Sexual exploitation and abuse by international peacekeepers

The UK’s “leading” work to tackle the widespread problem of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by international peacekeepers is relevant and important, but could be strengthened with more focus on survivors and a stronger approach to learning. This short report is a companion to ICAI’s January 2020 review of The UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative.

  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 30 September 2020
  3. Type: Companion review
  4. Subject: Cross-government aid spend, Fragile states, Humanitarian assistance, Women and girls
  5. Assessment: Unrated
  6. Location: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Somalia
  7. Lead commissioner: Tamsyn Barton

Latest news

We published our report on Sexual exploitation and abuse by international peacekeepers in September 2020 and made two recommendations. The International Development Committee held a hearing on 3 November 2020. More details about next steps can be found in the ‘Further scrutiny’ tab.


Sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in peacekeeping is a serious and persistent problem, with devastating impact on survivors. Allegations of SEA have surfaced in many international peacekeeping missions around the world, including in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Kosovo, Mali, South Sudan, Sudan and Timor-Leste.

In recent years, the UN has launched a number of reforms designed to prevent SEA in international peacekeeping, hold perpetrators accountable and protect survivors. However, UN internal reports have found serious shortcomings in the conduct of investigations, while continuing legal obstacles to prosecution contribute to a culture of impunity within international peacekeeping contingents.

This short report is a companion to ICAI’s January 2020 review of The UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI). It explores the UK’s efforts to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse in international peacekeeping settings, including by soldiers, police and civilian personnel. During the review period (2014 to 2019), this consisted of small-scale aid projects managed by the former Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), mainly in the form of funding for UN reform initiatives and staff positions, and training programmes for international peacekeepers run by the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

This review is not scored, due to the relatively low level of expenditure and the difficulty of attributing specific results to activities of this kind, but it makes two recommendations for the government to take forward.



Published 12 June 2019

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 30 September 2020

Parliamentary scrutiny

IDC hearing 3 November 2020

Government response

Published 11 November 2020

ICAI follow-up

Published 30 June 2022