The COVID-19 global pandemic is a public health, economic and social crisis. Private security provides are playing a critical role in supporting their clients. They may be in increasing demand to provide services to humanitarian operations in different countries or to help to enforce lockdowns and other containment measures. This often gives them the power to decide who may have the freedom of movement or not.

During this difficult time, ensuring accountability to staff and populations – and prevention of and protection from sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (PSEAH) – while providing services, is crucial. Experience from past emergencies has shown that during scaling up of operations the risk of SEAH increases. The increase in staff or change of staff, combined with high demand and insufficient or unequal supply of food, health, hygiene and other supplies, increases risks. In addition to that, patterns of exploitation and abuse perpetuate cycles of insecurity and instability in environments already plagued by protracted violence. PSEAH, therefore, constitutes an essential component of a meaningful peace and security strategy.

The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (‘the Code) sets out, at Paragraph 38, clear requirements for ICoCA Member companies on preventing and addressing sexual exploitation and abuse and gender-based violence. Working responsibly, demonstrating good practice in meeting the Code requirements as well as the expectations of clients, donors and the general population is important for maintaining the trust, credibility and reputation of the company and sector as a whole.

ICoCA has produced specific guidance for its Member companies to reinforce PSEAH measures during COVID-19 operations, and is providing individualised support to facilitate their adoption. These resources lay out a step by step approach around reducing risks, reporting, communication and response to improve PSEAH organisational preparedness. If you would like to learn more about this, please contact Giuseppe Scirocco at