The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General has given his highest priority to developing a system-wide approach to addressing both sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) and sexual harassment across the global UN system. The implementation of the United Nations Secretary-General’s comprehensive strategy to transform the system-wide response to sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) outlined in his 2017 report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse: A new approach1 will improve and strengthen the investigative capacity in SEA cases for the United Nations system. UN system entities are developing principles and guidelines concerning investigations to harmonize standards, align methods, ensure consistency and integrate a victim-centred approach.
In the field of sexual harassment in 2017, the United Nations System Chief Executives Board (CEB) for Coordination established a CEB Task Force on addressing sexual harassment within the organisations of the UN system (the ‘Task Force’), under the leadership of Ms. Jan Beagle, Under-Secretary-General for Management and Chair of the CEB’s High-Level Committee on Management. The strengthening of UN system investigative capacity has been identified by the CEB as a priority area for action, including through fast track procedures to receive, process and address complaints and by recruiting specialized investigators, especially women (see CEB Statement of 3 May 2018). The Task Force is working on measures to further enhance UN system-wide investigative capacity and improve the quality of investigations involving sexual harassment.
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) has also committed to accelerate action to improve and scale up investigatory response and capacity in the humanitarian sector. On 31 May 2018, IASC Principals iterated their commitment to collectively strengthen the humanitarian sector’s approach to preventing to SEA and sexual harassment and abuse against aid workers. They agreed on measures to strengthen the investigative capacity of agencies; share good practices on how IASC agencies prevent, investigate and respond to SEA and sexual harassment; and prevent perpetrators from moving through the sector (see Chair’s statement of 1 June 2018). The IASC established a US$1 million fund, managed by OCHA, to provide rapid grants to IASC entities to support investigations into SEA and sexual harassment allegations and to convene a meeting of the heads of their investigatory bodies to discuss challenges, how to address gaps, and further strengthen investigative capacities across the humanitarian sector.
The purpose of this meeting is to bring together the CEB Task Force, the IASC investigative bodies to consider how to work collectively to achieve enhanced capacity, harmonized and complementary approaches and cooperation. The meeting will also build on the ongoing work of the CEB Task Force and the IASC focused on strengthening investigative capacity , and the 8 October 2018 UN Representatives of Investigations Services (UN-RIS) meeting.