UNHCR plays a very active role in interagency efforts on PSEA and SH (protection from sexual exploitation, abuse, and sexual harassment), notably in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and its various fora, the UN Executive Group on Prevention and Response to Sexual Harassment—formerly the Chief Executives Board Task Force on Addressing Sexual Harassment in the UN System (CEB Task Force).
The organization works very closely with both the Office of the Special Coordinator on Improving the United Nations Response to SEA (OSC SEA) in the UN system and the Office of the Victims Rights Advocate.
Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) engagement
UNHCR plays a critical role in various IASC fora, lending field expertise and guidance to policy development and providing technical advice and guidance.
UNHCR has provided support to the IASC in ensuring that significant scale field presence and lessons learned on tackling sexual misconduct helped to inform the IASC’s 2021 External Review of PSEA/SH and the subsequent Vision and Strategy 2022-2026 developed, as well as the work plan of the IASC Technical Advisory Group on PSEAH (TAG). UNHCR has been contributing to various focus areas under the IASC Vision and Strategy and the TAG work, including the adoption of an IASC definition and principles of a victim/survivor-centred approach as a co-lead with the IASC Champion on PSEAH and in developing guidance on interagency SEA referral procedures.
UN Executive Group on Prevention and Response to Sexual Harassment
In 2024, the UN Executive Group on Prevention and Response to Sexual Harassment, chaired by UNICEF, succeeded the CEB Task Force to ensure a coordinated UN approach to tackling sexual harassment. HCR played an active role in all three phases of the CEB Task Force’s mandate, chaired by Deputy High Commissioner Kelly Clements. UNHCR engaged in numerous workstreams, including leadership and culture, learning, and a victim-centred approach.
Special Coordinator on improving the UN response to SEA (OSC SEA) engagement
UNHCR works in close collaboration with the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator on improving the UN response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.
Working with the Victims’ Rights Advocate
UNHCR works closely with the UN Victims’ Rights Advocate (VRA), notably through collaboration concerning the development of policy and guidance, including providing extensive input to the UN Victim Assistance Protocol, the corresponding Technical Note led by UNICEF, and the Victims’ Rights Statement.
At the technical level, UNHCR actively participates in the SEA Working Group coordinated by OSC SEA and regularly engages in various UN system-wide PSEA-related initiatives, including the sharing of training and learning materials, the development and implementation of the UN Implementing Partner PSEA Capacity Assessment, and completion of the annual SEA perceptions survey administered by the OSC. UNHCR has also worked closely with the OSC SEA in developing the UN Guidance Note on Information Sharing on SEA Allegations for field operations.
High Commissioner Filippo Grandi’s IASC Champion on PSEA and SH
As the 2020 IASC Champion on PSEA and SH, UNHCR led efforts to develop interagency tools to strengthen efforts around tackling sexual misconduct. This included training for partners, such as the Saying No to Sexual Misconduct learning package and developing an e-learning for investigations.
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Focus was also on developing initiatives to support IASC leaders to address the root causes of sexual misconduct through dialogue and engagement in organizational culture, including through the development of a communications package for IASC Principals, the development of a Facilitators' Guide for Sessions on Values, Attitudes and Organizational Culture (with which the High Commissioner held a closed-door session with IASC Principals to unpack underlying elements of power and gender differentials), and the publication of IASC Promising Practices on Organizational Culture Change.
In addition, UNHCR and the International Council for Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), established a PSEA Community Outreach and Communication Fund, which continues to run today in its third phase. This Fund has received financial support from the Governments of Germany and the United Kingdom.