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Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA): IOM Awareness-Raising and Reporting Procedures

Last updated: 21 Oct 2022


This section outlines the IOM Policy and Procedures for Preventing and Responding to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (IN/234), including the new Internal Governance Framework, mandatory awareness-raising training, and reporting procedures.

All IOM staff members1 are expected and required to:

  • Understand what sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) is;
  • Engage in behaviour that respects and fosters the rights of beneficiaries; and,
  • Report in good faith any SEA allegations, concerns or suspicions, or retaliation related to SEA.

In 2019, IOM launched a new PSEA training package that is mandatory for all IOM personnel. As part of the new Internal Governance Framework and a new approach to PSEA and reporting, IOM launched the We Are All In platform. We Are All In is available in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish and includes both a confidential reporting form open to the public, as well as an internal section with awareness raising materials on all types of misconduct. All PSEA in-person training materials are also hosted on We Are All In.

Reporting misconduct is mandatory in IOM. When PSEA focal points (or any other IOM personnel, partner, or beneficiary) receive any SEA report or complaint from any source, including from the local referral complaint mechanism, they should promptly submit a duly completed and confidential SEA report to the We Are All In platform. If the complaint is retaliation-related, colleagues can contact the Ethics and Conduct office at eco@iom.int.

While Chiefs of Missions are responsible for victim assistance, missions must not investigate allegations, as all investigations are done by the Office of the Inspector General. Those who are not trained to provide victim assistance should not attempt to do so to avoid causing further harm and must rely on the expertise of their specialized colleagues.


In line with the United Nations Secretary-General's Bulletin, "Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse" and with IOM's internal policies and frameworks, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse are understood2 as summarized in the illustration below.

IOM's PSEA commitments include inter-agency coordination working to eradicate SEA. For more information on the Organization's inter-agency efforts, see the Inter-Agency Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) entry. The Gender Coordination Unit also adapted its 2019 PSEA training for Implementing Partners (contractors) for inter-agency use. The training, "Saying No to Sexual Misconduct", can now be found on the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) website in AR-EN-ES-FR.

IOM's Policies and Standards

For a timeline on PSEA at IOM, see the Gender Coordination Unit's intranet page on PSEA.

The IOM Standards of Conduct3 (IN/15/Rev.1), paragraph 5.42, states:


IOM staff members shall provide humanitarian assistance and services in a manner that respects and fosters the rights of beneficiaries. For this reason and because there is often an inherent and important power differential in the interactions between staff members and beneficiaries, IOM strongly discourages staff members from having any sexual relationships with beneficiaries.

In addition, IOM staff members shall protect against and prevent sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (SEA) of beneficiaries. Abusive and exploitative sexual activities with beneficiaries are absolutely prohibited.

In order to protect the most vulnerable populations and to ensure the integrity of IOM's activities, the following specific standards shall be followed:

1. Exchange of money, employment, goods, assistance or services for sex, including sexual favours or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behaviour, is prohibited.

2. Sexual activity with children (persons under the age of 18) is prohibited, regardless of the age of majority or age of consent locally. Mistaken belief regarding the age of a child is not a defence. This prohibition shall not apply if the IOM staff member is legally married to someone under the age of 18 but over the age of majority or consent in both the IOM staff member and spouse's country of citizenship.

3. Sexual relationships between staff members who deliver professional health services directly to beneficiaries and such beneficiaries are prohibited.

Using the services of prostitutes or sex workers is prohibited, regardless of the legal status of prostitution in the laws of the IOM staff members' home country or duty stations. This prohibition extends to the use of prostitution outside working hours, including while on Rest & Recuperation and home leave. The above-mentioned acts are not intended to be an exhaustive list. The above mentioned acts as well as other types of sexually exploitive or sexually abusive behaviour constitute serious misconduct and, as such, are grounds for disciplinary measures, including summary dismissal.


All IOM staff members, particularly managers, are obliged to create and maintain an environment that prevents SEA. The failure of IOM staff members to appropriately prevent or follow-up on claims of SEA, may be reflected in the staff members' performance appraisal and constitute grounds for disciplinary measures.

IN/2344 includes specific instructions on how staff members, supervisors and PSEA Focal Points can report SEA allegations, concerns or suspicions or relation related to SEA. It also provides for the possibility of the establishment of a local complaint referral mechanism, so that non-IOM staff members (e.g. beneficiaries) can report or complain about SEA or retaliation related to SEA.

