Lubbers steps down, bids farewell to UN staff

24th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

24 February , AMSTERDAM — Former Dutch prime minister Ruud Lubbers, who resigned as UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Sunday over a sexual harassment scandal, has handed the post over to his deputy, US national Wendy Chamberlin.

24 February

AMSTERDAM — Former Dutch prime minister Ruud Lubbers, who resigned as UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Sunday over a sexual harassment scandal, has handed the post over to his deputy, US national Wendy Chamberlin.

Lubbers, 65, had indicated earlier that he would stay on and work for the "cause" until a permanent replacement for him could be found.

But in consultation with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, he decided to vacate the position now. A permanent replacement will be named at a later date.

Having called a hundred members of his staff to a meeting in the UNHCR Geneva headquarters, Lubbers confirmed he was stepping down with immediate affect on Thursday.

Lubbers said that he had seen a lot of tragedy, but also many lovely things during his time as High Commissioner. "It was a fantastic time for me. And I think — despite all the difficult moments — that it was also a fantastic time for you all too," he told his staff.

He thanked staff for the many expressions of support he had received in recent months, and in the last few days in particular, Novum News reported.

"I don't feel lonely today, absolutely not. I am not leaving in anger, but thankful of what you have all meant to me," Lubbers said. He said it was time for the UNHCR to "turn the page" and added "that is what I am going to do in any case. Don't dwell in the past".

A 51-year-old American woman lodged a complaint of sexual harassment in April last year claiming that Lubbers groped her at the end of a meeting in Geneva in December 2003. Lubbers denied touching her inappropriately.

After an investigation, Annan decided last year to declare the high commissioner not guilty of the allegations.

Lubbers appeared to be in the clear until copies of the report were mysteriously leaked to the media last week. The report indicated the investigators believed the woman's claims that Lubbers touched her inappropriately as she was leaving a meeting.

The investigators also referred to allegations from four other women who had declined to lodge official complaints.

Annan had previously indicated last year that the report's findings would not have met the legal standard required for dismissal.

And Lubbers initially tried to tough out the renewed scandal, but feeling he had lost the support of the UN general-secretary, he resigned on Sunday.

He announced his decision in a letter to Annan, asserting that the UN did not have sufficient faith in him to continue on in his present capacity. He also claimed Annan had "insulted" him.

Lubbers was the longest serving prime minister in the Netherlands, having headed coalition governments from 1982 to 1993.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news + Ruud Lubbers

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