IOM has a policy of zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by IOM personnel and the employees and other persons engaged and controlled by IOM contractors. Zero tolerance means that active measures are being introduced to prevent SEA. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken against IOM staff members who are found to have violated the relevant IOM policies. Disciplinary actions, including summary dismissal, will be taken irrespective of grade, contract type, or seniority. In the case of non-staff personnel, IOM may terminate the contract of the offender. The failure to comply with contractual obligations regarding the prevention, prohibition, reporting and investigation of SEA by IOM contractors can result in the termination of the contract between IOM and the relevant contractor.

IOM policy states that there is often an inherent and important power differential in the interactions between staff members and beneficiaries and declares that abusive and exploitative sexual activities with beneficiaries are absolutely prohibited. In other words, SEA occurs when people who have power exploit or abuse vulnerable populations for sexual purposes. IOM will not tolerate an atmosphere of impunity toward SEA.

Sexual exploitation means any actual or attempted abuse of a 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.

Sexual abuse means the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions.

Sexual exploitation or abuse is committed by IOM personnel or IOM contractors (such as suppliers, service providers or implementing partners) against a person who is not IOM personnel/contractor, such as a beneficiary. SEA is distinct from sexual harassment which is committed by IOM personnel against another IOM personnel. To learn more about sexual harassment, you can visit

Examples of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
  • Exchange of money, employment, shelter, food, goods or other humanitarian assistance for sex, including sexual favours or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behaviour (Sexual exploitation)
  • Threatening or forcing someone to have sex with or provide sexual favours to another person (e.g. donors or colleagues) under unequal or forced conditions for one's own profit (Sexual exploitation)
  • Using the services of sex workers (Sexual exploitation)
  • Making sex a condition for assistance (Sexual exploitation)
  • Forcing a person to engage in prostitution or pornography (Sexual exploitation)
  • Sexual assault (any unwanted or forced sexual act committed without consent, including rape, sodomy, and forced oral copulation) (Sexual abuse)
  • Any sexual activity with persons under the age of 18, regardless of consent (Sexual abuse)
  • Unwanted kissing, grabbing, touching, rubbing, or other act of a sexual nature (Sexual abuse)
Requirements for IOM Personnel
  • Fully understand what types of behaviour may be considered SEA.
  • Adopt behaviour that respects and favours the rights of the beneficiaries.
  • Report any allegation or suspicion of SEA or any retaliatory action related to SEA. IOM personnel reporting misconduct in good faith have the right to be protected against retaliation (see
Core principles

In order to protect beneficiaries and vulnerable populations and to ensure the integrity of IOM’s activities, the following core principles should be followed by IOM personnel:

  • SEA constitute acts of gross misconduct and are grounds for termination of employment as well as inclusion in "Clear Check”.
  • Sexual activity with children (persons under the age of 18) is prohibited.
  • Exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex is prohibited.
  • Sexual relationships between IOM staff and beneficiaries are strongly discouraged and are prohibited when abuse or exploitative.
  • IOM personnel must report concerns regarding SEA by fellow workers.
  • IOM staff members, especially those in leadership positions, are obliged to create and maintain an environment that prevents and protects against SEA.
Examples of SEA cases at IOM that resulted in disciplinary measures
  • Staff member had a sexual relationship with a minor IOM beneficiary
  • Staff member inappropriately touched and threatened two beneficiaries
  • Staff member failed to cooperate with an SEA investigation withheld information from OIO investigators
  • Staff member offered beneficiaries money in exchange for sex
  • Staff member touched a beneficiary inappropriately and unnecessarily during a medical examination
  • Staff member engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse by using the services of prostitutes or sex workers.


It can be hard to differentiate between types of misconduct. You don’t need to know the type of misconduct to be able to report. If you experience or witness any potential misconduct, wrongdoing or if you feel something is wrong, you should report it to IOM’s Office of Internal Oversight (OIO) through IOM’s misconduct reporting platform, “We Are All In” ( or by email to, even if you are unsure what type of misconduct it is.

Last updated: March 2024