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 roster was finalized of trained and vetted interagency PSEA Coordinators to ensure rapid deployment of qualified personnel. Coordinators have been deployed to five IASC priority countries in 2021 and further deployments are underway.
- Review of the IASC PSEAH approach to assess the impact and effectiveness of measures implemented over the past years.
Update: An external review was undertaken to provide an independent assessment of the IASC’s collective progress on PSEAH over the past decade. The review report was submitted to IASC Principals in November 2021. The review details positive developments, including a constant and consistent commitment from IASC Principals on protection from sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. The review also found several critical issues that need to be collectively addressed as a priority moving forward.
- 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, a 3-day workshop was conducted in September 2021 and a training module was developed on GBV case management for SEA survivors, which will be integrated into the interagency GBV case management training course.
- 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 was held in November 2021 to consider the review recommendations and commit to a pragmatic programme of action.
- Advocacy campaign to improve access to quality information and assistance.
Update: The Advocacy Campaign, undertaken by the 35 IASC priority countries with partners, has been successful with over 80 dedicated UNCT/HCT PSEAH meetings held, over 17,000 community conversations, and 1.3 million people reached with information.
Appointments : Joyce Msuya, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator; Andrew Morley, 2022 IASC Champion for PSEAH
Let's all be Champions in Ending SEA - message from Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director and IASC Champion on PSEA
New: Ethiopia PSEA Training, Information, Education and Communication (IEC) and Survivor Support Resources
Keys to change: Listening to communities, supporting women’s participation and leadership
Serving survivors of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo