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Sexual harassment, assault goes unnoticed at UN: Victims

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United Nations, Jan 19: The cases of sexual harassment and assault are rife in the UN offices around the world, with offenders enjoying impunity in a culture of flawed grievance system, a media report said on Friday.

Of the employees interviewed, 15 said they had experienced or reported sexual harassment or assault within the past five years, and alleged offences ranged from verbal harassment to rape, The Guardian reported.

The UN employees said there was a culture of silence across the organisation and a flawed grievance system that is stacked against victims.

The employees said only a few women, who were sexually harassed or assaulted, had formally reported to the grievance cell, but most of the victims do not report for the fear of losing their jobs. There is also a belief that even if they report, no action will be taken.

“If you report it, your career is pretty much over, especially if you’re a consultant,” the report quoted one consultant as saying. The consultant alleged she was harassed by her supervisor while working for the World Food Programme. “It’s like an unsaid thing.”

Though the UN Secretary General António Guterres has “prioritised addressing sexual harassment and upholding the zero tolerance policy”, the organisation conceded that under-reporting is still a concern they are dealing with.

The report talked to several employees working in more than 10 countries and found that three women who had reported sexual harassment or sexual assault had been forced to quit or threatened with termination of their contracts, while the accused, including a senior UN official, continued to remain in their posts.

“There are no other options to get justice, and I have lost my job too,” one of the victims said on the conditions of anonymity.

She said that despite medical evidence and witness testimonies, an internal investigation by the UN found insufficient evidence to support her allegation.

“Along with my job, I lost my visa and spent months in hospital due to stress and trauma,” she said.

The internal documents revealed two of the women cite concerns with the investigations, claiming that the UN’s investigation’s team, the office of internal oversight services (OIOS), failed to interview key witnesses. They also said that transcripts contain errors and information from inquiries has been leaked.

While the accused continue to remain in their senior positions, they also influence the proceedings throughout the investigations, the report said.

“The UN has long been criticised over its failure to properly investigate reports of sexual abuse and exploitation by its peacekeeping forces against local people, not least in Central African Republic and Haiti. Campaigners point to a culture of impunity in UN offices, with accusers routinely silenced,” the report mentioned.

Due to the UN’s international nature, it becomes difficult for the local people or those within the organisation to pursue complaints. Also, many senior members enjoy diplomatic immunity and, therefore, avoid the national courts.

IANS

 

 

Election

US Election: Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by 8 pts nationally

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Donald Trump Joe Biden

Washington : With just three days left for the November 3 US presidential election, Democratic nominee Joe Biden was in the lead against President Donald Trump by eight points nationally, according to a new polls.

The Fox News poll released on Friday revealed that 52 per cent of likely voters backed the former Vice President, while Trump had the backing of 44 per cent, The Hill news website reported..

Two per cent of those surveyed say they would back a third-party candidate, while another 2 per cent remained undecided.

The Fox News poll comes as other surveys have showed Biden leading the President both nationally and in key swing states.

A CNN poll released on Wednesday showed that Biden currently had the backing of 54 per cent of the registered voters, while 42 per cent supported the President. The Hill news website reported.

In the RealClear Politics polling average, the former Vice President was currently leading Trump in a 51.4 per cent to 43.5 per cent vote.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll national released on October 23 showed Biden with a 10-point advantage.

According to the latest Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on October 21, Biden was in the lead with support from 49 per cent of registered voters, while Trump had the backing of 45 per cent.

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World

Xi overcomes challenges to his authority in CCP central committee plenary

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Xi Jinping

New Delhi/Beijing: President Xi Jinping overcame all the challenges to his authority at the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee’s fifth plenary session.

Top sources told IANS that Xi, who was facing disapproval from some of the members of the CCP over his aggressive policies, dodged all the internal political pressure at the plenary of the 19th Central Committee of the CCP, the highest decision-making body of the party, which concluded on Thursday after four days of deliberations.

Analysts in New Delhi said that Xi has evaded questioning at least for the time being. “An immediate effect will be endorsement of his assertive foreign policy, including with India. This could mean Xi Jinping might initiate military action against India this winter,” an analyst said.

Since the initial mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and the Cold War-like situation with the US, sources said, there was some discontent among some members of the Central Committee of the CCP against Xi’s leadership.

