A selection of promising practices on organizational culture change: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi’s 2020 IASC Championship on Protection from Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment – Global


Sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment are rooted in systemic fractures in organizational culture.
They are based on power and gender differences driven by one or more factors that place an individual at a power advantage, allowing the abuse of that advantage to manifest in various forms of power abuse. In the humanitarian and development context, sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment are different forms of sexual misconduct, one perpetrated against those we serve and the other against humanitarian and development workers themselves. , respectively. However, both from the perspective of organizational culture and practical and operational programming, they arise from the same imbalances, have a similar impact on the victim, require similar preventive measures when addressing the root causes and require similar recourse services and measures to respond to cases as they arise.

With the rise of the #MeToo movement and increasing attention to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment in the humanitarian sector, many organizations have begun to focus on these elements and take a closer look at their own inner workings and work culture to examine the root causes of these forms of misconduct. Although different organizations embarked on different approaches to achieving this, clear areas of focus and attention were and remain common.

At its core, every organizational culture is guided by a certain value system and set of principles that define how individuals use the authority and power they hold. These systems and principles vary from organization to organization, especially since all organizations approach and define workplace culture differently. It is therefore difficult to take a singular holistic approach to defining organizational culture and solving the problems associated with it, both in individual organizations and in the sector as a whole. At the same time, the nuances in how each organization defines and guides its culture also provide the opportunity for multiple ways to approach the issues associated with its various elements in a multi-pronged approach.

Work around culture is granular and requires long-term investment, and often requires numerous and sometimes small and focused interventions to ensure it is approached with an appreciation of its multidimensional nature. This is all the more complex when looking at culture as it relates to difficult and sensitive areas such as sexual misconduct. The links are intrinsic, requiring a methodical and thoughtful approach to ensure that all root causes are addressed even when the direct link to sexual misconduct is not immediately clear. This includes considerations of power differences based on gender, age, race, sexual orientation, contractual status, rank and level, unconscious bias, and ethnicity or religious, among others. How these differentials may manifest can have direct implications for the type of environment created and whether or not sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment can take place, individuals feel safe to report and a appropriate response to victims’ needs can be guaranteed.

Ultimately, addressing such abuses begins with exploring their very foundations in the attitudes, behaviors, values, and culture that engender them. It is in this spirit that this collection has been compiled at the initiative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, as part of his IASC Championship on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Harassment. sexual. The collection of initiatives aims to highlight the work undertaken by humanitarian organizations on organizational culture with the aim of specifically addressing the underlying elements at the center of sexual misconduct.

While most organizations have many initiatives in place that feed into their broader work on workplace culture, this collection is intended to provide examples and inspiration for this growing area of ​​work. It aims to offer a selection so that organizations can continue to learn and develop the work done by others in an effective and meaningful way. It is by no means exhaustive. No single initiative provides a one-size-fits-all solution, but the combination of initiatives highlighted here provide examples of the different approaches being implemented with a common goal: to ensure that workplace and organizational culture fosters an inclusive environment, empowering and safe from sexual misconduct, both for those served and those carrying out humanitarian work.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges in most areas of work, including sexual misconduct prevention and response and organizational culture, it has also provided opportunities to explore new ways of working, mobilizing action and innovating in this area. of work. Many of the initiatives presented here have been adapted to the new reality of work and the impact this has had on various elements of organizational culture.

This selection of initiatives has been collected based on voluntary contributions from the organizations included here following various calls for participation through a number of IASC structures, including Results Group 2, and individual outreach . It includes specific initiatives on one or more target areas as part of broader efforts around organizational culture. However, it does include some of the invaluable work with a more general approach in areas such as capacity building, leadership support, staff welfare and welfare, and administrative change. Many efforts are in place to support the redesign of the workplace for a more staff-friendly environment on a larger scale by organizations and networks such as CHS Alliance and UNGLOBE, among others.

Contact information for the entity responsible for each of the initiatives included is provided. We encourage you to use these examples in your work on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment and on organizational culture, and to contact the respective contact if you have further questions regarding a specific initiative.