Sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector Contents


229.We have heard how the delivery of aid, whilst providing lifesaving resources to people and communities in crisis, can also be subverted by sexual predators into a channel through which they can magnify their power and use possession of those resources to exploit and abuse some of the most vulnerable people in the world. We must not turn away from the horror of it. We have a duty to confront it.

230.Having understood the length of time that the sector has been aware of these issues, we reflect with confusion on the apparent shock of those we spoke to in the immediate aftermath of the Times report. This has been a known problem in the international aid sector for years. We have heard examples of how individuals within the sector have sought attention on this problem from those on higher rungs, but have gained little traction. We have been told of instances when those who have reported cases of sexual exploitation and abuse have been belittled, ostracised and silenced. DFID told us that they have always responded properly to reports of sexual exploitation and abuse, but the evidence that we have seen indicates that the department has, historically, failed to display leadership and engagement. There is so much more that could have been done.

231.The problem was brought to the forefront of public attention this year by the media, to whom we owe a debt. But we should not have needed a media scandal to trigger the level of response that we have witnessed since February. The periodic revelations of sexual exploitation and abuse within the aid sector since 2002 have meant that policies, codes of conduct and response measures have been developed, but the aid sector has then deceived itself into thinking that it has dealt with the problem and the focus has faded. The intermittent attention means that little has been properly implemented. Meaningful implementation requires sustained engagement, and it requires money. This is what we must now see going forward.

232.A full response to sexual exploitation and abuse hinges on: empowerment, reporting, accountability and screening.

233.These measures are interlinked and essential to each other. There can be no missing link in the chain. The forthcoming International Safeguarding Conference presents an opportunity for DFID to secure commitments from across the aid sector to move these measures forward, but the response does not end there. This is not an issue that can be tackled by ticking boxes. The Conference is the start of a process, and only through sustained engagement, leadership and funding will we see transformational change.

Published: 31 July 2018