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IASC Guidance Note on Inter-Agency Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Referral Procedures (IA SEA RP)

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) has been committed to the principle and delivery of an inter-agency community-based complaints mechanism (IA CBCM) since 2016. A key priority under the IASC PSEAH Vision and Strategy (2022-2026) and the 2022-2023 IASC PSEAH Technical Advisory Group Work Plan, is to review and revise the IA CBCM approach, in recognition that IA CBCMs are not being systematically implemented in all responses, as envisioned by the IASC Principals in 2016. The modalities of the revision are based on the 2021 IASC External Review of PSEA/SH, commissioned by UNFPA; a rapid survey of PSEA Coordinators commissioned by IOM, identifying challenges to implementing the IA CBCM approach and utility of the Best Practice Guide; a two-day stakeholder dialogue with PSEA experts from IASC Members; and observations from the IASC mapping. The overarching goal of the IASC PSEAH Vision and Strategy is that by 2026, Humanitarian Country Teams (HCTs) will be able to demonstrate that a fully resourced inter-agency community-based complaint mechanism is in place.

Purpose and Scope 

The purpose of this Note is to provide guidance on a standardised model of procedures for inter-agency referral of SEA complaints and survivors, for use when designing or updating country-level procedures. The objective is that when an SEA complaint is received it is referred to any concerned entity for appropriate support to victim(s)/ survivor(s), follow-up and investigation” in accordance with a Victim/Survivor Centered Approach (see Section 3). It is aimed at a generalist audience with specific relevance for senior leadership (e.g. Humanitarian Country Teams) and technical PSEA actors in country. IASC entities engaged in IA SEA referral are committed to prevent, respond to and mitigate risks of any form of SEA perpetrated by their personnel. This requires implementing their own internal policies, rules and procedures for handling complaints and responding to SEA incidents, including investigations and staff training. This Guidance Note in no way intends to replace or override internal policies. Rather, it describes procedures that arise from and supplement internal policies when entities are engaging in inter-agency cooperation for SEA referrals. IA SEA referrals are based on an entity’s participation in PSEA Networks through the designation of a PSEA Focal Point. It is through a PSEA Network that entities will develop contextualized, country-level inter-agency SOPs based on the model described here (see Annex 3 for template for country-level SOPs). If based on this model, country-level SOPs will be consistent with the internal policy of IASC member entities and – for those entities with centralized policy – will not require endorsement from headquarters. If country-level SOPs are to deviate from this model, it should be raised and discussed with respective headquarters. This Guidance Note is developed on behalf of the IASC as the key forum for humanitarian partners on coordination, policy, and decision-making, and is therefore designed for use in humanitarian contexts. However, noting that many of the procedures may be applicable in transition and development contexts, and taking into account the broad scope of PSEA obligations in international legal instruments, this Guidance Note may have application more broadly.


  • Language: English
  • Also available in: N/A
  • Theme: Safe & Accessible Reporting, Survivor Centered Approach, Policies, Guidance & Codes of Conduct
  • Year of publication: 2023
  • Author: IASC
  • Size: 440.34 KB
  • Document:pdf
  • Country: N/A
  • Collation N/A



Sexual exploitation and abuse represents a catastrophic failure of protection. It brings harm to those whom we are mandated to protect.

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee is working to scale up protection from sexual exploitation and abuse across humanitarian response efforts. This website and global dashboard has been developed and managed through the support of UNICEF. It is dedicated to providing technical support and resources to practitioners, and to tracking inter-agency, collective progress across countries with a humanitarian response.