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Equip and empower

As an agency with personnel operating in over 130 countries, working with more than a thousand partners globally, and engaging with millions of forcibly displaced and stateless people, a key priority is ensuring that all UNHCR and partner personnel are properly capacitated to mitigate the risks of, prevent, and respond to SEA and SH.

Equipping UNHCR personnel

All UNHCR personnel bear an individual responsibility to uphold the values of the organization and to contribute to a safe and respectful working environment. UNHCR management has the additional responsibility to mitigate the risks of sexual exploitation and sexual harassment, actively model a positive workplace culture, and be vigilant in monitoring abuses of authority and misuse of power. 

A key UNHCR priority is to ensure that personnel are adequately equipped to meet these responsibilities. To support these efforts, UNHCR offers a variety of innovative and engaging awareness-raising and learning activities, including:

  • support to operations to provide quality and standardized PSEA/SH training for their personnel;
  • the development of specialized training and tools on PSEA/SH for different functional groups, such as PSEA Focal Points, Peer Advisors, senior managers, and colleagues working in emergency, coordination, and other specialized functions;
  • ensuring that PSEA and SH learnings are mainstreamed and integrated into all relevant areas of UNHCR’s work.

This is complemented by supporting learning and capacity building for partners.

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All personnel must take a UN-wide mandatory e-learning course on preventing sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment as part of their onboarding and retake it once every three years starting from 2023. It is available in 19 languages.

In 2021, UNHCR launched an internal learning package on PSEA/SH to provide materials for interactive, engaging, high-quality all-staff training on addressing sexual misconduct. The Office of the Senior Coordinator on PSEA/SH has actively worked with regional PSEA focal points and in-country facilitators to support the global launch of this package, including through regional Training of Trainer workshops, one-to-one guidance and coaching to facilitators. 


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 1-day IASC Saying no to sexual misconduct package for UN partners.

UNHCR has developed a range of learning videos which can be used for training or discussion sessions with personnel, partners or other audiences. These videos are based on real testimonies and case study scenarios and are available in multiple languages. They aim to provide learners real-world scenarios, promote a deeper understanding of the link between power relations and sexual misconduct, and encourage self-reflection and increased empathy with victims.

The training was magnificent. I would recommend everybody to take this training as it is essential and important for the work we are involved in.

UNHCR training participant


The session clearly laid the groundwork on PSEA, giving participants a clear overview of the realities on the ground and the steps that need to be taken when it comes to instances of SEA in the field.

UNHCR training participant


Management and leadership

UNHCR also provides support to and develops tools for Representatives and senior management teams to promote their responsibility and engagement on the issue, including in clearly defining roles and responsibilities at the operational level and in holding dialogues on workplace culture.

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Content on addressing sexual misconduct is integrated into both UNHCR’s Workshop on Emergency Management and the Senior Emergency Learning Programme.

Examples of tools for managers include an internal operational checklist on PSEA/SH, an internal resources package including available tools on PSEA/SH, and initiatives developed as part of the High Commissioner for Refugees 2020 IASC Championship on PSEA/SH:


    Peer Advisors Network

    A global Peer Advisor Network, consisting of over 400 colleagues, is a point of contact in their respective offices for workplace grievances, ethical dilemmas, and psychosocial concerns, including sexual harassment.

    UNHCR’s Peer Advisors also facilitate training and retreats, perform Code of Conduct refresher sessions, and support team events and dialogue on values, ethics, respectful behaviour, conflict, staff health and well-being, and stress management. Each UNHCR operation has at least one Peer Advisor to provide support and information on available resources. One of the main components of the Peer Advisor Network training is focused on prevention and response to sexual harassment.

    Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) focal points

    UNHCR has over 400 PSEA focal points across 132 countries with specific responsibilities related to protection from sexual exploitation and abuse. They coordinate PSEA implementation in their locations and conduct training and awareness-raising activities for personnel, partners, and forcibly displaced and stateless people. They engage with partners to support their PSEA effort, particularly in coordination and prevention activities and ensuring that victims receive the multi-functional support they need.

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    A PSEA case conference tool was developed to facilitate peer-to-peer exchange among small groups of PSEA focal points, both UNHCR and external, to support these efforts.

