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 Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to prevent trafficking in persons or the exploitation of victims of trafficking.


The UN implements its 2003 zero-tolerance policy “Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse” (ST/SGB/2003/13) through a series of reforms that apply to approximately 99,000 UN uniformed personnel (troops, military observers, and police), UN international and national staff members, contractors, consultants, and UN volunteers serving in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.


The UN requires peacekeeping personnel (civilian, police, and military) to sign a code of conduct on sexual exploitation and abuse that forbids sex with minors regardless of the local age of consent, sex with persons in prostitution, and offering favors or goods in exchange for sexual favors.

The UN’s model memorandum of understanding (MOU) (GA resolution 61/267 B) includes provisions for addressing sexual exploitation and abuse by uniformed personnel. These provisions are also applicable to MOUs signed prior to July 2007.

Many UN peacekeeping missions have prevention measures such as “off-limits premises and areas,” curfews, and telephone hotlines, and require mission personnel to wear uniforms at all times.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is working with troop-contributing countries (TCCs) to increase the number of women deployed to UN peacekeeping missions. In 2010, the number of women totaled 3,332 or 3.33 percent of the total number of personnel deployed overseas, compared with 1,016 women in 2005. The presence of female personnel may foster greater adherence to the zero-tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse.

The DPKO has training modules for different levels of personnel to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. The Department provides these modules to TCCs for pre-deployment training, but it is not able to verify if the training has been completed. The UN does provide training, however, for all personnel upon arrival at UN missions. Mission personnel are made aware of the standards of conduct and the zero-tolerance policy and are trained in prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.

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 UN 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 established victim assistance mechanisms. However, there is no data yet available on the number of alleged or confirmed victims receiving assistance through these mechanisms.


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 teams 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. CDTs also train UN peacekeepers and civilian mission staff on combating sexual harassment, exploitation, abuse, and other types of misconduct.

The OIOS characterizes allegations as either Category 1 or Category 2 offenses. The OIOS is responsible for investigating all Category 1 allegations, including sexual exploitation and abuse. The TCC handles allegations against military contingents. Less serious allegations are handled by the peacekeeping mission itself.

In 2010, there were 85 sexual exploitation and abuse allegations against UN peacekeeping personnel compared with 112 allegations in 2009. The majority of the allegations affected the UN missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Haiti and Sudan. Thirty of the allegations in 2010 involved children under 18 years of age, and in 17 other cases the age could not be determined.

Also in 2010, the UN completed 44 investigations and deemed 22 of them credible; 62 cases were still pending investigation. No comprehensive 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 2010 it followed up 74 times with affected TCCs concerning the outcomes of disciplinary actions but only received 29 responses.

Further information on the UN’s sexual exploitation and abuse prevention measures is available at  and


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 involving more than 135,000 troops.

In 2004, NATO Allies and Partners adopted an anti-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. In 2007, an ongoing review resulted in additional provisions, including a commitment to improve witness protection in theatres of operation.

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 relies on its Allies and Partners’ troops or other sources to inform NATO of any allegations. Senior NATO commanders can also request for the repatriation of any offenders.

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 support the responsible host-country authorities, including local law enforcement officials, in their efforts on human trafficking cases.

While training and raising awareness among Allied forces are national responsibilities, NATO offers a number of courses for military personnel of both NATO and Partner countries at NATO’s training facilities.

Since 2007, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Defense Policy and Planning has served as the Senior Coordinator on Counter-Trafficking in Human Beings. However, this is a collateral-duty position and there is no information on any new anti-trafficking activities in 2010.

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


The OSCE has measures in place to prevent personnel from engaging in human trafficking and 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 2,887 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. In a direct response to the OSCE Action Plan (Permanent Council 557/2003), the OSCE Department for Human Resources issued Staff Instruction No. 11/2004 in order to Prevent the Promotion and Facilitation of Trafficking in Human Beings, reiterating the high standards of behavior for all OSCE officials in mission areas, as well as for OSCE staff attending conferences and other official events.

The Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings is finalizing a two-part background paper on 1) the implementation and enforcement of codes of conduct in the private sector to reduce demand for the services of or goods produced by people who have been trafficked, and 2) the use of codes of conduct by military, peacekeeping, and international organizations in conflict areas to combat trafficking in human beings. The first part of the background paper would contribute to the preparation of the 2011 Alliance Against Trafficking in Persons’ high-level conference focused on labor exploitation.

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 and 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 human trafficking prevention measures please go to