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.


The United Nations adopted a zero-tolerance policy in 2003 and continues to implement a series of reforms to prevent UN military, police and civilian personnel from engaging in sexual exploitation and abuse while on UN peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. Below are highlights of key UN reforms with updates from 2009. The measures below apply to approximately 120,000 UN uniformed personnel (troops, military observers and police), UN international and national staff members, contractors, consultants, and UN volunteers serving in peacekeeping missions.


  • 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’s model memorandum of understanding (MOU) (GA resolution 61/267 B) includes provisions for addressing sexual exploitation and abuse by uniformed personnel. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is also revising MOUs signed prior to July 2007 to include these provisions. Many UN peacekeeping missions have implemented “off-limits premises and areas,” curfews, telephone hotlines, and have required mission personnel to wear uniforms at all times.
  • 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 now has on its website statistics on allegations of misconduct and disposition of cases.
  • The DPKO has three training modules for different levels of personnel to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. The Department provides these modules to the troop-contributing countries (TCCs) for pre-deployment training, but it is not able to verify if the training has been completed. Upon arrival at UN missions, the DPKO trains all personnel on the standards of conduct and the zero-tolerance policy as well as prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse. Revised pre-deployment training modules were released to TCCs in 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 implementation of the zero-tolerance policy.

Victim Assistance

  • The UN’s victim assistance strategy (GA resolution 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. All UN missions have received a victim-assistance guide prepared by a joint UNNGO taskforce.
  • Several UN missions have established or identified local networks to provide assistance to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse. Community-based reporting and complaints mechanisms have not been set up in most countries, making it difficult to identify victims. A lack of trust in the UN and the remoteness of villages where UN forces operate also hamper victim identification efforts.


  • The Department of Field Support has a conduct and discipline unit at UN headquarters and conduct and discipline teams (CDTs) at 14 peacekeeping missions. These units inform local communities of the UN’s zero-tolerance 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. CDTs also train UN peacekeepers and civilian mission staff on combating sexual harassment, exploitation, abuse, and other types of misconduct.
  • The OIOS has launched a three-year pilot project, moving most OIOS investigators and support staff to regional hubs, in order to speed investigation of allegations, make the most effective use of resources, and reduce costs. OIOS investigators and staff remain in long-term assignments to missions where there are high rates of allegations of misconduct.
  • There were 112 sexual exploitation and abuse allegations against UN peacekeeping personnel and 78 repatriations in 2009. During the same period, the UN completed 39 investigations into new and pending allegations and deemed 21 of them credible; investigations for 98 cases are still pending. No information is available on the number of cases of disciplinary action such as suspension, dismissal, censure, demotion, and referral to employers.
  • The UN reports that in 2009, it followed up 82 times with affected TCCs concerning the outcomes of disciplinary actions but only received 14 responses. Further information on the UN’s sexual exploitation and abuse prevention measures is available at http://www.


NATO has measures in place prohibiting its personnel from engaging in human trafficking. There are no known reports of any NATO personnel or units engaging in or facilitating human trafficking. NATO has six ongoing missions with nearly 100,000 troops.

  • In 2004, NATO Allies and Partners adopted an anti-human trafficking policy. Provisions included training for personnel of NATO-led missions, support for host country law enforcement in anti-trafficking investigations, guidelines prohibiting contractors from engaging in trafficking, and evaluations of implementation of efforts as part of ongoing reviews.
  • Under that policy, military and civilian personnel deployed under NATO-led operations who violate NATO’s zero-tolerance policy would be subject to prosecution and punishment under their national legislation. NATO’s anti-trafficking coordinator relies on Allies and Partners or other sources to inform NATO of any allegations.
  • NATO policy further provides that for each of its operations, specific policy provisions articulate the roles and responsibilities of NATO forces with respect to combating the trafficking of human beings. 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.
  • NATO has 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. Further information on NATO’s anti-human trafficking prevention measures is available at


The OSCE has measures in place to prevent personnel from engaging in human trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse. There are no known reports of OSCE personnel engaging in or facilitating human trafficking. The OSCE has 18 field missions and 2,870 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 Secretariat is currently conducting a review of its code of conduct for OSCE personnel. “"odes of Conduct" will be the selected topic at the OSCE’s annual Alliance Against Trafficking in Persons Conference in 2011. 
  • 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 general orientation training for OSCE personnel includes an optional training component on sexual exploitation and trafficking in human beings.
  • 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 is working in partnership with other international organizations such as NATO to help participating states implement “peace forum training” which includes human trafficking policies instruction for military and civilian personnel and for OSCE contractors.

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 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