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Landscape shot of hilly Kenyan countryside with blue skies and fluffy clouds.Prevention of Sexual Exploitation & Abuse (PSEA) Code of Conduct 


VWB/VSF seeks to incorporate respect for, and promotion of basic human rights into all of its programming. At the heart of VWB/VSF’s efforts to impact poverty through a One Health approach is its engagement with marginalised communities, and vulnerable adults and children. Vulnerable adults and children are particularly at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse.

VWB/VSF has zero tolerance for Sexual Misconduct of any kind among VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel. In the promotion of a working environment free of harassment and abuse, VWB/VSF has committed to fight abuse and to reinforce mechanisms and procedures to prevent and address it. This includes enhancing grievance channels at all levels of the organisation, and supporting victims and whistleblowers. VWB/VSF follows these guidelines:

  • Everyone engaged in the work of VWB/VSF has a right to work in a harassment-free and respectful environment.
  • VWB/VSF is committed to addressing inappropriate behaviour, including Sexual Misconduct, by or towards its employees or related personnel.
  • VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel responsible for conduct which can be construed as Sexual Misconduct will be subject to appropriate administrative and/or disciplinary measures.
  • Measures to deal with Sexual Misconduct will be based on the principles of fairness, impartiality, sensitivity and respect.  However, VWB/VSF recognize the importance of believing those people who come forward with accusations of Sexual Misconduct and taking steps to protect victims from the person or people alleged to have committed Sexual Misconduct.
  • Everyone who represents VWB/VSF has a responsibility to sustain a respectful work environment by upholding the highest standards of conduct and applying necessary confidentiality measures. VWB/VSF will ensure that adequate resources are available to promote a positive work environment and to prevent inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.
  • Complainants have the right to choose an informal (discussion with Immediate Supervisor, Country Director and/or Local Coordinator) or formal dispute resolution process (via the online complaints mechanism –
  • VWB/VSF will provide appropriate mechanisms to prevent or deal with retaliation related to the reporting of allegations of Sexual Misconduct.


In order to protect the most vulnerable populations, particularly vulnerable children, and to ensure the integrity of VWB/VSF activities, the following Core Principles must be adhered to:

  1. Sexual Misconduct by VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel is prohibited in all its forms, whether it occurs during or outside of work hours.
  2. VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel are prohibited from exchanging money, employment, favours, goods, or services for sexual activity regardless of whether it occurs during or outside of work hours and regardless of local laws regarding sex work.
  3. Sexual relationships between VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel and members of a community in which VWB/VSF is operating programs have the potential to undermine the credibility and integrity of VWB/VSF’s humanitarian and development work and are at high risk of involving power differentials that may vitiate consent.  Therefore, sexual relationships with community members are:
    1. prohibited in the case of community members who are program recipients because the inherently unequal power dynamics involved in such relationships prevent them from being considered consensual
    2. prohibited in the case of members of crisis-affected populations given their increased vulnerability, since such relationships are based on inherently unequal power dynamic; and
    3. discouraged in the case of community members who are neither program recipients nor members of a crisis-affected community.
  4. Where VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel develop concerns or suspicions regarding Sexual Misconduct by a fellow worker, whether or not the fellow worker is a VWB/VSF Employee or Related Personnel, the person must immediately report such concerns to their VWB/VSF Manager or Supervisor or via the VWB/VSF reporting mechanism:
    VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel are obliged to create and maintain an environment that prevents Sexual Misconduct and promotes the implementation of this Policy. VWB/VSF
  5. Managers and Supervisors at all levels bear a particular onus to support and develop systems, which maintain this environment.
  6. Proven Sexual Misconduct by VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel constitute acts of gross misconduct and are therefore grounds for termination of employment, volunteer mission, or consultancy contract.


VWB/VSF is dedicated to fulfilling the six Core Principles through implementation of the following Commitments. This includes time-bound, measurable indicators of progress to enable all entities of VWB/VSF, and others, to monitor VWB/VSF’s performance:

