Partnerships in Practice: Building Capacity to Protect Against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

Collaboration between agencies on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) prevention and response is a necessary part of the fight to eradicate this scourge from all of our operations. IOM, the UN Migration Agency, like many other agencies, has committed to participating in joint efforts in the fight against SEA. As a global leader in protection against sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA), IOM is working with partners to share good practices and lessons learned to support these joint in-country PSEA initiatives. The goal is to work with PSEA Networks to offer context-specific guidance on how all the agencies working in their response site can collaborate on SEA prevention and response so that PSEA activities are effective and people are protected.

The project will roll out the PSEA Toolkit launched in New York in September and shared by IOM Director General William Lacy Swing to all missions in October 2016. These PSEA tools were developed through a project to pilot joint mechanisms designed to receive and refer complaints – including SEA – and discover good practices toward establishing such mechanisms in all emergency response sites. IOM coordinated the project on behalf of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), and partnered with UNHCR in Ethiopia and Save the Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now more than a full year after that project has finished, these joint mechanisms are still active, and the lessons learned there have been instrumental in building the guidance now being offered in the PSEA toolkit. The toolkit builds off discussions among staff implementing the pilot project during a Best Practices Workshop in Kigali in 2015, as well as the experiences from PSEA Networks in Haiti, Kenya, Iraq, and Thailand.

IOM conducts an orientation workshop for local partners in Capiz on Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA). Photo: IOM / Alan Motus 2015

The tools are appropriate for all agencies working together in-country. IOM is working with in-country networks, offering tailored assistance on how best their response site can establish and/or strengthen their inter-agency coordination on PSEA. Country-specific assistance can include, among other things: complaint and feedback structure mapping so that joint efforts are streamlined rather than duplicative, setting up referral pathways to victim assistance services and establishing an inter-agency complaint mechanism.

Spotlight on Inter-Agency Community-Based Complaint Mechanisms (CBCMs): A CBCM is a mechanism for receiving complaints from beneficiaries that is designed based on the input of the affected community and allows reports (including SEA) to be made safely and confidentially. Current examples include the mechanisms established during the IASC Pilot Project in North Kivu (DRC) and Melkadida Refugee Camp (Ethiopia). The inter-agency aspect of a CBCM makes reporting simpler for beneficiaries who may not know the agency that employs their abuser. The joint mechanism also ensures that the complaint will be referred to the appropriate agency for follow up and potential investigation. Because of the proven efficiency of inter-agency CBCMs, humanitarian staff can expect them to become increasingly common in the future.


To build capacity, IOM is now offering a 3-Day training on establishing CBCMs at the request of interested in-country PSEA Networks and Humanitarian Country Teams. IOM is partnering with the PSEA Network in Iraq, led by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), to roll out the first training in May 2017. The second training will be in Malawi, partnering with the Protection Cluster led by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), and will coincide with the launch of their PSEA Network. Discussions are on-going with five additional networks and partners, with the goal of conducting seven trainings by September 2017. Additional technical assistance will be offered to in-country teams on request throughout the project, in coordination with the IASC Task Team on Accountability to Affected Populations and PSEA.

To learn more about joint PSEA initiatives, contact