    The session aims to stimulate dialogue on practical operational prevention and coordination efforts and responses to SEA cases. as well as identify promising practices and actions to improve the Organization’s overall approach and work in tackling sexual misconduct. This resource includes materials and a Facilitator's Guide for a 2-hour session.

    View the case study: Gouta


    Equipping partners

    A cornerstone of UNHCR’s work is engaging with affected communities, NGO partners, and governments as key partners in all areas of our work, including tackling sexual misconduct. Strong partnership with affected communities, in particular, is critical in increasing consultation, awareness raising, and dialogue with the people we serve and their host communities to support locally-led efforts aimed at risk mitigation, prevention, and response to victims of SEA.

    With over 1,000 partners globally, a key UNHCR priority is to support partners in strengthening their capacity to tackle sexual misconduct. This is achieved through the continuous development and adaptation of various tools and initiatives to support learning, awareness raising and outreach, and capacity strengthening to prevent and respond to SEA.

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    An interagency learning package for partners – Saying NO to Sexual Misconduct– was produced jointly with UNHCR, IOM, WFP and others to raise awareness among humanitarian workers on preventing, detecting, and responding to SEA and SH. 

    UNHCR’s mandatory PSEA e-learning course is also available to partner organizations through the DisasterReady platform. Partners can use it to ensure all their staff receive basic PSEA training. The course is available in 19 other languages via UNICEF’s Agora platform.

    Access the DisasterReady platform


    The E-Learning on Investigating Allegations of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (e-learning course for partners), a deliverable of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' IASC Championship on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment, was also developed to support partner capacity strengthening in a critical area.

    Community outreach and engagement

    The PSEA Community Outreach and Communication Fund was launched in 2020 in partnership with the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA)  as an initiative of the IASC High Commissioner’s Championship on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment.

    The Fund continues today and provides small-scale grants to local nongovernmental organizations to raise community awareness and ensure that victims know where and how to report incidents safely. By promoting efforts to respond to needs for effective and timely information, education and communication materials on PSEA tailored to local cultural contexts, operational realities, and the groups most at risk, the Fund is a crucial way to support UNHCR’s localization agenda.

    It is rooted in the recognition that local capacities and expertise and community-led efforts are essential to reinforce protection from sexual exploitation and abuse effectively.

    Partner capacity assessments

    A critical part of ensuring strong partnerships in the battle against sexual misconduct has been solid interagency engagement and contribution to developing the IASC PSEA Common Assessment Tool, which operationalizes the United Nations Protocol on Allegations of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Involving Implementing Partners. This tool streamlines and simplifies the assessment of the PSEA capacity of partner organizations.

    The tool outlines requirements for the UN and its partners to ensure adequate PSEA safeguards and appropriate actions. As of June 2023, the PSEA Module on the UN Partnership Protocol has been in use, providing a digitized joint assessment tool. By promoting a standard tool for capacity assessment, UNHCR, along with the UN and its implementing partners, benefit from increased transparency and timely information sharing, as well as reduced duplication of efforts. UN funds, agencies and programmes have the necessary assurance of partners’ organizational capacities on PSEA, in line with the minimum standards of the United Nations Protocol on Allegations of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Involving Implementing Partners.

    More than 80 per cent of UNHCR’s non-governmental partners with direct contact with communities have been assessed, with new partner capacity assessments taking place continuously. UNHCR also contributed to developing an interagency resource package, which includes technical guidance and resources and a repository of tools and good practices available on the UN Partner Portal.

    Organizational culture

    To equip and empower colleagues and partners to address root causes that give rise to sexual misconduct, UNHCR has taken a strong position in setting the tone on healthy organizational culture at the top through engaged leadership, open and transparent communication, and decisive action on tackling sexual misconduct as a critical priority. The organization developed various tools and products to promote and support discussion and dialogue around workplace culture and has integrated elements of it into the organization's reflective and experiential learning approach to training.

    As the 2020 IASC Champion on PSEA and SH, UNHCR produced an interagency Facilitators' Guide for Session on Values, Attitudes and Organizational Culture to support managers in holding dialogues to unpack issues around values, attitudes, unconscious bias, abuse of power, discrimination, and other themes.

    collection of promising practices on organizational culture change was also produced under the IASC Championship to showcase innovative work done by humanitarian and development organizations on various themes to curb power imbalances in the workplace that give rise to sexual misconduct and other forms of abuse.