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Criticized UN agency chief to depart ahead of time

The chief of the U.N. agency UNAIDS will step down from his position earlier than expected, following heavy criticism that he mismanaged accusations of sexual harassments. The departure of Michel Sidibé comes after Sweden decided to freeze UNAIDS funding.

– The freezing will stay as long as Sidibé stays on his post, cabinet minister Isabella Lövin confirmed Thursday to SvD.

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Michel Sidibé.

Foto: Aas, Erlend/TT Bild 1 av 1

Michel Sidibé.

Foto: Aas, Erlend/TT Bild 1 av 1
Michel Sidibé.
Michel Sidibé. Foto: Aas, Erlend/TT

Michel Sidibé quickly became the center of debate at the Geneva-based UNAIDS' board meeting this week. The executive director of the U.N. agency, which fights the spread of AIDS and the HIV virus, has come under heavy criticism after an independent study concluded that he mismanaged allegations of sexual harassment within the agency, and has created a culture that tolerates abuse of power.

On Thursday, Mr Sidibé declared in front of the board that he will leave his position in June 2019, six months before his contract is to expire, several diplomatic sources told SvD. Earlier he had hinted that his ”last board meeting will be in June next year”, without any precision on when he will leave.

This was confirmed by the UNAIDS secretariat by Thursday noon.

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”The Executive Director of UNAIDS has indicated his wish to have an orderly transition of leadership at UNAIDS in the final year of his term. He has informed the UNAIDS Board that the 44th Board meeting in June 2019 would be his last board meeting and he would complete his duties at the end of June 2019.”, according to the statement.

Mr Sidibé’s departure comes after Sweden declared on Tuesday that it would cut its funding if the director remains in power during 2019. Sweden wants him to leave immediately, and has also stressed that ”it is not up to him to decide when he leaves”.

Sweden is the second largest financial contributor to UNAIDS, having paid 2.6 billion SEK ($287 million) to the organization since 2009.

”We have said again and again that we have no confidence in Mr Sidibé. I have said this directly to him,” Isabella Lövin, the Swedish cabinet minister for international cooperation, told SvD earlier this week. ”We want him gone now. His leadership is dysfunctional and the independent study is well prepared.”

Despite the investigation into Mr Sidibé's management, which was released last week, many countries decided to back him at the annual meeting i Geneva. Among them were most African nations, whose delegates noted that Mr Sidibé's has done much to combat the spread of AIDS there.

The Swedish threat to cut the flow of money apparently pushed Mr Sidibé to the final decision to leave, several Western diplomats in Geneva said on Thursday.

”Both the board of directors and UNAIDS itself is totally split by this. Sweden’s push and the threat to cut funding have played a big part. Several other countries have tried to decide if they should follow the Swedish plan,” the diplomat told SvD.

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