Emmanuelle Lacroix|Partnership Development Manager – EMEA| March 2018
Sexual exploitation and abuse poisons all facets of society and is endemic across the globe. I started writing this blog on International Women’s Day as the #metoo moment in the humanitarian sector continues to unfold. Too few reasons to rejoice, as it often feels that we are all part of this systemic failure, especially when it comes to the power dynamics at play. As we know that there are so many more stories to be told, all of us (INGOs, partners, donors, training providers, HR teams, journalists, etc.) need to focus our efforts on being part of a systemic solution and make this moment a turning point. It is not just a human resource “thing”, or a management “thing”, or a security “thing”; it is all of the above – and beyond. It is about culture and the way we do things in our sector, and the way we must address it as a sector.
Some of the reporting in the mainstream media tend to lack nuances and evidence-based information to fully grasp the extent of the issue of abuse and its multiple tentacles. As hashtags and emotions run high, let’s transform this energy and emotion into a catalyst for change and truly live by our values and principles. There won’t be an easy fix: our operating environment is complex and multifaceted. And yet, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel as we have standards, protocols, policies and training resources in place that are based on fundamental principles such as Do No Harm, quality frameworks such as the Core Humanitarian Standard, commitments to transparency and accountability, and years of best practices and lessons learnt. There are also excellent training resources developed by leading agencies – such as the UNHCR online course “Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse” hosted on our DisasterReady.org free online learning portal.
Protecting an agency’s reputation by hushing whistle-blowers away and recycling perpetrators cannot be part of the solution, and the recent events have made that very clear. As agencies and donors like DfID are exploring solutions on how to tackle this issue together, we can also learn from other sectors such as Education and Health to strengthen selection, referencing and clearance processes, to ensure continuous awareness of the risks and tools to mitigate them, and to implement and apply safeguarding protocols and reporting mechanisms in ways that equip everybody to act.
But above all, we need to listen and take the people (staff and community members) who find the courage to report their experiences and stories seriously, and have the difficult conversations these stories require. If they can show courage, then we have no other option but to live up to this courage and demonstrate the same in ensuring that nobody stays silent for fear of repercussions. Surely this is the core meaning of accountability.
We hope that these criminal acts are committed by a few “bad apples” and enabled by the failing of our systems and policies: now is the time more than ever to get our act together and be part of the solution. The principles of accountability and protection are the backbone of our sector, and our duty to all the survivors and the communities with whom we are working.
#timesup #pressforchange #aidtoo
Emmanuelle (Em) Lacroix
Partnership Development Manager – EMEA