What is Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by humanitarian workers?

Exploitation and Sexual Abuse are situations in which the workers of the United Nations System abuse their position of power, the trust or position of the vulnerability of refugees, asylum seekers, forcibly displaced persons, or those in need of international protection, to Obtain sexual relations or favors or benefits from the Sexual Exploitation of another person.

Sexual Exploitation is defined as any Abuse committed or threat of Abuse in a situation of vulnerability, the relationship of unequal strength or trust, for Sexual purposes, although not exclusively limited to them, of taking advantage materially, socially, or politically of the Exploitation Sex of another person.

Sexual Abuse is defined as any physical intrusion committed or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force, under unequal conditions, or coercion.

UNHCR staff and partner organizations are strictly prohibited from:

  • Maintain any type of sexual conduct with another person in exchange for money, employment, preferential treatment, goods, or services.
  • Maintain any type of sexual conduct with a person under 18 years of age.
  • Maintain any type of sexual conduct with those people to whom services, assistance, and/or with respect to whom there is a protection mandate are provided.
  • Engaging in any sexual practice that is humiliating, degrading, or involves any type of exploitation.


At UNHCR, we take allegations of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse very seriously. All reports will be investigated independently and confidentially, and steps will be taken to prevent a recurrence.

You can report your complaint and/or complaint to a UNHCR office or to a partner organization, they should listen to you and follow up on your complaint.

Your safety will always be taken into account when following up on a complaint or report.

The person to whom you communicate will be able to advise you and help you with the support and/or legal, psychological, medical, or security assistance that you need.

If you or someone you know:

  • Were you forced or asked to exchange sex or perform any action of a sexual nature in exchange for assistance, food, shelter, money, or any other kind of help?
  • Have you been forced by someone from UNHCR or a partner organization to have sex or to do any other act of a sexual nature?
  • Have you been threatened by someone from UNHCR or a partner organization for sex 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 asked to have sexual relations, of any kind, with someone from UNHCR or a partner organization?

If you have answered yes to any of the options above, you or the person you know could be a victim of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. Report it!

How to file a complaint or report?

You can send your complaint to:
Email: [email protected]
Or you can call:
Telephone: 2316-2500 extension 6

When filing the report, please describe the information you have about the incident, including:

  • What happened?
  • Who committed the act?
  • Where and when did the events occur?

Try to provide all the information you have at the moment. Remember that you should not investigate.
Investigations will be carried out by an independent person and action will be taken against any humanitarian worker, including service providers if they are found guilty of inappropriate behavior.

You also have the right to submit the report or complaint personally, anonymously or on behalf of another person.

You can tell a trusted person from UNHCR or from a partner organization (who also has mechanisms and channels to receive complaints or reports) that you want to report any suspicion and/or file a complaint of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, later, an official will contact you to follow up.

In addition, you can directly contact the Office of the Inspector General (IGO) at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

Email: [email protected]
Confidential fax: (+41 22) 739 7380
Online form: https://www.unhcr.org/igo-complaints.html


  • Your report will be CONFIDENTIAL.
  • When making the report, your safety will always be taken into account.
  • Reporting an incident or raising concerns will NOT prevent you from receiving assistance and support, and will not stop the provision of services.
  • The person to whom you have informed or who receives the complaint should advise you and help you with any immediate need for safety, protection, health, and legal guidance. Be sure to leave your contact details.
  • If the investigation determines that the complaint is substantiated, serious disciplinary action will be taken against the aggressor.