The High Commissioner's IASC Championship on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment

UNHCR’s fight against sexual misconduct is part of these broader efforts to eradicate sexual misconduct. Building on the progress already made, the High Commissioner has identified three priorities for his tenure:

The High Commissioner’s three priorities:

1. Bolstering prevention

Eradicating sexual misconduct requires a swift and robust response to any allegation. At the same time, resolute efforts are necessary to prevent such abuses from happening in the first place. We need to ensure that every colleague understands his/her role in preventing and responding to SEA and SH and that the people we serve are aware of their rights to access protection and assistance free from SEA.

2. Expanding safe spaces

It takes considerable courage for a victim/survivor to speak up and we must find every way possible to lighten this burden. This requires that we work together to address the many barriers to reporting, make a victim-centered approach not just a principle but a reality, and protect both survivors and witnesses.

3. Promoting a respectful use of authority

Sexual misconduct is rooted in imbalances of power. We need to reflect on how we use power and privilege and ensure that we create workplaces of respect and accountability, where misconduct is not tolerated, and where senior management communicates, embodies and enforces ethical standards.

Key initiatives under the High Commissioner’s priorities

To take these priorities forward, Filippo Grandi has outlined key initiatives in alignment with the IASC Championship Strategy which envisions “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, and in which aid workers themselves feel supported, respected and empowered to deliver such assistance in working environments free from sexual harassment.”

These initiatives include:

  • establishing a PSEA community outreach and communications fund for small grants to field-based NGOs
  • developing an interagency training package for partners on protection from sexual misconduct; and
  • establishing an e-learning on investigations for NGO partners
  • making the IASC commitment more visible, during the visits of Principals to the field;
  • facilitating the sharing of good practices and resources on improving workplace culture;
  • holding a session on values, culture and attitudes with IASC Principals;

Key achievements under the High Commissioner’s championship so far

  1. Launch of the Interagency Community Outreach and Communications Fund on PSEA (April 2020)

The Fund will provide rapid, targeted financial support to NGOs to develop and disseminate PSEA outreach and communications materials, to strengthen community awareness of PSEA issues and reporting channels.  The materials will be available to all IASC members for further use or adaptation.

For more information, please consult the brochure or go to the IASC website.

  1. Launch of the IASC Learning Package on Protection from Sexual Misconduct for UN partner organizations (May 2020)

‘Saying No to Sexual Misconduct’ is an interactive and innovative learning package that aims to equip IASC partner staff with awareness and skills to define, detect and respond to sexual misconduct.

This one-day in-person training uses case studies, testimonies, group discussions, creative team and role-play activities, powerful videos and thought-provoking questions to promote dialogue and learning.

The contents are based on an IOM learning package on protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. Working closely with WFP and UNHCR, IOM coordinated the adaptation of the package into an interagency product, expanded to include Sexual Harassment. This product is one of the initiatives undertaken by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi as an IASC Champion on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment. Other contributors include UNICEF, OCHA, NRC, ICVA and CHS. Field validation was conducted in Gaziantep, Turkey in February 2020

Together with IOM and WFP , and facilitated by the IASC, we will be holding a series of webinars to familiarize key stakeholders with this tool and help them make adjustments to support virtual delivery in the current context.

More information

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the High Commissioner’s tenure has been extended and will now run until the end of 2020.

Many of the initiatives highlighted above – particularly those which focus on risk mitigation and prevention – are more important than ever in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many may assume that SEA would decline as fears of human contact increase, evidence indicates that SEA risks during public health emergencies may escalate, as document in the response to the Ebola virus disease. Moreover the economic and social impact of COVID-19 is particularly felt by women and girls, creating even greater risks of sexual violence, including SEA.

UNHCR is fully engaged in IASC efforts to support the field in addressing the particular challenges in tackling SEA in the current context. Read the IASC Note on PSEA during the COVID-19 Response, which sets out priority measures for immediate implementation.

Useful links