UN Watch Response to UN Women Statement on Sarah Douglas

The UN agency for women’s rights has finally responded to our report which revealed that Sarah Douglas, the deputy chief of UN Women’s peace and security office, had endorsed 153 posts on social media accusing Israel of genocide and other crimes.

UN Women’s statement came two weeks after the Secretary-General’s Antonio Gutteres’ spokesperson admitted this was “a violation of the Code of Conduct.”

The statement from U.N. Women spokeswoman Kiri Jo Ginnerup, as published on January 5th by JNS, and then again in a nearly identical version by the Associated Press, reads as follows:

“We are aware of reports relating to a mid-level manager in personal social-media activity and its compatibility with the standards of conduct required of U.N. staff members,” Kiri Jo Ginnerup, a U.N. Women spokeswoman,  told JNS.

“U.N. Women takes these concerns seriously,” she added. “The standards of conduct are clear and breaches are dealt with appropriately and in accordance with U.N Women’s accountability and legal framework. Such processes are internal and not made public.”

 

UN Watch Response

As detailed below, UN Women’s statement is a transparent attempt to downplay its senior employee’s blatant violation of UN staff rules even though both the Secretary-General and UN Women clearly acknowledge the violation.

Two U.S. Senators have already called for Ms. Douglas to be fired, Senator Marsha Blackburn and Senator Rick Scott, and UN Watch’s petition calling for Douglas’s ouster has garnered over 12,500 signatures.

If UN Women were taking the matter “very seriously” as it claims in its statement, it would have either fired Douglas by now, or contacted UN Watch for evidence, especially given that Ms. Douglas deleted her Twitter account hours after our exposé was published. Yet no one from UN Women has even attempted to speak to us. Once again, we call on UN Women to do the right thing and fire Sarah Douglas.

1. “Aware of reports”; “takes concerns seriously”

UN Women downplays UN Watch’s expose as mere “reports” making it seems like it is just an unverified claim without factual support. In fact, UN Watch produced evidence of many of the 153 tweets written or endorsed by UN Women Deputy Chief Sarah Douglas since October 7th on her own Twitter (now X) account. While Ms. Douglas quickly deleted her Twitter account, UN Watch saved screenshots of all 153 tweets in case UN Women wishes to see the evidence.

In the next sentence, UN Women again minimizes Douglas’s egregious violations by referring to “concerns” about her “social media activity,” instead of stating straight out that it was a violation. 

2. “Relating to a mid-level manager

Sarah Douglas is not just a “mid-level manager.” Her title—Deputy Chief of Peace and Security at UN Women—indicates that she holds a senior position at the agency. Moreover, in that role, Douglas has publicly represented the agency by speaking alongside the Executive Director, penning an article on the UN Women website, and giving interviews to the media

3. “Personal social-media activity”

Referring to Sarah Douglas’ tweets as her “personal social media activity” makes it seem like it was a personal account with no connection to UN Women. However, both Douglas’ account description and the content of her tweets indicate that Sarah Douglas operated it in her official capacity as a representative of UN Women. Douglas describes herself as “Deputy Chief of Peace and Security @UN_Women,” using the official UN Women twitter handle. A review of her tweets as found in the Way Back Machine confirms that Douglas used her account for professional purposes. Her tweets consist of retweets, many from other UN accounts, all related to women’s rights, gender equality, and international peace and security, with an occasional tweet of her own on these issues. Moreover, even if this was a personal account, it still violates UN rules per point 4 below.

4. “Incompatibility with the standards of conduct required of U.N. staff members”

Using the word “incompatible” to characterize Douglas’s pro-Hamas Twitter feed diminishes the severity of her violation. Considering that the spokesperson for the Secretary General already admitted on December 21st that there was a “violation,” UN Women should similarly admit the violation clearly and directly. 

As UN Women later stated, the “standards of conduct are clear.” There is no doubt that Douglas’s Twitter feed violated these standards. Article 101(3) of the UN Charter states that the “paramount consideration” in employing staff is “securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity.” The concept of integrity under the core values of the UN Staff Rules and Staff Regulations includes “impartiality.” Specifically, under Rule 1.2(f), UN staff are expressly prohibited from making “any kind of public pronouncement” that may adversely reflect on their independence and impartiality. While UN staff members may exercise the right to vote, they are prohibited from engaging in any political activity that reflects adversely upon “the independence and impartiality required by their status as international civil servants.”

Furthermore, the UN Guidelines for Personal Use of Social Media require staff “to be mindful at all times that their conduct on social media must be consistent with the principles set out in the United Nations Charter.” The Guidelines add that “staff must ensure that the expression of their personal views and convictions on social media does not adversely affect their official duties, reflect poorly on their status as international civil servants or call into question their duty of loyalty, impartiality and responsibility to the Organization.”

5. UN Women takes these concerns “very seriously”

Despite UN Women’s assertion, it does not seem like it is taking the matter “very seriously.” If it was truly treating the matter with the severity it deserves, it would have publicly fired Douglas by now. The UN has proven that it knows how to fire staff when it wants to.

At the very least, UN Women would have already contacted UN Watch for evidence of the screenshots of Douglas’s now deleted Twitter account, as UN Watch invited it to do in a December 29th Tweet reply. How can UN Women seriously investigate the matter without obtaining the evidence we saved which is no longer available online?

UN Watch

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