The report accuses the aid sector of “complacency verging on complicity” in dealing with ongoing exploitation
The Catholic charity, Cafod, has said it welcomes but is “troubled by” the findings of a new report by MPs that accused aid organisations of “abject failure” in tackling sexual abuse and exploitation.
The damning report produced by the International Development Community (IDC), a parliamentary committee which monitors the performance of the Department for International Development (DFID), found that abuses by aid workers and United Nations peacekeepers are still happening in developing countries, including in refugee camps and in war zones where human trafficking and prostitution are common.
The report accuses the aid sector of “complacency verging on complicity” in dealing with ongoing exploitation.
Speaking to the Tablet, Cafod director Chris Bain said: “We are troubled by the findings and agree with the IDC that international development agencies must work together to address the problems that have come to light. There is more to be done and we must work to ensure that policies and culture within our own organisations expose and end any exploitation.”
The investigation by the International Development Community (IDC) was prompted by revelations earlier this year that senior Oxfam aid workers had used prostitutes in Haiti during a relief mission after the country’s 2010 earthquake.
In February, The Times disclosed that a Cafod employee had been working in Haiti for Oxfam in 2011 and had been accused of sexual misconduct. Cafod was unaware of allegations made against this employee until the charity was contacted by The Times.
His failure to disclose the circumstances of his departure from Oxfam were in breach of Cafod’s Code of Behaviour and the individual was dismissed within one week of the original disclosure by The Times, Mr Bain explained.
The new IDC report said the “self-delusion” of the aid sector had prevented it from tackling problems, amid a collective failure by leaders who were more concerned with their reputations than victims.
It calls for an end to the “culture of denial” in the aid sector and for the creation of an aid ombudsman to hear appeals from victims.
In response, Cafod said they “will support any measures that help deliver better accountability, transparency and reporting procedures on safeguarding”. They added that they would better like to understand “details about the role” and the “remit” of an independent aid ombudsman.
Mr Bain added: “We are committed to a zero-tolerance approach to misconduct breaching our Code of Behaviour, including fraud, abuse, sexual misconduct, intimidation and other acts. We have robust safeguarding and whistle-blowing policies and practices in place, which are regularly reviewed, to ensure that vulnerable people are protected.”
The IDC report has also said that there needs to be a global register of aid workers to ensure accountability and to keep sexual predators out of the sector. It says DFID should “commit to making this a reality at the international safeguarding conference [in London] in October.”
The report says: “The ease with which individuals known to be predatory and potentially dangerous have been able to move around the aid sector undetected is cause for deep concern.”
Stephen Twigg, chair of the International Development Committee, said all relevant authorities were being “put on notice” to ensure solutions are found.
He added: “The committee is deeply concerned that previous attempts have amounted to limited action in order to quell media clamour with no lasting impact or redress.”