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Overseas aid organisations warned by regulator to tighten safeguarding

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Alert issued to aid groups

Aid agencies have been warned they must do more to prevent sex abuse by their workers overseas.

The Charity Commission has issued an alert to 5,000 registered charities telling them to improve safeguarding.

Last month Oxfam sacked three staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo and suspended a senior aid worker there as part of a continuing investigation into sexual misconduct.

A “sex for jobs” scandal in the DRC was also exposed in which staff from the World Health Organisation and other agencies were trading cleaning jobs for sexual favours.

Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said there was “simply no room for complacency” on safeguarding. “No one should ever be exposed to abuse or exploitation, but when people are harmed while in the care of a charity, it undermines the very meaning of charity,” she said. “The public expect charities to keep the people they care for safe from harm, and to place the highest priority on the needs and interests of vulnerable people.

“I know that many international aid charities, doing vital work in challenging environments, have worked hard to improve their safeguarding practices. But we continue to see cases of harm perpetrated by people in positions of power in charities working overseas.

“More needs to be done. Leaders of international aid charities need to ensure they have systems and structures that prevent and root out harmful behaviour and empower victims to raise concerns. But systems alone are never enough — they need to be underpinned by leaders who place the highest priority on keeping people safe.”

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is reviewing Oxfam’s right to apply for UK Aid funds following the DRC revelations. The charity’s access to British aid finance was suspended after the Haiti scandal and had only just been restored.



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