Following the violent face-off between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Indian troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, the disaffection rose further, sources said.

However, Xi prevailed at the plenary session, sources said, adding that the Chinese President outmanoeuvred every critic and opponent.

His vision presented in the 14th five-year plan, which includes six new objectives – to realise socialist modernisation by 2035, build strong nation, set a new development pattern, innovate, revitalise rural China, set up new opening-up structure for trade -were endorsed by the Central Committee.

Xi headed the task force for the drafting of the plan and personally oversaw the draft process, Chinese media said.

Chinese officials on Friday said that China under the plan will continue to be open for trade, “although it would adopt new development strategies that put heavy emphasis on boosting the domestic market and pursuing indigenous innovation in the next five to 15 years.”

The effusive commentary admiring Xi’s vision, which appeared in the China Daily and the Global Times, both mouthpieces of the CCP, after the Central Committee’s press conference on Friday, corroborated that the President vanquished the opposition to his authority.

Backing Xi, the Global Times wrote in an editorial, “The plenary session has continued the overall plan of the 19th National Congress of the CPC, and maintained the strategic pace and spiritual outlook of China’s advancement, which shows China’s strong endurance and stamina amid changes.

“Profound changes are taking place in the world. China has withstood two major challenges: One is the strategic containment from the US, and the other the public health challenge posed by the novel coronavirus. Both challenges are fierce, having brought uncertainties. The 14th five-year plan and the 2035 long-term goal are formulated in this context.”

Defending Xi’s policies, the Global Times said, “The two challenges didn’t derail China’s development. They didn’t even have an impact on its speed. They brought about new situations and conditions, which have driven China’s amazing adaptability. Chinese people have developed a broader vision and become more capable in dealing with challenges, just like the country’s strength and renewal of resistance outperformed a mutating virus.”

The plenary session has not only made the 14th five-year plan, but also looked ahead to 15 more years, the newspaper said while praising Xi’s vision.

Patting the President on his back, it further wrote, “One of the biggest achievements China has made in recent years is that it has stabilised the country’s development. No matter how large the variable is, it diminishes after being dealt with China’s system. The fight against US suppression, coupled with the battle against the coronavirus, created an unprecedented stress test for China, which also has provided us with a yardstick for the future.”

China, it said, has the “courage” to set goals in six areas in the 14th five-year plan.

“The coronavirus is likely to have a lasting influence, and the US may find more trouble with China, but the central government has the confidence to eliminate and curb the negative impact that those risks may have on the country’s economic and social development. The government’s confidence is bolstered by that of the public. The US cannot crush China,” it added.

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India

India And US Discuss UNSC Agenda, Will Work Together On ‘Rule-Based International Order’

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India and the US have held wide ranging discussions on issues on the UN Security Council agenda and agreed to work closely given their shared values of democracy, pluralism and rule-based international order, officials in Washington said.

Earlier this year, India, along with Mexico and Ireland, was elected a non-permanent member for a two-year term starting January 1, 2021.

The consultations between India and the US are reflective of the efforts on the part of the two countries to coordinate on a host of global issues that would come up before the powerful organ of the United Nations next year.

“Both sides held wide-ranging discussions on issues on the UN Security Council agenda and recent developments,” the Embassy of India here said in a statement on Thursday.

“They agreed to work closely together given their shared values of democracy, pluralism and rule-based international order, during India’s upcoming term as a non-permanent member of the UNSC during 2021-22,” it said.

India has been pushing for reforms of the United Nations, including the Security Council, stating that its composition doesn’t reflect the current realities and is not representative enough.

The UNSC has 15 members, including five permanent members – the US, the UK, France, Russia and China. China is the only permanent member of the UNSC which is opposed to India’s inclusion into the powerful organ. Half of the 10 non-permanent members are elected every year for a two-year term.

Indian delegation for the two-day consultations on Wednesday and Thursday was led by Vinay Kumar, Additional Secretary (International Organisation and Summits) in the Ministry of External Affairs.

The delegation included senior officials from the Ministry of External Affairs, the Permanent Mission of India in New York and the Embassy of India in Washington, DC.

The US delegation was led by Pamela D Pryor, Acting Assistant Secretary for State Department’s Bureau of International Organisation Affairs, and included other senior State Department officials.

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