Raising awareness of and building local capacity to combat sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarian actors

UN campaign delivers educational tools, public awareness, and reporting mechanisms to internally displaced people, refugees, and impacted local communities.

The United Nations and its partners in Ethiopia have a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA).  Unfortunately, this remains a serious problem. The humanitarian sector encounters at-risk adults and children in the communities where they work, representing the gateway to badly needed goods and services.  This puts humanitarian actors in a position of power which some use to exploit, abuse, and harass the most vulnerable.  The Secretary General issued a directive to the organization to communicate and enforce the zero-tolerance policy which poses a unique challenge in a developing country with multiple languages and remote regions that is still recovering from war while sheltering nearly one million refugees.

Agenda has a unique record of effective work in underserved, remote, and isolated communities. Despite the challenges caused by the COVID pandemic, our team, working with local partners, developed a multilingual, multi-ethnic communications campaign to promote the zero tolerance policy.  The campaign delivered reliable information, publicized abuse reporting mechanisms, and advocated for SEA victims. We targeted UN organizations, local partners, internally displaced people, refugees, and host communities with tools to prevent and recover from SEA.

For international organizations like the UN to be effective in their mission to improve people’s lives they must work to the highest ethical standards.  Vulnerable people like children, women, and refugees should trust humanitarian actors as friends and allies, not fear them as predators.  Communicating and enforcing a zero-tolerance policy is a critical part of ensuring those needing protection don’t become prey.