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Equip and empower

Image above: UNHCR designed trainings in Protection of Internally Displaced Persons including training on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse. Mozambique.

Empowering personnel

Each UNHCR employee has an individual responsibility to uphold the values of our organization as well as a collective responsibility to contribute to a safe and respectful working environment. UNHCR Management has the additional responsibility to mitigate risks of SEA and SH, actively model organizational culture change and be vigilant in monitoring abuses of authority. 

Equipping UNHCR and Partner Personnel

To support these efforts UNHCR offers a variety of learning opportunities to empower personnel in the prevention of and response to sexual misconduct, from self-paced online courses, to face-to-face and virtual live sessions, and integrating the prevention and response to sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment (PSEA/SH) as a cross-cutting issue in other thematic learning programmes. This is complemented by supporting learning and capacity building for partners.

UNHCR Management and Leadership

Management training courses include a focus on how to create and lead an inclusive and respectful work environment, with specific modules on the prevention of sexual misconduct. Specific learning programmes for Senior Leadership and Emergency Management have also been developed.

The “Reflective Leadership Dialogues” provide inspiration and support to UNHCR managers at all grades and levels, and foster individual and joint reflection and learning on unconscious bias, race, gender, inclusion, power dynamics, empowerment, toxic environment, and harassment, sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment. The participants discuss how these notions affect their work environment, what role they play both as individuals and as managers, as well as make concrete plans for individual and team level actions. It focuses on their contribution to a culture shift towards more trustful, safe, open, inclusive, respectful, equitable and accountable work environments. Some activities of this learning activity include:

  • self-reflection (participants are provided with thought-provoking articles, videos and other materials; activities, assignments, short e-learnings);
  • discussions and exchanges (participants take part in group and plenary conversations, leading to self-reflection and stimulating action);
  • developing and implementing an action plan (participants are provided with individual coaching sessions and access to a community of practice).

Further initiatives were developed as part of the High Commissioner for Refugees’ IASC Championship on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment, such as a communications package for managers, a collection of promising practices on organizational culture change and a facilitator's guide on values, attitudes and culture.
Further information about these resources can be found here.

UNHCR delivered trainings including modules on PSEA to different local actors who provide direct support to Internally Displaced Persons in the Nampula Province, Mozambique.

© UNHCR Jorge Palamussa

UNHCR Personnel

All personnel are required to take two mandatory e-learning courses on the prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment as part of on-boarding of new colleagues, but also as refresher for other members of personnel.

UNHCR supported UNICEF in updating the mandatory PSEA e-learning course which will replace the widely used mandatory UN e-learning. The improved course has been translated in 9 languages. 

In addition, at the end of 2021, the Office of the Senior Coordinator on the Prevention and Response to SEA/SH launched a PSEA/SH learning package which is an interactive and innovative programme that aims to develop the skills, knowledge and behaviour of all members of UNHCR personnel (staff, affiliate workforce and interns) to define, detect, prevent and respond to sexual misconduct. The training uses participatory and experiential learning methodologies, including case studies, real testimonies, group discussions, creative team and role-play activities, powerful videos, and thought-provoking questions to promote dialogue and learning. The contents have been developed specifically for UNHCR internal use, and are consistent with the style and approach of the IASC Saying No to Sexual Misconduct package for UN partners.

A global Peer Advisor network, consisting of 400 colleagues, act as a point of contact in their respective offices for workplace grievances, ethical dilemmas and psychosocial concerns, including sexual harassment. These Peer Advisors also facilitate retreats, perform Code of Conduct refresher sessions, and support team events and dialogue on purpose, values, ethics, respectful behaviour, conflict, staff health and well-being, personal resilience and stress management. 

PSEA Focal Points

UNHCR has a network of 400 protection and other colleagues in our operations across 132 countries with specific focal point responsibilities related to the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse. They coordinate PSEA implementation in their locations, including carrying out training and awareness-raising activities in the field for personnel, partners, refugees and persons of concern, engaging with partners’ to support their PSEA efforts, and together with partners, ensuring that victims receive multi-functional support.

To support these efforts, the Office of the Senior Coordinator on the Prevention and Response to SEA/SH developed a webinar through guided peer to peer exchange and facilitated analysis of existing operational measures. Specifically, the objectives of the webinar are:

  1. to stimulate in-depth practical discussion on our actual operational responses to SEA cases and on our SEA prevention and coordination work;
  2. to learn from each other (identify promising practices);
  3. to identify actions to improve PSEA prevention and response in each operation.

Gouta Case Study picture

As part of the Facilitators Guide, participants jointly analyse a SEA case study introduced by this short video.

Watch the video here


An interagency learning package for partners – Saying NO to Sexual Misconduct- was produced jointly with IOM, WFP and others, to raise awareness among humanitarian workers on how to prevent, detect, and respond to SEA and SH. This innovative, experiential learning package is available in English, Spanish, French, Arabic and Portuguese.

The PSEA e-learning course which is mandatory for all UNHCR personnel, is also made available to partner organizations through the DisasterReady platform and can be used by partners to ensure all their staff receive basic PSEA training. The course is available in 9 other languages via UNICEF’s Agora platform.

The E-Learning on Investigating Allegations of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (e-learning course for partners is one of the deliverables of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees´ IASC Championship on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment, and closely aligns with his commitment to support partners and working jointly to enhance capacity and accountability.

A collection of promising practices on organizational culture change, available to partners, showcases innovative work done by humanitarian and development organizations on a range of themes to curb power imbalances in the workplace that give rise to sexual misconduct and other forms of abuse.

UNHCR also helped develop the IASC PSEA Common Assessment Tool to streamline and simplify the assessment of the PSEA capacity of partners organizations. The tool outlines requirements for the UN and its partners to ensure adequate PSEA safeguards and appropriate actions. By promoting a common capacity assessment, the UN and its implementing partners will benefit from increased transparency and reduced processes. UN funds, agencies and programmes will have the necessary assurance of partners’ organizational capacities on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and will provide a common baseline for the UN and partners, in line with the minimum standards of the United Nations Protocol on Allegations of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Involving Implementing Partners.