Magazine article Newsweek

Eight Men Have Accused a Senior U.N. Adviser of Sexual Misconduct, Sources Say: Exclusive; the Senior Adviser Has Been Accused of Sexual Harassment by at Least Eight Men, and the U.N. Has "A Job of Work to Do" to Reform Its Culture and Restore Trust, a U.N. Spokesperson Said

Magazine article Newsweek

Eight Men Have Accused a Senior U.N. Adviser of Sexual Misconduct, Sources Say: Exclusive; the Senior Adviser Has Been Accused of Sexual Harassment by at Least Eight Men, and the U.N. Has "A Job of Work to Do" to Reform Its Culture and Restore Trust, a U.N. Spokesperson Said

Article excerpt

Byline: Rory Laverty and James LaPorta

A senior adviser for the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women is under investigation for sexual misconduct. The U.N. has "a job of work to do" to reform its culture and restore trust, a U.N. spokesperson said.

At least eight men have accused Ravi Karkara, senior adviser to a former U.N. assistant secretary-general, of using his prestige and position to sexually harass them, five sources with knowledge of the investigation told Newsweek.

Karkara did not respond to multiple requests for comment this week and dating back to December 2017, when the U.N. announced a sexual misconduct investigation (without identifying the subject by name). No charges have been filed in the 13-month ongoing investigation. On July 26, a spokesperson for the United Nations entity, also known as U.N. Women, said that the probe's "subject remains on administrative leave" and that, while still on U.N. payroll, the person "is not currently performing any active function."

U.N. officials confirmed on August 1 that an investigation is ongoing but declined to comment on whether Karkara was the subject of the probe.

U.N. Women is the youngest division of the U.N., becoming a distinct branch in 2011. It sets global standards for seeking gender equality and then helps member countries turn those standards into laws, policies and programs.

Mandy Sanghera and Kerry Gibson, international human rights activists and U.N. Women Planet 50-50 Champions, told Newsweek the subject of the investigation is Karkara, who is currently on leave from U.N. Women. Gibson and an alleged victim filed complaints that started the investigation, while Sanghera learned of it through a former U.N. official and confirmed it with several alleged victims.

Two other former U.N. staffers with knowledge of the investigation confirmed that Karkara is the subject of the probe, as did one of his alleged victims whom U.N. investigators interviewed 13 months ago.

Sanghera called the senior adviser "a predator." Speaking from her home in London, she said, "What's finally coming to light is a long pattern of inappropriate sexual behavior."

The U.N. Development Programme's Office of Audit and Investigation is running the investigation and will ultimately submit its report to the development program's Legal Support Office to determine whether disciplinary proceedings, administrative actions or a public reporting of findings are warranted. Even if he is charged locally in state or federal court, Karkara could avoid punishment if he has diplomatic immunity.

Sanghera, Gibson and an alleged victim, Steve Lee, said the sexual misconduct accusations against Karkara include touching or grabbing a subordinate's genitals in a hotel room, using work devices to send pornography and follow-up questions to male subordinates, creating a climate of sexual innuendo and obscene gestures in the workplace, and using his position and access as leverage to initiate sexual encounters. They said Karkara is also accused of nonsexual harassment and abuse of power for his conduct with subordinates in and out of the workplace.

Others associated with Karkara and his alleged victims confirmed the basis of the probe. Aashish Khullar, the former organizing partner of the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth, said some of the young people in his organization approached the group's leadership with complaints about a senior staff member at U.N. Women.

Khullar, reached by phone in Boston, said he personally spoke with "seven or eight" young men who reported varying levels of sexual misconduct by Karkara and spoke with investigators from the U.N. Development Programme's Office of Audit and Investigation.

"There was a prevailing sense among all who had worked with him that misconduct was his modus operandi," Khullar said of Karkara. …

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