UN Strategy

The United Nations has a three-pronged strategy to eliminate sexual exploitation and abuse: prevention of misconduct, enforcement of UN standards of conduct and remedial action.



Once an allegation is received, the UN will carry out an administrative investigation. The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the independent investigative arm of the UN, is the sole body in the UN responsible for such investigations, but may refer the allegation to other investigative authorities, depending on the category of personnel and the gravity of the allegations.


For investigation purposes, OIOS has grouped allegations into Category 1 and Category 2, depending on the risk such cases present to the organization.


Allegations of misconduct defined as Category 1 include: all SEA-related offences including rape, transactional sex, exploitative relationships and sexual abuse, cases involving risk of loss of life to staff or to others, abuse of authority or staff, conflict of interest, gross mismanagement, bribery/corruption, illegal mineral trade, trafficking with prohibited goods, life threat/murder, abuse or torture of detainees, arms trade, physical assault, forgery, embezzlement, major theft/fraud, use, possession or distribution of illegal narcotics, waste of substantial resources, entitlement fraud and procurement violations.


Allegations of misconduct defined as Category 2 include: discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, abuse of authority abusive behavior, basic misuse of equipment or staff, simple theft/ fraud, infractions of regulations, rules or administrative issuances, traffic-related violations, conduct that could bring the UN into disrepute, breaking curfew, contract disputes and basic mismanagement.


Responsibility for investigations and disciplinary action


OIOS is responsible for investigating all Category 1 allegations, except for military contingents, for whom special provisions apply. Category 2 allegations may be investigated by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), Military Police, UN Police and ad-hoc panels.


The Office of Human Resources Management in the Department of Management takes decisions concerning disciplinary measures for civilian personnel.


When allegations of serious misconduct involving military and police personnel occur, the UN may repatriate the individuals concerned and ban them from future peacekeeping operations. Disciplinary sanctions and any other judicial actions remain the responsibility of the national jurisdiction of the individual involved.


Members of military contingents deployed on peacekeeping missions remain under the exclusive jurisdiction of their national government. The responsibility for investigating an allegation of misconduct and taking subsequent disciplinary action rests with the Troop Contributing Country, in accordance with the revised model memorandum of understanding, endorsed by the General Assembly in 2007. The Troop Contributing Country involved must then report back to the UN on the outcome of misconduct investigations and actions taken.


Reporting misconduct


Conduct and Discipline Teams provide information to UN personnel and the host country population for reporting allegations of misconduct. Record-keeping and data tracking of allegations of misconduct and subsequent actions started in 2006. In July 2008, the Department of Field Support launched the Misconduct Tracking System (MTS), a global database and confidential tracking system for all allegations of misconduct. 


The Secretary-General’s Bulletin states that UN personnel have a duty to report all concerns or suspicions of sexual exploitation and abuse. 


Missions have established a range of reporting mechanisms, including locked drop-boxes, private meeting rooms to allow reporting in a confidential setting, telephone hotlines, secure email addresses, regional focal points, local women’s organizations and the local UN-NGO network. The UN’s ‘whistleblower’ policy protects staff members who report in good faith from retaliation. 


Criminal accountability of UN staff and experts on mission


In December 2007 the General Assembly adopted the Resolution Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on missions to address the extension of national jurisdiction by Member States to cover criminal misconduct of UN officials or experts on mission. The General Assembly encouraged Member States to cooperate with each other and with the UN in the exchange of information and facilitation of investigations and, as appropriate, the prosecution of the relevant persons.