Prevention and Response to Sexual Misconduct
All forms of sexual harassment and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) are unacceptable and are prohibited in UNDP, whether perpetrated against a recipient of assistance or a coworker. Sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse violate human rights and are a betrayal of the core values of the United Nations. It is our collective priority to prevent such behaviours and to support those affected. We are also committed to ensure that all allegations of sexual harassment and SEA are responded to swiftly, appropriately and effectively.
Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
Sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) refers to all forms of inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature committed by UN personnel against recipients of assistance and other members of local communities. Prohibited conduct includes, but is not limited to:
- Sexual activity with a child (a person under the age of 18). A mistaken belief that the child is over 18 is no defense. Even in a country where the age of majority or the age of consent is lower than 18, all UNDP staff and other personnel are forbidden to have sexual activity with anyone under the age of 18.
- Exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex or sexual favors. This includes any exchange of money, food, employment, goods, assistance, or services for sex or sexual favors.
- Sexual activity with prostitutes, even when it is legal in the country.
- Using a child or adult to procure sex for others.
Sexual harassment occurs between personnel in the workplace and is defined as “any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favour, verbal or physical conduct or gesture of a sexual nature, or any other behaviour of a sexual nature that might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another person.”
Sexual harassment happens when it interferes with work, is made a condition of employment or when it creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. It can be a one-off act or a series of incidents.
UNDP addresses sexual misconduct through a range of actions aimed to prevent and effectively address sexual misconduct and to support survivors.
UNDP adheres to the Secretary-General Bulletin on sexual exploitation and abuse, (ST/SGB/2003/13) applicable to all UN staff including those working for UNDP and other separately administered organs and programmes of the United Nations. Information on sexual exploitation and abuse is also included in the UNDP Code of Ethics.
Standards of conduct related to sexual harassment are covered by the Policy on harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination, and abuse of authority.
UNDP conducts rigorous pre-employment checks of personnel to prevent the rehiring of known offenders. As such, UNDP participates in a joint project with other UN agencies to maintain a system-wide database called "Clear Check" to ensure that former personnel involved in substantiated cases of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse with one entity in the UN system cannot be employed by another entity. Additionally, UNDP is committed not to partner with entities that fail to appropriately address sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment.
UNDP has developed and requires all personnel to take inter-agency on-line training courses on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse, and sexual harassment in the workplace. The courses, available at UNICEF’s learning site Agora, stress the standards of conduct expected of all personnel, the consequences of breaching them, and the impact of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse on those affected and their families.
Clear information outlining the “No Excuses” approach of the UN rules and prohibitions related to sexual exploitation and abuse are also available to all UNDP personnel on the Conduct and Discipline site, in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Chinese.
UNDP investigates all allegations of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse, imposes disciplinary and/or administrative sanctions when allegations are substantiated, and may, through the UN Office of Legal Affairs, refer matters to national authorities for criminal prosecution.
UN staff members are not covered by immunity for acts that constitute crimes, and the Organization does not protect staff who commit such crimes.
Assistance and Protection
UNDP staff members are protected from retaliation for reporting allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse or sexual harassment in good faith. Retaliation is prohibited and, if established, constitutes sanctionable misconduct.
Staff members who believe that they have been the victim of retaliation may seek informal redress or make a formal complaint to the Ethics Office at email@example.com
UNDP has institutional experience in responding to gender-based violence. In collaboration with its partners, UNDP takes action to offer psychosocial assistance and medical treatment to victim/survivors.
UNDP publishes annually information on the disciplinary actions taken against its personnel, including in cases of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse.
UNDP also provides real-time reports on the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse to the Office of the Special Coordinator. In addition, consolidated data on allegations and substantiated cases of sexual exploitation and abuse are published in the Report of the Secretary-General on Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.
How to report
All allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, and sexual harassment should be reported to the Office of Audit and Investigations.
If you are a victim of any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favour, verbal or physical conduct or gesture of a sexual nature, or any other behaviour of a sexual nature, contact the Office of Audit and Investigations at:
- For online referral form, click here.
- By telephone:
- Click here for worldwide numbers (interpreters available 24 hours/day)
- Call +1-844-595-5206 in the USA
- By e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- By regular mail to: Deputy Director (Investigations), Office of Audit and Investigations, United Nations Development Programme, One UN Plaza, DC1, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10017 USA
Learn more about the United Nations' work on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.