  1. VWB/VSF will adhere to our strategies and procedures to prevent and respond to Sexual Misconduct. These include assigning specific job responsibilities (such as staff training, review of police checks prior to recruitment, careful review of behaviour with employee references, monitoring complaints and response mechanisms, and coordinating high-level oversight and progress reports by directors) to specific staff positions to support and ensure effective implementation of organization strategies to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse.
  2. VWB/VSF will undertake annual risk assessments to identify areas of risk and document steps to be taken to remove or reduce these risks.
  3. VWB/VSF will ensure that the all VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel are provided with a copy of the Sexual Misconduct Policy and agree to abide by the Code of Conduct, and that standards on Sexual Misconduct are addressed in contracts, country manuals and in induction materials and training courses for VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel, including specific provisions for child sexual exploitation and abuse.
  4. VWB/VSF will ensure that when engaging in partnerships, sub-grant or sub-recipient agreements, these agreements will: a) incorporate this Policy as an attachment; b) include the appropriate language requiring such contracting entities and individuals, and their employees and volunteers to abide with the Code of Conduct that is set out in this Policy; and c) explicitly state that the failure of those entities or individuals, as appropriate, to take preventive measures against Sexual Misconduct, to investigate and report allegations thereof, or to take corrective actions when Sexual Misconduct has occurred, shall constitute grounds for VWB/VSF to terminate such agreements and pursue legal action.
  5. VWB/VSF will regularly inform VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel and communities in which we are active about measures we have taken to prevent and respond to Sexual Misconduct. Such information will often be developed and disseminated in-country in cooperation with other relevant agencies (VCAs, NGOs, partners who could be impacted) and VWB/VSF will use its best efforts to ensure that these materials include details on complaint mechanisms, the status and outcome of investigations in general terms, feedback on actions taken against perpetrators, and follow-up measures taken as well as assistance available to complainants and survivors. Any information that is not of a general nature and concerns specific cases must respect confidentiality for all parties involved, including the survivor and family, VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel, and the ongoing investigation process, particularly where there are legal implications.
  6. VWB/VSF will ensure that complaint mechanisms for reporting Sexual Misconduct are accessible to anyone wanting to make a report of Sexual Misconduct, whether that complainant is a VWB/VSF Employee or Related Personnel, a program recipient, a community member, or a member of the wider public.  VWB/VSF undertakes to ensure that VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel assigned a role in the receiving of complaints are knowledgeable about how to discharge their duties. VWB/VSF has put in place institutional protocols that have been added to this policy and include:  Procedures for Reporting Sexual Misconduct (Appendix B to this Policy), for Investigating Allegations of Sexual Misconduct (Appendix C to this Policy) and processes for managing VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel accused of violating the Sexual Misconduct Policy or Code of Conduct, including the potential disciplinary steps for VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel found to have violated the Policy or Code of Conduct.
  7. VWB/VSF will ensure the reasonable support and assistance to complainants of Sexual Misconduct. This may include medical treatment, and psychosocial support as appropriate and according to the needs of the survivor whilst also taking account of confidentiality, cultural sensitivities and survivor safety.
    In compliance with applicable laws, VWB/VSF will prevent perpetrators of Sexual Misconduct from being (re)hired or (re)deployed. VWB/VSF Managers and Supervisors, in conjunction with human resource personnel (at headquarters and in the field) must ensure robust recruitment screening processes for all personnel, particularly for personnel who will have any direct or indirect contact with children. Depending on local conditions this could include use of background and criminal reference/record checks, verbal referee checks, and interview plans that incorporate behavioural-based interview questions.
  8. VWB/VSF will investigate all allegations of Sexual Misconduct in a timely and professional manner. This includes the use of culturally- and age-appropriate interviewing practices with complainants and witnesses, particularly with children. VWB/VSF will engage professional investigators or secure investigative expertise as appropriate, including law enforcement.
    Where an investigation into an allegation of Sexual Misconduct against VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel suggests that the allegation is credible, VWB/VSF will take immediate steps to ensure the safety of the victim by preventing the alleged perpetrator from engaging in Sexual Misconduct or intimidating a victim or witness.
  9. VWB/VSF will take swift and appropriate action, including legal action when required, against VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel who commit Sexual Misconduct. This may include administrative or disciplinary action, and/or referral to the relevant authorities for appropriate action, including criminal prosecution, in the abuser’s country of origin as well as the host country.
  10. VWB/VSF will take appropriate actions to the best of VWB/VSF’s abilities to protect persons from retaliation where allegations of Sexual Misconduct are reported involving VWB/VSF Employees or Related Personnel.
  11. VWB/VSF strives to ensure high-level oversight and review of how Sexual Misconduct reports are received and acted upon in order to monitor the effectiveness of VWB/VSF policies and procedures in preventing and responding to Sexual Misconduct.

[1] The six Core Principles are adapted from the UN Secretary-General’s Bulletin on Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (ST/SGB/2003/13).

[2] The Commitments are based on the Statement of Commitment Relating to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN and non-UN Personnel, August 2008.

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