At the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Principals May 2018 meeting, the IASC Principals committed to a series of concrete steps to address Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment (see Chair’s statement of 1 June 2018). Their discussion set an ambitious agenda for action to strengthen the humanitarian sector’s approach to preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) and sexual harassment (SH).
The IASC Principals welcomed continuous knowledge sharing of good practices to prevent, investigate and respond to SEA and SH and committed to immediate collective action to:
- Ensure a victim-centered approach to addressing SEA and SH;
- Promote positive change in organizational culture through strategic communications and role modeling;
- Improve referencing systems to stop transgressors from moving through the humanitarian sector;
- Strengthen sector-wide investigations capacity;
- Support collective activities of in-country networks to SEA and SH.
The IASC Principals also committed to visible leadership to address these challenges and oversee results.
In January 2021, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem assumed the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Championship on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment (PSEAH) taking over this role from Mr. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
In May 2018, the IASC outlined its vision of a humanitarian environment where people in crises can access protection and assistance without fear of exploitation or abuse by any aid worker. (Read the Chair's statement.) In their PSEAH Strategy and related Acceleration Plan, IASC Champions set key objectives and priorities to address sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment.
To further these objectives and build on the work of previous Champions, UNFPA will focus on strengthening a victim-centered approach to preventing and addressing sexual wrongdoing.
Dr. Kanem has identified three core priorities at the heart of her championship and five key initiatives to drive them forward. Since assuming the lead, UNFPA has made progress in furthering those initiatives.
The Executive Director's three priorities
- Bolster PSEA country mechanisms
Leadership, accountability and coordination are fundamental in order to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse on the ground. Inter-agency PSEA networks, led by dedicated inter-agency coordinators, have proven to be effective mechanisms to champion efforts to address SEA in-country.
- Access to quality information and assistance
Humanitarian actors have a fundamental responsibility to ensure victims of SEA have access to timely, quality and survivor-centred assistance offered through specialized gender-based violence (GBV) support services. GBV case management services constitute a critical and life-saving primary entry point for survivors of GBV, including SEA, to receive immediate and longer-term support. This requires sustained investment in assistance to ensure that services meet the unique needs of survivors of GBV, including SEA, on the ground.
- Strengthen coordination and coherence
Inter-agency cooperation forms the backbone of all PSEAH work. An effective and structured response must bring together a range of actors from within and outside the United Nations system, including civil society, affected communities and governments. It is critical that these groups are at the table in order to promote a truly victim-centred approach to PSEAH.
“Let’s all be champions of protection and place the rights and dignity of victims and survivors at the heart of our efforts.” — Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director.
A progress update on the five initiatives underpinning the championship to date:
- Establishment of an inter-agency PSEAH expert roster to ensure rapid deployment of qualified human resources.
Update: A pool of 21 PSEA coordinators are currently undergoing International Organization for Migration (IOM) training and will be available for deployment by August. To meet the most urgent needs in the interim, UNFPA has deployed coordinators to the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- Review of the IASC PSEAH approach to assess the impact and effectiveness of measures implemented over the past years.
Update: An external review is underway. The main objectives are to assess progress and needs against the findings of a 2010 review across IASC agencies; assess how PSEAH obligations have been implemented and how the IASC has taken on 2010 recommendations; assess how well the system as a whole is addressing PSEAH; and provide recommendations for improvement applicable across agencies.
An advisory group of IASC members has supported the selection of focus countries for three thematic case studies and visits, which began in early July and will be completed by September. The review report will be finalized by the end of October.
- Development of a PSEAH training package for GBV practitioners to address the particular needs of victims of SEA.
Update: Informed by consultations with PSEAH and GBV experts in 23 countries, the final product will be presented at a workshop in September and launched as a module of the Inter-agency GBV Case Management online training in October 2021.
- Dedicated consultations with United Nations and non-United Nations actors to strengthen cohesion and coordination in the response to PSEAH.
Update: A Principal-level roundtable discussion involving the United Nations, civil society and Member States will be held in November to consider the review recommendations and commit to a pragmatic programme of action.
- Advocacy campaign to improve access to quality information and assistance.
Update: Work on an advocacy campaign is ongoing
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