The charities, which include Oxfam GB, Plan International UK, UNICEF UK, Save the Children UK, WaterAid, VSO, Bond, and ActionAid UK, say that there can be no tolerance of abuses of power, privilege or trust in their organisations or in their work, and that they will take every step necessary to right these wrongdoings.
The letter states:
“There can be no tolerance for the abuse of power, privilege or trust within our organisations or in our work. We have an absolute duty to our staff, our supporters and, above all, the people we seek to help to ensure we do everything in our power to prevent, detect and eradicate unacceptable behaviour.”
It also says they must honour “the rights and needs of the communities we work with, by continuing to deliver vital aid but also changing fundamentally”, and that they are “truly sorry that at times our sector has failed”.
In the letter, the charities announce a series of ‘urgent and immediate’ measures they are committing to as a first step. These are:
- Increasing the resources they devote to safeguarding.
- Collectively reviewing current referencing systems so that people found to have abused their power or behaved inappropriately are not re-employed in the sector.
- Working with authorities and regulatory bodies to ensure any individual caught abusing their power cannot do so again.
- Working with the government to overcome legal and institutional barriers to rigorous background checks in the UK.
The charities also ask for people’s support in helping them tackle abuse by confronting it whenever it is apparent and reporting unacceptable behaviour:
“Our collective mission is to do much more than that – the challenge we face in our own organisations is a challenge for the whole of society. This is something that requires leadership in every sector – and we ask people from all walks of life and all corners of our communities to help us to strengthen safeguards, tackle abuse and stand up for the vulnerable – and to call out inappropriate behaviour wherever we see it.”
The letter, and the list of the 22 charities involved can be read in full on the Bond site. It follows this month’s news of misconduct among Oxfam staff in Haiti, and the resignation of UNICEF UK Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth.
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