Aid secretary announces new measures to stop abuse and exploitation 

18 Oct 2018 News

Penny Mordaunt, paymaster general

The international development secretary has announced a raft of measures, including the creation of a passport system for aid workers, at a summit on safeguarding in international aid.

Penny Mordaunt's speech was interrupted by a protester, who accused her of not listening to women and working with organisations who were part of the problem.

Mordaunt announced that DfID is supporting a pilot led by Interpol, The Association of Chief Police Officers’ Criminal Records Office and Save the Children, to create a system that will prevent sexual predators from moving between aid organisations.

She said that since February there has been “unprecedented level of co-ordination and unprecedented weight being thrown behind this issue” and that we are now at a “pivotal moment”. 

The Interpol pilot, named Operation Soteria, will cost £10m and take five years. DfID has committed £2m. 

Mordaunt said that there will be a “disclosure of misconduct scheme across the NGO sector to prevent known perpetrators”. She said 15 aid organisations had already signed up and she hoped this would reach 100 by the end of the year. 

New resource hub 

Mordaunt said that today’s summit was partly to “strengthen capacity and capability” and announced the creation of a resource hub for aid charities. 

This will include research, guidance and training for everyone involved in delivering aid and also offer access to specialist investigators.

Other measures  

Mordaunt announced that DfID was among 21 international donors who had signed up to new standards for their partners around “ethical behaviour, recruitment, complaints processes”. 

She said this will mean “tougher language in our funding agreements” and that "no one must be above scrutiny". 

Institutional donors are committed to “listening” she said and making sure that beneficiaries are included in the design of programmes.

Mordaunt also said she was committed to funding a programme that will “harness technology to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector”. 

She announced that the Disasters Emergency Committee will launch a “shared reporting hotline” and “review of how they respond to community feedback”. 

"The Charity Commission, in consultation with the National Crime Agency and the National Police Chiefs Council, is introducing a standard approach to criminal reporting," she said. "This will help us identify and root out cases of suspected abuse in the aid sector."

DfId is also supporting the development of a “statement of victims’ rights”. 

‘Disgusted’ protester

Mordaunt’s speech was interrupted near the end by a protester, who accused DfID of excluding people who wanted to contribute. 

The protester said:  “A number of us would like to be on that platform but we have been kept back by DfID and your attempts to control the women who are speaking out in this sector, very eloquently put by Paula Donovan who refused to get on a plane last night to come to this summit.” 

Donovan, who works for Code Blue – a campaign to end impunity for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN Peacekeepers, decided not to attend the summit. In a letter to Mordaunt she accused DfID of “haphazard, last-minute organisation” and criticised the lack of consultation about the agenda. 

The protester told Mordaunt that other women had had similar experience and suggested this meant the summit was not dealing with “the real change that needs to happen” because “we have been kept back”. 

She continued: “We have heard this morning from excellent panels that women have been doing this work for decades unheard, unseen. We do not need fancy new systems. We do not need technology. We need systematic change. We need to understand the sexism, racism and abuse of power that happens from the very top of the leadership.” 

She also criticised DfID for choosing to work with Save the Children. 

“I was disgusted to learn on my way here to the summit that Save the Children will be awarded a headline project to try and tackle sexual misconduct in the sector when they are still under investigation by the Charity Commission,” she said. 

She described the “silencing” of potential critics and lack of opportunity at the summit for questions was what “compels me to come up here and speak to you in person”.  

Mordaunt gives away closing slot

Moraunt thanked the protestor for speaking out and said she had not been aware of the letter from Donovan until this morning. 

“I’m sorry that I wasn’t aware of the specific issue with Code Blue until today and I will ensure that that doesn’t happen again,” she said.

She said that it was important that people felt included to contribute and set the agenda. "We haven’t done some that as well as we should have done,” she said.

Mordaunt offered her closing slot to the protestor or someone else. 

“What I can do today is I will give up the summary slot of this summit to you or colleagues that want to speak, if you would be happy with that?” she said

But she defended the progress that has been made so far and the announcements about new systems. 

“We want to do this well,” she said. “We won’t be perfect in what we set out to do, but there are some dry things that need to be done”.

NGO Insight, Civil Society Media's specialist event for international development professionals taks place on 27 November. For more information and to book click here. 


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