Safeguarding against sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment within the aid sector
The Government has launched a new programme which aims to help bring offenders of sexual abuse, exploitation or sexual harassment in the aid sector to justice and provide vital support for survivors.
The programme aims to build on the extensive work that has already been done and will strengthen the support available to survivors and make it easier for them to report abuse. This will include developing a new way of reporting abuse anonymously through an online platform. It also aims to connect survivors with organisations who can help them access further support, including making reports to the police. They have also pledged to invest in local and community based organisations so that they can give a range of direct support to survivors including counselling and financial help.
On 18 October 2018, the UK Government hosted a safeguarding summit to drive action to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment in the aid sector. One of the main considerations of the conference was the introduction of a new tougher screening system for aid workers to allow charities and other organisations to share data on staff misconduct and prevent offenders from moving job-to-job. The new system has resulted in at least 75 people rejected for jobs because of negative or absent data. This is a hugely positive step as there is evidence that serious sex offenders who are known to the authorities in the UK seek out jobs abroad where they feel that they can abuse without detection. The Government and ACRO Criminal Records Office has worked with Interpol to improve criminal records checks and promote information sharing between aid and law enforcement agencies.
The government launched a Safeguarding Resource and Support Hub (RSH) on 1 June 2020 which acts as a one-stop shop actively supporting aid organisations operating on the ground to improve safeguarding standards and support to victims as well as strengthening their safeguarding policy and practice against sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment. RSH is an open-access platform bringing together relevant guidance, tools and research, which signposts quality-assured safeguarding support and is for any organisation working in the international aid sector. However smaller, local organisations in developing countries are the main focus at this early stage as they tend to have less access to safeguarding resources than international organisations.
In addition to launching RSH, in September 2020 the Government set out its vision for the aid sector following previous publicity of the sector’s failure over many years to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment. It considered that it had been too easy for aid workers to get away with sexual misconduct and as a result their actions had undermined trust in the whole sector.
The government is clear that all organisations bidding for UK aid must meet the high standards of safeguarding required and do everything in their power to keep the people they work with safe. Most recently the Government confirmed that Oxfam GB can again bid for funding after the Charity Commission found that the charity could return to standard regulatory oversight.
For more information, please contact Lauranne Nolan, Solicitor.