Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

In times of crisis, community protection systems are disrupted, and displaced populations become increasingly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse. These abuses can even be committed by people serving under the United Nations flag, including staff members, partners, vendors and security personnel.

UNFPA recognizes that these abuses are a betrayal of humanitarian workers’ responsibility to protect and assist survivors of crises. With its partners, UNFPA is working to end these violations through a range of actions known as “protection from sexual exploitation and abuse” (PSEA).

UNFPA, and the rest of the United Nations, are working to strengthen and improve system-wide PSEA efforts. A new strategy released by the UN Secretary-General in 2017 aims to “bring this scourge to heel.” The strategy focuses on putting victims first, ending impunity for violators, engaging civil society and external partners, and raising awareness about sexual exploitation and abuse. 

UNFPA is working collaboratively with other UN agencies and partners, including through multi-agency committees, to expand and strengthen our ability to prevent and respond to all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse. 

Standards of conduct for UNFPA staff

UNFPA staff and all affiliated personnel must uphold the highest standards of professional and personal conduct at all times. Sexual exploitation and abuse is grave misconduct; all complaints will be investigated. Disciplinary measures include termination and referral for prosecution. 

UNFPA staff and affiliated personnel are strictly prohibited from engaging in:

  • Any act of sexual exploitation or abuse, or other form of sexually humiliating, degrading or exploitative behavior;
  • Sexual activity with children (persons under the age of 18) regardless of the local age of majority or consent. Belief that a child is above the age of consent is not an acceptable excuse;
  • Sexual activity with anyone in exchange for money, food, employment, goods (including programme supplies) or services, including any exchange of assistance due to beneficiaries;
  • Sexual activity with prostitutes, whether or not prostitution is legal in the host country; and
  • Use of a child or adult to procure sexual activities for others.

Staff training and reporting requirements 

All UNFPA staff and affiliated personnel must take part in a mandatory online training on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Additionally, UNFPA staff and affiliated personnel are obligated to immediately report allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse to the Office of Audit and Investigation Services through the confidential reporting tools available there, including the online reporting form.

Learn more about the work of the United Nations on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.
Watch a video about the organization’s commitment to protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.

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