Sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector: next steps
This Committee agreed early in this Parliament to draw up a comprehensive re-examination of progress taken to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector. Our focus is the aid recipients who become victims and survivors of abuse at the hands of individuals working in the sector. This inquiry will consider the support needed by victims and survivors to secure justice and rebuild their lives when they have experienced abuse, what can be done to change the culture in the aid sector to prevent it from occurring in the first place, and how the new Foreign Affairs and Development Office (FCDO) should take this work forward.
In its report, Progress on tackling the sexual exploitation and abuse of aid beneficiaries, the International Development Committee (IDC) finds that sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) is still happening in the sector.
This is supported by a unique survey by the IDC where 73% of respondents believe there remains a problem with SEA being perpetrated by aid workers. This is likely to have been made significantly worse with the coronavirus pandemic, with reductions in aid and food supplies making female beneficiaries more vulnerable to exploitation. Further, perpetrators are continuing to move from organisation to organisation with impunity.
Government response published
During the inquiry, the IDC paid tribute to the former Department for International Development (DFID) and its work in tackling sexual exploitation and abuse. It therefore recommended that the new department, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, should adopt many of DFID’s practices. The Government accepted these recommendations, ranging from enforcing the enhanced safeguarding due diligence procedures, include a specific section on safeguarding in annual reports, and for DFID’s approach on safeguarding investigations to be built on.
However, the IDC is disappointed that some recommendations are not being carried forwards by the Government. There is still to be no audit of whistleblowing practices, the FCDO will not require partners to publish case data and the IDC received no commitment from the Government to use the Strategic Vision for Gender Equality to inform its prioritisation of future work.