Tuesday, 31st July 2018

Sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector has been an ‘open secret’ among humanitarian organisations, with individuals who report abuse continually ‘silenced and ostracised’, according to a new parliamentary report which drew on evidence submitted by ECPAT UK. 

The International Development Committee’s report, Sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector,follows a six month inquiry into the failings of UK-based international NGOs to protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse by their employees, following the Oxfam scandal earlier this year.

The inquiry found charities had displayed ‘complacency verging on complicity’ by continually failing to adequately respond to ‘endemic’ sexual abuse across the aid sector. These failures were found from the top levels of management down to staff working in crisis situations, with senior leaders held responsible for failing to implement a culture of zero tolerance of abuse. In addition, aid organisations demonstrated ‘a failure to listen to and consider the needs of victims and survivors’ in responding to reports of exploitation. The committee concluded this not only leads to ineffective reforms, but is harmful to victims.

The report picked up on several recommendations made by ECPAT UK, including the implementation of enhanced criminal records checks and strict codes of conduct for individuals working with vulnerable people, and robust reporting and whistleblowing mechanisms to allow immediate investigation of alleged crimes and safeguarding of victims.

Additionally, the report called for the establishment of an independent ombudsman accessible to victims when their concerns have not been adequately addressed, and a global register of aid workers to screen individuals’ previous offences.

Bharti Patel, CEO of ECPAT UK, said

“We support the committee’s recommendations, which largely echo ECPAT UK’s campaigns against transnational child exploitation for the past two decades.

“The report highlighted the need for victims’ voices in any response to abuse and exploitation, but it’s vital that victims are also supported and compensated to help them recover from these experiences and reduce their vulnerability to further abuse.

“The government must now act to ensure these recommendations are actioned, and that UK-based aid organisations are held accountable for protecting the world’s most vulnerable children from abuse by their workers.”

ENDS

Notes

ECPAT UK’s submissions to the committee can be viewed online.

Press contacs

Sinead Geoghegan, Information, Media and Communications Officer, ECPAT UK: 020 7607 2136 [email protected]

Bharti Patel, CEO, ECPAT UK: 07402 113 985 [email protected]