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World Bank mishandled sexual misconduct claims: Internal Tribunal

World Bank mishandled sexual misconduct claims: Internal Tribunal

Washington: The World Bank failed to protect two young employees who filed sexual-harassment allegations against a veteran, high-ranking official, according to findings released by the bank's internal labor tribunal.

The findings in the sexual harassment case, released in June, were detailed in a report Monday by The Wall Street Journal, which identified the official as Rodrigo Chaves, a candidate for president of Costa Rica who served briefly as the country's finance minister.

"This case has brought visibility to shortcomings in the Bank's approach to accountability for sexual harassment and protection for staff," said the tribunal's report, which identified the official only as "Mr C."

The World Bank Administrative Tribunal found that senior management under bank President David Malpass and his two predecessors didn't adequately sanction Rodrigo Chaves. He was demoted—but not fired—despite a documented pattern of harassment that lasted at least four years and involved six women, according to case-related documents that were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Chaves denied any misconduct or attributed them to cultural differences, but the investigation, which interviewed 27 witnesses, described the pattern of "relentless and unwanted advances."

Annette Dixon, the World Bank's vice president of human resources, said the institution is "strongly committed to fostering a safe working environment that is free from harassment and abuse and where staff feel empowered to report allegations of wrongdoing."

The World Bank in January imposed a "no rehire" ban on Chaves and barred him from the premises.

The tribunal also ordered the World Bank to pay the legal costs for two of the women.

Chaves, who worked at the bank for nearly 27 years, resigned November 30, 2019 shortly after he was demoted, and then became finance minister of Costa Rica, where he was involved in relations with his old employer.

He resigned as finance minister in May 2020 amid disputes with the President Carlos Alvarado over spending, and is a candidate in February's presidential election.

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