However, it is important to note that since the adoption of the new Internal Governance Framework, all reports must be made via the We Are All In platform, including reports from non-IOM personnel (partners, beneficiaries, if possible – if not possible, please encourage beneficiaries to continue using Community Based Complaints Mechanisms, etc.) which gives a direct link to the Office of the Inspector General.

This new pathway provides a direct link to the Office of the Inspector General and is quicker and safer than before, and even includes the possibility of making anonymous reports.


Every IOM staff member shall:

  1. Read and ensure that they understand IN/234;
  2. Report in good faith SEA allegations, concerns or suspicions or retaliation related to SEA that they have witnessed, or know of, by other IOM staff members, employees or other personnel of IOM Contractors, any other person working on IOM projects, or by people employed by or working for other organizations as stated in Part B of IN/234;
  3. Cooperate fully with those responsible for investigating a report or complaint about SEA;
  4. Ensure that confidentiality and the IOM Data Protection Principles (IN/138) are respected;
  5. Complete the mandatory in-person PSEA training. Revised materials (2019) necessary to host a training session for IOM Personnel are available on the We Are All In platform and for Implementing Parts on the IASC website.
  6. The failure to complete this training may, where appropriate, be reflected in a staff evaluation and in internal audits.


The failure of IOM staff members to comply with IN/234 may result in disciplinary measures in accordance with Unified Staff Regulation 10 or alternative measures.

Directors and Heads of Regional Offices and Administrative Centres, Chiefs of Mission in Country Offices, Heads of Office and Directors of departments and offices at Headquarters shall, within their area of responsibility:

  1. Serve as focal points for the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse ("PSEA focal point"), who will inform IOM staff members under their supervision of the contents of IN/234, remind them of IOM's zero tolerance policy for SEA at every appropriate opportunity, and ensure that their staff receive a copy of IN/234;
  2. Act as role models in making every reasonable effort to create and maintain an environment that assists in preventing SEA by IOM staff members;
  3. Take appropriate action upon receipt of any report or complaint about SEA allegations, concerns or suspicions or retaliation related to SEA, as stated in Part B of IN/234;
  4. Raise awareness about the We Are All In platform to report misconducts for all staff and non-staff (including but not limited to partners, contractors, and beneficiaries) who have access to the internet and can submit complaints in Arabic, English, French, or Spanish.
  5. Create, maintain and raise awareness about the local complaint referral mechanism for non-IOM staff members, as set forth in paragraph 27 of IN/234;
  6. Ensure that each agreement signed with an IOM Contractor includes the IOM standard clause on PSEA (see Annex 2 of IN/234), or receive approval from the Gender Coordination Unit if the standard clause cannot be used owing to exceptional circumstances; Implementing partners (contractors) can be trained using the interagency package "Saying No to Sexual Misconduct ".
  7. Ensure that all IOM staff members under their supervision participate in available training on PSEA and related issues on a regular and timely basis and as needed. Contact the Gender Coordination Unit (gcu@iom.int) for support in the delivery of regular PSEA training sessions;
  8. Take reasonable steps to prevent and monitor SEA-related retaliation against and by all IOM staff members under their supervision;
  9. Discuss PSEA, as appropriate, as part of the Staff Evaluation System process.


For more guidance and information, see the following resources:

Relevance to IOM’s Emergency Operations

IOM staff members engaged in emergency operations are often in close or direct contact with some of the most vulnerable beneficiaries, and therefore should be particularly aware of IOM's PSEA Policy (IN/234), follow the mandatory PSEA in-person training, and be familiar with the reporting procedures currently in place.

In-country networks to coordinate on PSEA activities between agencies are becoming increasingly common in humanitarian responses, and IOM offices are committed to participating. For more detail, see the Inter-Agency Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) page.


For more information on PSEA at the institutional level, awareness-raising, training materials, for support to organize training sessions, or the We Are All In platform: Gender Coordination Unit (GCU): gcu@iom.int.

For more information on reporting: Office of the Inspector General (OIG): oigintake@iom.int.

For more information on retaliation: Ethics and Conduct Office (ECO): ECO@iom.int.

Key Points

  • IOM has a policy of zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by IOM staff members and the employees or any other persons engaged and controlled by IOM Contractors.
  • Sexual exploitation means any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, power differential, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.
  • Sexual abuse means the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions.
  • All IOM staff members are required to take the mandatory IOM PSEA Awareness-Raising Training.
  • All IOM staff members have a duty to report in good faith any SEA allegations, concerns or suspicions, or retaliation related to SEA through the We Are All In reporting platform.
  • SEA of affected populations constitutes gross misconduct and can result in disciplinary action, including summary dismissal and referral for criminal prosecution, where appropriate.

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