Stopping Human Trafficking, Sexual Exploitation, and Abuse by International Peacekeepers

In response to a Congressional mandate, this section summarizes actions taken by the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to prevent trafficking in persons or the exploitation of victims of trafficking.

United Nations (UN)

The United Nations adopted a zero-tolerance policy in 2003 and implemented a series of reforms over the last four years to prevent military and civilian personnel assigned to UN peacekeeping and humanitarian missions from engaging in sexual exploitation and abuse. Below are highlights of key UN reforms with updates from 2008. The measures below apply to approximately 140,000 UN uniformed personnel (troops, military observers and police), and UN international and locally-hired civilian staff members.


  • UN Staff Regulations classify sexual exploitation and abuse as a form of serious misconduct subject to disciplinary action, including summary dismissal.
  • Consultants, individual contractors, volunteers, military observers and civilian police are legally bound by the standards of the Secretary-General’s 2003 bulletin. All contracts and “letters of undertaking” include these standards.
  • The UN has a model memorandum of understanding (MOU) (GA 61/267 B) to include provisions for addressing sexual exploitation and abuse. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is also revising existing MOUs to include these provisions.
  • Where necessary, UN peacekeeping missions have instituted “off-limits premises and areas,” curfews, and telephone hotlines and have required mission personnel to wear uniforms at all times.
  • In early 2008, the DPKO initiated mission-customized information campaigns and strategies to combat commercial sexual exploitation in Cote D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Sudan, and East Timor.
  • The UN reports that its missions routinely inform the local population about the UN’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse, including the status of allegations and the risk of making false allegations. The UN is also developing a mechanism by which to inform the public on the outcome of disciplinary cases involving UN personnel, including actions taken by the UN or the troop-contributing country (TCC).
  • The DPKO has three training modules for different levels of personnel to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. The Department provides these modules to the TCCs for pre-deployment training, but it is not able to verify if the training has been completed. All UN mission personnel are made aware of the standards of conduct and zero-tolerance policy and are trained in prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse. Revised pre-deployment training modules will be released to TCCs during the first half of 2009.
  • Civilian managers and military commanders are responsible for ensuring implementation of the UN’s programs and policies to eliminate sexual exploitation and abuse. The heads of UN missions evaluate civilian managers on their efforts to implement the zerotolerance policy.

Victim Assistance

  • The UN’s victim assistance strategy (GA 62/214) authorizes UN missions to provide victims with medical treatment, counseling, social support, legal services, or material care. Children born as a result of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers are also eligible to receive this assistance. The implementation guidelines have been finalized and transmitted to all UN missions.
  • In 2008, UN mission managers and NGO partners in Kenya, Somalia, Liberia, and South Africa were trained in advancing protection from sexual exploitation and abuse in the field. Similar trainings are planned for Libya, Nepal, Cote D’Ivoire, and Haiti in 2009.


  • The DPKO has conduct and discipline units (CDUs) at UN headquarters and peacekeeping missions. These units inform local communities of the UN’s zerotolerance policy on sexual exploitation and procedures for reporting abuse. They also receive complaints, carry out initial assessments of allegations, and determine whether specific allegations should be reported to the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) as serious offenses warranting full OIOS investigations. Less serious allegations are handled by the peacekeeping mission itself. CDUs also train UN peacekeepers and civilian mission staff on combating sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse.
  • Some OIOS investigators are stationed in the peacekeeping missions, though these may be moved to regional UN offices in the future -- to reduce costs and for more effective and timely investigations.
  • There were 83 allegations against UN peacekeeping personnel in 2008, down from 127 allegations in 2007. During that same period, the UN completed 82 investigations into new and pending allegations and deemed 65 of them credible. There were 14 repatriations and five cases of disciplinary action such as suspension, dismissal, censure, demotion, and referral to employers.

Investigations for 52 cases are still pending. Further information on the UN’s sexual exploitation and abuse prevention measures is available at

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

NATO has measures in place to prevent its personnel from engaging in human trafficking. To date there have been no reports of any NATO personnel or units engaging in or facilitating human trafficking. NATO has six on-going missions with nearly 70,000 troops.

  • In 2004, NATO Allies and Partners adopted an antihuman trafficking policy. Provisions include training for personnel of NATO-led missions, support for host country law enforcement in anti-trafficking investigations, incorporated guidelines prohibiting contractors from engaging in trafficking, and evaluations of implementation of efforts as part of ongoing reviews. All NATO operational plans incorporate anti-human trafficking directives.
  • NATO has also developed three anti-human trafficking awareness training modules for troops, commanders, and military police. These modules are available online and are offered at NATO’s two training facilities. Officials and staff who violate NATO’s zero-tolerance policy are subject to disciplinary action including dismissal. NATO Allies and Partners are responsible for taking legal action against nationals participating in missions who are in violation of the zero-tolerance policy. NATO mission personnel are instructed to refer victims to local NGOs for legal or social services and to cooperate with local law enforcement officials on human trafficking cases.
  • In February 2009, the North Atlantic Council agreed to recommendations made by NATO’s counter-trafficking chief. They included developing a standardized form for reporting trafficking cases; offering more anti-trafficking courses at NATO training facilities; organizing a conference of national, international, and civil society experts to share best practices; and developing a brochure on NATO policy for the general public.

Further information on NATO’s anti-human trafficking prevention measures is available at

Organization For Security And Cooperation In Europe (OSCE)

The OSCE has measures in place to prevent personnel from engaging in human trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse. There have been no reports of any OSCE personnel engaging in or facilitating human trafficking. The OSCE has 18 field missions and 3,266 personnel. The OSCE Secretary-General is responsible for overseeing OSCE efforts to prevent misconduct by personnel.

  • The OSCE’s Code of Conduct for Staff and Mission Members (Appendix 1 to Permanent Council 550/ Corr.1, 27 June 2003) prescribes general conduct of officials and staff while on mission, with specific instruction on preventing human trafficking.
  • The OSCE Ministerial Council Decision 16/05 “Ensuring the Highest Standards of Conduct and Accountability of Persons Serving International Forces and Missions” calls on participating states to prevent human trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse, and, as necessary, to discipline its personnel.
  • The OSCE Ministerial Council Decision 15/06 “Combating Sexual Exploitation of Children” directs executive structures to incorporate the issue of child sexual exploitation in code of conduct trainings and awareness-raising materials for OSCE officials.
  • The OSCE Ministerial Council Decision 11/08 “Enhancing Criminal Justice Responses to Trafficking in Human Beings through a Comprehensive Approach” directs participating states to include human trafficking policies and consequences in pre-deployment instruction for military and civilian personnel.

The OSCE provides these documents to all personnel, including locally-hired mission staff, during orientation trainings. Officials and staff are subject to disciplinary action including dismissal. But OSCE member States and Partners are responsible for taking legal action against nationals participating in missions who violate the policy. Field mission personnel at are instructed to refer victims to local NGOs for legal or social services and to cooperate with local law enforcement officials on human trafficking cases.

For further information on the OSCE’s anti-trafficking prevention measures please go to