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Sexual exploitation still "rife" in the aid sector

 

Report outlines a series of recommendations

Some aid organisations need “root and branch transformation” to address sexual exploitation, a committee of MPs have said.

MPs say further reform of the international development sector is needed including enhanced background checks for all aid workers and greater protection for staff who raise official concerns about abuse.

Three years after The Times exposed how Oxfam covered up serious sexual misconduct by staff in earthquake-hit Haiti, predators are still working for humanitarian agencies, targeting vulnerable women and girls.

The report said that non-disclosure agreements were being used by NGOs “to cover up misconduct and will exacerbate power imbalances”. It called on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to require organisations that it funded to declare how many such agreements they sign.

Sarah Champion, a Labour MP and chairwoman of the committee, said that she feared “unless there is a massive culture change within the aid sector, abuse will continue to flourish”. She added: “Our inquiry has found that abuse of beneficiaries is rife, and that the sector has effectively become the last safe haven for perpetrators.”

The report also recommended that charities should be more transparent with government about the use of controversial settlements with departing staff, over fears that aid organisations sometimes try and block individuals from raising concerns about abuse.

The MPs noted that non-disclosure agreements, which prevent former employees from discussing their work after they have left an organisation, “are sometimes used in termination settlements, but it is difficult to assess how common they are”.

Stephanie Draper, the chief executive of Bond, the umbrella body for aid organisations, who gave evidence to Parliament, said: “We both welcome and support the committee’s findings. 

“Enhanced DBS checks for frontline aid workers is an obvious change that is needed to keep people safe and is something that the government can implement right away. 

“The FCDO must also adopt the highest safeguarding standards within its code of conduct and apply this consistently across all delivery partners.

“Leaders across the sector should understand and step into the pivotal role they play in creating and maintaining a safe culture that prevents sexual exploitation and abuse within organisations and programmes. 

“Alongside better gender and ethnic diversity representation in leadership, this will help make good safeguarding standards a behaviour rather than just another set of policies.”

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said: “We are looking carefully at the IDC report as we continue efforts to stamp out abuse, and will review our funding agreements and code of conduct for partners in light of the recommendations.”

 

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