BFF-33 Under-fire UNAIDS chief offers to resign in June

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Under-fire UNAIDS chief offers to resign in June

GENEVA, Dec 13, 2018 (AFP) – Scandal-plagued UNAIDS head Michel Sidibe
offered Thursday to resign in June, following an expert report that said his
“defective leadership” had plunged the agency into crisis.

The timeline for the departure, confirmed by the agency, amounted to a
concession from a leader accused of fostering a work environment that has
tolerated bullying, sexual harassment and a culture of fear among staff.

Agency spokeswoman Sophie Barton-Knott confirmed Sidibe’s proposal for an
“orderly transition” in June in an email to AFP.

Sidibe’s term had been due to expire in January 2020.

UNAIDS’ oversight body, the British-led Programme Coordinating Board, met
in Geneva this week to evaluate the scathing Independent Expert Panel report
which also charged Sidibe with overseeing a “patriarchal” workplace and
promoting a “cult of personality” centred on him as the all-powerful chief.

Sweden, a major UNAIDS donor, joined a chorus of activists this week in
calling for the ouster of Sidibe, a Malian national who has headed the agency
for nine years.

“We have no confidence in him. He has to resign now,” International
Development Cooperation Minister Isabella Lovin told daily Svenska Dagbladet,
in a report confirmed to AFP by the ministry on Wednesday.

The Code Blue pressure group, which has been at the forefront of exposing
abuses at UNAIDS, said Thursday that the refusal to fire Sidibe amounted to a
“failure of leadership” by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

“Mr. Sidibe doesn’t deserve to leave on his terms and on his timeline. A
leader of any other major institution who was accused of the wrongdoing
described in the Independent Expert Panel report would have been summarily
fired,” Code Blue’s co-director Paula Donovan told AFP in an email.

“The culture of impunity remains intact. Zero tolerance (for sexual
misconduct) is nothing more than an empty slogan,” she added.

It was Sidibe who had pushed for the creation of the Independent Expert
Panel, following the accusation that he and the agency mishandled sexual
assault allegations against former deputy executive director Luiz Loures.

But the panel’s findings include a stunning indictment of Sidibe’s
stewardship, describing UNAIDS as being mired in “a crisis which threatens
its vital work”.

The report also said that Sidibe “accepted no responsibility” for anything
that had gone wrong under his watch and argued that the agency’s leaders had
to be replaced in order to “regain a culture of dignity and respect.

BSS/AFP/BZC/1950HRS