“Sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarian workers constitute acts of gross misconduct and are therefore grounds for termination of employment.
Sexual activity with children (persons under the age of 18) is prohibited regardless of the age of majority or age of consent locally. Mistaken belief regarding the age of a child is not a defence.
Exchange of money, employment, goods, or services for sex, including sexual favours or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behaviour is prohibited. This includes exchange of assistance that is due to beneficiaries.
Any sexual relationship between those providing humanitarian assistance and protection and a person benefitting from such humanitarian assistance and protection that involves improper use of rank or position is prohibited. Such relationships undermine the credibility and integrity of humanitarian aid work.
Where a humanitarian worker develops concerns or suspicions regarding sexual abuse or exploitation by a fellow worker, whether in the same agency or not, he or she must report such concerns via established agency reporting mechanisms.
Humanitarian workers are obliged to create and maintain an environment which prevents sexual exploitation and abuse and promotes the implementation of their code of conduct. Managers at all levels have particular responsibilities to support and develop systems which maintain this environment.”
This paper summarizes actions undertaken by IASC members to protect from and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) and sexual harassment and abuse (SHA). It reflects updated information from IASC partners, complementing the 31 May 2018 review of IASC Good Practices. Actions have been grouped according to the strategy endorsed by the IASC in December 2018, which identifies priorities under three main objectives. This summary aims to promote good practice and learning within the IASC and identify opportunities for collaboration, where possible, responding to calls for the IASC to “share and promote best practices on preventing, investigating, and responding to sexual harassment and assault ”.
In March 2018, the IASC acknowledged that all entities are facing similar issues and have come to a shared diagnosis. They agreed that the IASC should serve as a forum for information exchange and to share best practices across the sector.In May 2018, the IASC also called to “circulate the compendium of good practices and ensure that it is regularly updated”. At the IASC Senior Focal Points meeting with the ERC and the IASC Champion in November, the commitment to continue to document good practice was iterated, and participants agreed to share knowledge, good practices, and lessons learned. Only a snapshot of the extensive inputs submitted by IASC organizations is provided below; with the agreement of IASC Principals, the full record can be made available on the IASC website.
This scale-up plan for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) is based on the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Championship Strategy on PSEA and Sexual Harassment and its PSEA commitments. The scale-up plan presents a call for collective action and investment by IASC members in all countries with Humanitarian Response Plans or Refugee Response Plans.1 The plan seeks to achieve three key outcomes for PSEA: 1) safe and accessible reporting, 2) quality assistance for the survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), and 3) enhanced accountability, including investigations. To deliver these outcomes, the plan proposes an enhanced PSEA structure at country level that builds on existing good practice in the field and contributes to a broader accountability strategy.
The product of extensive IASC technical consultations, the plan was unanimously endorsed by IASC Principals on 3 December 2018. Humanitarian Country Teams (HCTs) subsequently carried out a gap analysis to inform IASC members of current needs for effective implementation of PSEA interventions at country-level.
The IASC Champions support the vision of a humanitarian environment in which people caught up in crises feel safe and respected and can access the protection and assistance they need without fear of exploitation or abuse by any aid worker, and in which aid workers themselves feel supported, respected and empowered to deliver such assistance in working environments free from sexual harassment.
Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) and Sexual Harassment (SH) must not be tolerated; they are an unacceptable breach of the fundamental rights of the people we serve and of those with whom we work as well as a deep betrayal of our core values.
This strategy sets out how the IASC Champions will lead to better address SEA and SH
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Principals met in New York on 31 May. A key part of their discussions focused on how we can collectively strengthen the humanitarian sector’s approach to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) and sexual harassment and abuse (SHA). In his statement, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, outlines the commitments and progress on SEA/SHA made by the IASC Principals in this meeting.
Subsequent to their ad-hoc meeting of 15th March 2017, the IASC Principals endorsed this statement, outlining their concern and commitments around incidents of discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse perpetrated against female aid workers by their colleagues in the workplace revealed by a Humanitarian Women’s Network survey.
The Best Practice Guide is operational guidance on how to set up and run an inter-agency community-based complaint mechanism to handle reports of sexual abuse and exploitation by aid workers. It compiles lessons learned, examples, and case studies gathered throughout the course of the 2013-2015 IASC pilot project on inter-agency CBCMs. The Guide is an easy-to-use living document that offers practical guidance, and includes global Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on inter-agency cooperation in complaint handling. With the endorsement of the IASC Principals in June 2016, it fills a needed gap for high-level PSEA guidance transmitted to our representatives in the field. For more information about inter-agency PSEA initiatives, or to receive a hard copy of the Guide, please contact PSEA-CBCM@iom.int or email@example.com
The Global SOPs are technical guidance on how agencies can coordinate complaint referrals while operating an inter-agency community-based complaint mechanism (CBCM). The SOPs cover how to receive, assess, refer, and follow-up on complaints between agencies in line with diverse confidentiality and data protection policies. It also includes agreed-upon good practices in agency collaboration based on the Best Practice Guide to Establish Inter-Agency Community-Based Complaint Mechanisms. Drafted with the collaboration of 16 agencies and endorsed by the IASC Principals in June 2016, the SOPs fill a major gap in communication between agencies by providing agree-upon procedures for sharing sensitive information. Because the SOPs have already been aligned with agencies’ policies, CBCMs only need to minimally tailor this template to their local context, saving substantial time and effort for field staff. For more information about the Global SOPs, or inter-agency PSEA initiatives generally, please contactPSEA-CBCM@iom.intor firstname.lastname@example.org.
On 11 December 2015, the IASC Principals adopted a statement affirming their commitment to actively prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarian workers, and the role of the PSEA Senior Focal Points, Humanitarian Coordinators, and the Humanitarian Country Teams to implement this commitment in all humanitarian response operations. They re-affirmed their determination to eradicate acts of sexual exploitation and abuse by their personnel and actively respond to incidents that are perpetuated against their beneficiaries.
The attached Plan of Action (PoA) outlines a number of steps that should be taken by humanitarian actors towards preventing sexual exploitation and abuse and responding to survivor needs. This plan is part of an ongoing effort of the humanitarian community to strengthen PSEA and is continuously being refined on the basis of experience, pilot activities in selected countries and field visits to affected locations. The PoA is divided into three sections: prevention, response and management and implementation issues. It addresses protection from sexual exploitation and abuse during humanitarian crises by seeking to prevent exploitative and abusive behaviour from being perpetrated and addressing the conditions that make women and children vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
The 'PSEA principles' outline the IASC core principles relating to sexual exploitation and abuse for all humanitarian practitioners. For all translations of the PSEA Principles, see here.