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Making zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse a reality

27 Sep 2018


In 2017, the United Nations Secretary-General launched a new strategy to prevent and end sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations personnel (A/71/818).  A major element of this new approach was the creation of a Circle of Leadership on the prevention of and response to sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations operations (CoL) made up of global leaders who actively support this agenda.

The CoL represents a clear Members’ commitment to end impunity, to strengthen measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, to respond rapidly and decisively to credible reports of such acts, and to meet the needs of victims quickly and appropriately. It also provides the global high-level political support necessary for success.  On 18 September 2017, the CoL was formally established by the Secretary-General at the High-level Meeting on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.  As of 26 September 2018, 69 sitting and former heads of State/Government are Members of the Circle of Leadership.

Yesterday, at the high-level event on Preventing Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Sexual Harassment in the Humanitarian Sector, USG Lowcock stressed that fighting the scourge of sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment is an absolute top priority for the UN Secretary-General, and presented a four-part strategy for inside the UN’s action:

  1. Putting the people who suffer from this scourge first.
  2. Ending impunity.
  3. Engaging civil society and external partners.
  4. Improving communications for education and transparency.

"This is a sector-wide challenge we face", USG Lowcock stressed, "every big organization, institution and part of society has this problem. But we also have it in the humanitarian sector. And, so one of the things we have been doing is taking our action beyond the UN family because this is a problem that affects us all and which needs to be tackled collectively."

Collective Statement

Today, 48 Members of the Secretary-General’s Circle of Leadership on the Prevention of and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in United Nations Operations, and 21 United Nations Entities joined him in issuing a “Collective Statement” to reaffirm their continued personal commitment as global leaders to support efforts to combat sexual exploitation and abuse across the United Nations system.

The Statement is a recognition of the shared responsibility of the UN and its Member States to protect victims and whistle-blowers and take appropriate action against perpetrators. It is also a pledge to continue joint efforts to "elevate the rights and dignity of victims and expand opportunities and modalities for them to report sexual exploitation and abuse and advocate for their own needs".

Read the full Statement.