Preventing Sexual Exploitation, Abuse & Harassment (PSEAH)

Making Aid Work Better for the People we Serve
  • What does it take to build a robust accountability system for survivors of sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment (SEAH) in the aid sector?

  • How do we build an accountability system that is survivor-centred, enables reporting of SEAH complaints, investigates quickly, thoroughly, and confidentially, and holds perpetrators to account?

Sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (SEAH) are unacceptable and yet they are still occurring in the aid sector, across various countries, organizations and agencies. To tackle this problem, the International Institute of Social Studies has partnered with the Core Humanitarian Standard Alliance (CHS) to collaborate on the prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. The CHS Alliance is an international network of non-governmental organizations focusing on humanitarian aid.

The main goal of this project is to protect people from SEAH. The second aim is to improve the response to SEAH in a holistic and integrated way that puts the needs of the survivors at the centre.

It will do so by identifying what it takes to build a robust accountability system that is survivor centred. Such a system would enable the reporting of SEAH complaints and investigate complaints quickly, thoroughly and confidentially. Moreover, it would hold perpetrators to account.

Identifying context-specific gaps and best practices on SEAH prevention and accountability

To achieve this goal, the project will identify context-specific gaps and best practices on SEAH prevention and accountability. This can be achieved by learning from each other and leveraging the expertise that exists, taking cultural and contextual norms into account.

The project aims to strengthen the engagement with communities and promote joint and/or individual prevention and response accountability systems for PSEAH. Thus, this project will make significant contributions towards preventing SEAH, and managing incidents well when they occur.

The project will focus on Bangladesh, Ethiopia and occupied Palestinian territory. These three countries were selected because they represent different contexts of humanitarian response, making it possible to observe the following elements:

  • massive refugee population
  • protracted political conflict
  • internally displaced and/or significant returnee population 

These elements are characterized by violence, gross power imbalance, mass displacement, restricted access, dismantled family and societal structures and lack of protection, all of which increase the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse.


The project started in October 2020 and will be finalized by September 2023 by which time it is hoped that the three project objectives will have been achieved:

Objective 1 – Learning: Evidence-base of how to improve PSEAH and Accountability to Affected People (AAP). How to expand and strengthen PSEAH and AAP systems based on evidence?

Objective 2 – Innovation & Piloting: The three countries involved in this project serve as pilot countries. They will make it possible to improve PSEAH and AAP systems that focus on prevention and response.

Objective 3 – The global humanitarian sector shows tangible progress on improving PSEAH and AAP on the basis of the input from this project.


Professor Thea Hilhorst

Project lead

Email address


The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department for Stabilization and Humanitarian Aid awarded a grant to CHS Alliance of approximately Є1,010,000. Of that, CHS Alliance allocated approximately Є212,000 to ISS.

Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs logo - English Core Humanitarian Standard Alliance (CHS) logo

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