UNHCR Complaints Mechanism

UNHCR provides a trusting, respectful and inclusive environment in which the people we serve must feel safe, heard and empowered to speak up for themselves and others, and to take strong and visible action, as appropriate, to eliminate misconduct and /or sexual exploitation and abuse by UN workers.

Anyone who has concerns or suspicions about possible sexual misconduct, exploitation and abuse by a UNHCR official, member of UN staff or anyone with UN ties (e.g. staff of a UNHCR partner NGO), regardless of position, should report such concerns.

Below is some information on how to proceed if you, or someone you know, faces or has faced any type of misconduct and/or sexual exploitation and abuse by UN workers

What is misconduct?

All UN staff members are required to comply with the UN Staff Rules and Regulations. Misconduct is defined as a member of staff failing to comply with these rules.

Possible misconduct may include:

  • Sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of persons of interest;
  • Fraud (for example, forgery of a document);
  • Corruption (for example, accepting money from refugees or others);
  • Theft and embezzlement (for example, theft of equipment or money);
  • Harassment;
  • Attacks, threats or retaliation;
  • Acts or behavior that discredits UNHCR;
  • Failure to comply with local laws.

UNHCR staff and partner organizations are strictly prohibited from:

  • Engage in any sexual conduct with another person in exchange for money, employment, preferential treatment, goods or services;
  • Engage in any sexual conduct with a person under the age of 18;
  • Engaging in any sexual conduct with those persons for whom services are provided and for whom a protection mandate exists;
  • Engage in any humiliating, degrading or exploitative sexual practices.

At UNHCR, we take allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse very seriously.

We will independently and confidentially investigate them, and steps will be taken to prevent their recurrence.

You can report it to a UNHCR office or partner organization anywhere and they will listen to you and follow up on your report.

Your safety will always be considered when following up on a complaint or allegation.

The person you report to will be able to advise you and help you with any support you may need for assistance.

Investigations will be carried out by an independent person and action will be taken against service providers if they are found guilty of inappropriate behavior.

What is sexual exploitation and abuse?

Sexual exploitation and abuse are situations where humanitarian workers abuse their position of power or the trust of refugees, asylum seekers or migrants to obtain favors or sexual relations.

Offering money, shelter, food or other goods or services to anyone in a vulnerable position in exchange for sex or sexual favors is sexual exploitation.

The threat, use of force or intimidation to engage in sexual intercourse or to obtain sexual favors from anyone in a position of unequal power is sexual abuse .

How to recognize a victim of sexual exploitation or abuse

You or someone you know:

  • Have you been forced or asked to exchange sex or perform any action of a sexual nature in exchange for assistance, food, shelter, money or any other type of help?
  • Have you been forced by someone from UNHCR or a partner organization to have sex or perform any other act of a sexual nature?
  • Have you been threatened by someone from UNHCR or a partner organization to engage in sexual intercourse or any other act of a sexual nature?
  • Do you know or are you a person under the age of 18 who has had or been invited to have sexual relations of any kind with someone from UNHCR or a partner organisation?

If you answered yes to any of the above options, you or someone you know may be a victim of sexual exploitation and abuse – report it!

When reporting, please describe in detail the information you have about the incident, including: What happened, who committed the possible act, where and when did it happen? Be as detailed as possible.

Reporting sexual abuse and exploitation by UNHCR humanitarian workers or their partners

  • You have the right to file a complaint or report personally, anonymously or on behalf of another person;
  • You can contact a person trusted by UNHCR, or a partner organization , and say that you wish to file a report of misconduct and/or sexual exploitation and abuse by an agent of the organization or its partners. UNHCR will act immediately and follow the case closely until its conclusion;
  • You can send an email to [email protected] reporting the situation suffered by you or people close to you;
  • If you are in Boa Vista, you can write to the UNHCR Suggestion Box in the city at [email protected] ;
  • You can leave your complaint in one of the complaint/suggestion boxes at UNHCR offices, partners or shelters;
  • You can contact the Office of the Inspector General (IGO) at UNHCR Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland directly by:
    Email: [email protected]
    Confidential fax: (+41 22) 739 7380
    Online form: https:// www.unhcr.org/igo-complaints.html

Please remember:

  • Your report will be CONFIDENTIAL;
  • When making your report, your safety will always be considered;
  • Reporting an incident or raising concerns will NOT prevent you from receiving assistance and support and will not prevent services from being provided;
  • The person you report to, or whoever receives the report, will be able to advise and assist you with any immediate safety, security, health and legal needs. Be sure to leave your contact details;
  • If the investigation establishes the facts, serious disciplinary action will be taken against the offender.