indian official in the UN agency for gender equality and women empowerment is under investigation for sexual misconduct after at least eight men accused him of sexually harassing them.

Ravi Karkara, Senior Advisor on Strategic Partnerships and Advocacy to the Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director at UN Women, is under investigation for sexual misconduct and at least eight men have accused him of using his position to sexually harass them, five sources with knowledge of the investigation told Newsweek.

UN Women, in a statement, said the investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct involving a UN Women staff member by the Office of Audit and Investigations (OAI) of UNDP is nearing its completion and UN Women continues to urge for the speedy finalisation of the investigation process.

UN Women continues to ensure that the case is investigated thoroughly and receiving the priority it deserves. We recognise the gravity with which such cases should be treated and have taken the allegations very seriously at every stage, the statement said.

While the UN Women statement does not name Karkara, a UN spokesperson confirmed to PTI that the individual under investigation is Karkara.

There were no immediate comments available from Karkara.

A UN Women spokesperson said the agency cannot confirm nor deny the subject's name and it cannot comment on any specifics of the case, as that could harm the investigation and disciplinary process.

UN Women said it aims to be as transparent as possible while ensuring that the integrity of the investigative, and disciplinary process, if any, is safeguarded.

For this reason, we cannot comment on any further specifics of the case, as that could undermine the accountability process, it said.

UN Women had said back in December 2017 that it received allegations of sexual misconduct involving one of its staff members, again not naming Karkara. It had then said that the case is currently under investigation.

The Newsweek report said that the probe's subject remains on administrative leave and that, while still on UN payroll, the person is not currently performing any active function.

According to Newsweek, Steve Lee, a 25-year-old policy activist, who has addressed the United Nations and was a member of the Major Group for Children and Youth, is among the men accusing Karkara of misconduct.

The UN Women statement said that it will continue to implement its zero-tolerance policy and will take all necessary actions that are within its purview in the case. "Once the report setting out the findings of the investigation is shared with UN Women, if the facts warrant it, UN Women will initiate a disciplinary process under the UN Women Legal Policy for addressing non-compliance with UN Standards of Conduct.

The disciplinary process includes charging the subject, terminating the contract, and, if appropriate, imposing a sanction. Steps may then be taken to refer the matter to national authorities if warranted, it said.

"Ending all forms of sexual and gender-based violence is at the heart of UN Women's mission. As recent events have shown, the United Nations and UN Women are not immune from allegations of sexual misconduct. We are particularly committed to placing the rights and dignity of victims at the forefront of our response efforts and have been in contact with the reported victims of this case and offered our support and assistance," it said.

According to his profile, Karkara has worked with UN Women, UNICEF, Save the Children among others.

He serves as Global Advisor on Youth with UN-HABITAT and had represented UN-HABITAT as the co-chair of the UN Interagency Network on Youth Development.

He also co-chaired the Policy Strategy Group for World We Want 2015 largest UN & civil society post-2015 data-curation-visualization Big Data platform. It said he has written more than 80 publications and has given keynote and panel addresses.

(With inputs from PTI)