The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

Prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment

UNOPS is committed to strengthening protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (SEA). All UNOPS personnel must adhere to the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct at all times.

  • SEA and sexual harassment constitute acts of gross misconduct and grounds for disciplinary action, including termination of employment. Depending on the violation, these cases may also, upon consultation with the Office of Legal Affairs, be referred to national authorities for criminal prosecution.
  • What is sexual abuse? The accrual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions.
  • What is sexual exploitation? Any actual or attempted abuse of position of vulnerability, differential power or trust for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.
  •  What is sexual harassment? Any unwelcome verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, or any other behavior of a sexual nature, that might reasonably be expected or perceived to cause offense or humiliation to a person. It occurs when such conduct or behavior interferes with an individual’s work performance, is made a condition of employment, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
    Secretary-General’s Bulletin: Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse


All UNOPS personnel are:

  1. Strictly prohibited to have sexual activity with a child
    A mistaken belief that the child is over 18 is no defense.
    Even if age of consent is under 18, all UNOPS personnel are forbidden to have sexual activity with anyone under the age of 18.
    UN Standards of Conduct apply to UNOPS personnel, whether at work or off-duty, and wherever they are in the world.
  2. Strictly prohibited to exchange anything for sex/sexual favors
    Exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex, including sexual favours or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behaviour is prohibited.
    Sex with prostitutes is strictly prohibited even if legal in the country.
  3. Sexual relationships between UNOPS personnel and beneficiaries is strongly discouraged
    These relationships are based on inherent unequal power dynamics and undermine the credibility and integrity of our work. Beneficiaries of assistance include refugees, migrants, displaced persons, etc.
  4. SEA constitutes an act of serious misconduct and is grounds for disciplinary measures including termination

  5. Personnel must report concerns regarding SEA by fellow workers

  6. UNOPS personnel, especially managers, are required to create and maintain an environment that prevents SEA