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Protection against sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA)

The involvement of humanitarian workers in acts of sexual exploitation and abuse is a grave violation of our responsibility to do no harm and to protect people affected by crises. OCHA is firmly committed to the global fight to eradicate sexual exploitation and abuse.

In line with the Secretary-General’s Bulletin “special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse” (ST/SGB/2003/13), OCHA has established clear structures and procedures for ensuring compliance with the zero-tolerance policy. Standard operating procedures are in place for submission and receipt of complaints, reporting, investigation and victim assistance. PSEA focal points have been established in OCHA offices at headquarters, regional and country levels, and all staff members receive training and information on preventing and responding to acts of sexual exploitation and abuse.

At the field level, Humanitarian Coordinators (HCs) are charged with ensuring that effective systems are in place for preventing and responding to acts of sexual exploitation and abuse, and OCHA provides support to HCs to this end. HCs’ responsibilities on PSEA are included in their annual compacts, and HCs report regularly to the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) on the matter. The topic is also a standing item in the HCs’ annual retreat.

As the Chair of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), the ERC plays a key role in propelling progress on PSEA across the humanitarian system. The IASC Principals have taken concrete measures to ensure action on the issue. The Chair’s Statement issued in June 2018 outlines further collective IASC commitments and actions to eradicate acts of sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarian personnel and to respond fully to incidents.

OCHA supports the IASC Champion on PSEA and Sexual Harassment in implementing priority actions through the network of IASC Senior Focal Points on PSEA. They meet bi-annually to assess individual organizations’ progress in combatting sexual exploitation and abuse. Priority actions include establishment of safe and accessible community-based reports mechanisms, ensuring that survivors have access to assistance, and field-based PSEA networks wherever humanitarian assistance is delivered.

OCHA is part of the IASC Task Team on Accountability to Affected Populations and Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. The Task Team, which brings together a wide range of stakeholders from across the humanitarian system, recently produced a PSEA Mapping of country-level networks and global initiatives.