More than 500 delegates attended the International Safeguarding Summit, held in London yesterday (18 October), which saw major international donors adopt global standards on sexual exploitation and abuse prevention.
Attendees included representatives from the United Nations, World Bank Group, international financial institutions, research organisations, and NGOs, as well as people who have suffered from abuse and exploitation.
Major international donors, including DFID and covering 90% of global aid, agreed to sign up to the global standards covering ethical behaviour, recruitment and complaints processes and aimed at stopping sexual predators abusing vulnerable people around the world. The standards will be backed up by stronger due diligence processes, better project monitoring, and tougher language in funding agreements.
They will also publish relevant information about allegations and confirmed cases and will be subject to regular independent review by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The commitments announced by different groups representing the sector focused on four key themes:
- preventing sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment from happening in the first place
- pledging to listen to those who have been affected
- removing and addressing barriers to reporting sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment
- learning more quickly in future, as new evidence and opportunities emerge
DFID also committed £20 million in research funding to help improve understanding of the risks people affected by conflict face, including those subjected to sexual exploitation, and announced a pilot with Interpol to help stop sexual predators from moving between aid agencies, and a passport system to prove aid workers’ identities.
Other commitments made by those present included:
- a new Disclosure of Misconduct Scheme which will prevent known perpetrators moving around undetected – at least 15 organisations have signed up to this so far, amounting to approximately 50,000 staff worldwide
- the Disasters Emergency Committee announcing the launch of shared reporting hotlines for raising concerns in future emergencies, along with a review of how they respond to community feedback, including in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
- all donors and other participants committing to having at least one named senior level champion accountable for work on safeguarding issues and to encourage annual discussions at board level.
Following the Summit, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said:
“Let there be no doubt this international summit was not about gathering promises to tinker around the edges. This is about setting in place a fundamental rewrite, from root to branch, of the way the aid sector operates.
“It is incredibly important that as we work to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector we put the voices of victims and survivors first.
“This is not the end of the process. There is still a huge amount of work to do but these commitments and the new tools we have outlined today send a message to perpetrators – your time is up, there is nowhere to hide.
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