UK NGOs to collectively raise the bar on safeguarding

On the day of the UK’s International Safeguarding Summit: Putting People First: Tackling sexual exploitation and abuse, and sexual harassment, in the aid sector, Bond will launch: Our commitment to change in safeguarding: Our approach to tackling sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment in the aid sector.

For the past seven months, Bond’s members have worked to both identify and find ways to scale up the best examples of safeguarding policies and practices in the aid and UK domestic sector. Our Commitment to Change in Safeguarding pulls this work together and demonstrates how the NGO sector will drive forward consistency and leadership on safeguarding so we all reach the same standards and work together to protect people from sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment. 

Judith Brodie, Interim CEO for Bond, the UK’s network of International Development NGOs, said: 

“Today marks a turning point for the NGO sector and reflects our commitment to ensuring people are kept safe from harm. As we go forward, the sector will build on the good safeguarding practices we have seen in both the aid and UK domestic sectors. We have a stronger understanding of where the inconsistencies and gaps are when it comes to reporting and handling incidents, as well as what we must do to address them. Some work has already begun which will, in the short term, result in an increase in reported incidents as people feel more confident speaking out. For the longer term, solutions, such as global DBS checks or a potential passporting system, are being explored with the Home Office and DFID. As a sector, we are determined to do all we can to ensure those we work with are safe and secure. This is about significant and sustainable change for the long-term.

“Our 12 commitments show we are raising the bar on safeguarding, but this isn’t just about words – our commitments are backed up by much needed action.” 

The 12 commitments and their underlying actions will drive change in the following ways:

  • They will prevent abusers from joining organisations in future. The NGO sector is building on the experience of the domestic sector and working with the UK government to establish consistent and rigorous referencing and background checks for staff.
  • They will ensure the whole sector listens to whistle-blowers and survivors and puts their safety and protection at the heart of reporting and complaints systems. 
  • They will help NGOs act on complaints swiftly, robustly and responsibly. This will include transparency when reporting incidents to the appropriate authorities – whilst ensuring they protect and support survivors and victims throughout. 
  • They will ensure NGOs build organisational cultures that prevent abuse, embedding ethical behaviour which upholds honesty, dignity and respect for all.

Speaking at the Summit, Frances Longley, CEO of Amref Health Africa and the Chair of Bond’s Culture and Leadership Safeguarding working group said:

“On behalf of the UK NGO sector I want to say to survivors and victims of abuse: we have heard you, we will continue to listen to you and we thank you for your courage in coming forwards and holding us to account where we have fallen short. 

Today’s Summit will focus on safeguarding, but we will only achieve real change if that focus and commitment remain just as strong tomorrow, next week, next year, and beyond. The UK aid and development sector pledges to hold true to that focus and deliver a generational change which ensures that safeguarding, and the rights of victims and survivors, are at the heart of all that we do.”

Celine Mias, CONCORD Vice-President from CARE International EU Office, said: 

“European NGOs need to prevent sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. We need to take concrete actions to support victims and survivors and tackle the underlying gender inequality and power imbalances. To do this we need donors, governments, INGOs and other stakeholders to work together.  This conference presents a good opportunity to agree on ways we can act collectively.” 

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