On March 5, I attended the Safeguarding Summit, co-hosted by the Department for International Development and the Charity Commission. Along with 22 other organisations, Concern Worldwide (UK) committed to improving the standards and delivery of safeguarding, including a culture of zero tolerance to sexual exploitation and abuse in all we do. Read full statement here.
Concern Worldwide works with some of the most vulnerable adults and children in 27 of the world's poorest countries. We recognise the many power imbalances that exist: between us as the custodians of desperately needed and often life-saving resources and those who are in need, between men and women, between different ethnic groups and within the communities with which we work. That is why, across the Concern Worldwide family, we have many well established policies and practices in place.
- All staff and partners who work with Concern Worldwide must read, understand and sign up to the Concern Code of Conduct and the Concern Programme Participant Protection Policy. We have reviewed our Code of Conduct and Programme Participant Protection Policy and reissued this to all staff and stakeholders to re-emphasise the standards required and ensure people are confident to raise any concerns they have.
- We have in place across our countries of operation a mechanism for reporting and handling any complaints. Complaints of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse must be escalated to a senior manager, who will appoint an appropriate team to investigate. The team will follow clear guidance and procedures. Should breaches of Concern's Code of Conduct be substantiated we will take decisive action and report criminal activity to the appropriate authorities.
Concern Worldwide recognises that whilst we have a strong foundation to build on, there is more that we can do, and so:
- We have established an internal task force. The task force is building on the existing organisational approach to prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse to raise standards of safeguarding. By June 2018 this task force will develop a framework for improvement along with a resource plan which will identify short, medium and long-term actions to be taken. The task force will consider: accountability to people we work with, organisational culture, the employment cycle, reports and complaints mechanisms.
- We are working with other organisations in the sector, including DFID, BOND , DEC and the Charity Commission to drive forward wider sectoral advances. We are engaging with experts and external organisations such as INTERPOL to provide enhanced vetting of staff, and exploring a humanitarian passport.
As a female, I understand how difficult it can be to report concerns in the workplace, particularly if they are of a sexual nature. It is much more difficult for the vulnerable individuals we work with. The moment has come to change this once and for all and I’m personally committed to working across Concern and the sector to make the necessary changes.