Sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector Contents

Part II: Sexual harassment and abuse of aid workers

195.When we launched our inquiry, the primary focus was the sexual exploitation and abuse of the intended beneficiaries of aid. However, there has been high, and lower, profile reporting in the media of cases of sexual harassment and abuse within aid sector organisations and between aid workers from different organisations.328

196.Sexual discrimination, harassment and abuse in any setting or sector is abominable and needs to be tackled and stamped out. To this end, we note and draw attention to the work of the Women and Equalities Committee which has recently conducted a wide-ranging inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace, including the international aid sector, and published a report with recommendations applicable to all workplaces in all sectors.329

197.In terms of this inquiry, we were concerned at the reports of such conduct, in and of themselves, and also whether there were links between the priority and attention given to the sexual exploitation and abuse of aid beneficiaries and the incidence of sexual misconduct - and the way complaints were subsequently handled - within aid organisations, with lessons to be learned. For example, by 2005, the Head of UNHCR’s view of the 2002 study in West Africa was: “We have to find concrete evidence. It’s very scarce. So the idea of widespread sexual exploitation by humanitarian workers, I think it’s simply not a reality.”330 We note that, later the same year, the Head of UNHCR resigned following allegations against him of sexual harassment.331

329 See Women & Equalities Committee on sexual harassment in the workplace

330 Ms Asmita Naik (SEA0042); “UN knew of sex-for-food scandal at top charities”, The Times, 29 May 2018, and Asmita Naik submissions

331Lubbers quits over UN sex claims”, BBC News, 20 February 2005

Published: 31 July 2018