Aid NGO-Sector Puts Spotlight on Safeguarding at Annual Conference

30 Oct, 2018

Members of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) – the peak-body for Australian international development NGOs – have adopted a series of sector-wide safeguarding initiatives in response to UK reports of sexual misconduct in the aid sector.

  • In a unanimous decision, ACFID’s members have voted to amend the sector’s Code of Conduct to include a clear-cut, high-level commitment for NGOs to advance the safeguarding of people vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • ACFID’s members unanimously adopted a resolution proposed by the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) which asserted the prioritisation of victim/survivors of sexual misconduct; the adoption of a transformative approach to preventing sexual misconduct; and the use of recommendations in the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine’s (VIFM) independent review “within the shortest practicable timeframe”.
  • Across several sessions at conference, members will propose technological innovations designed to help improve and streamline safeguarding in the recruitment of staff and volunteers.
  • In an open-session chaired by ACFID’s President, Susan Pascoe, members will examine the complexity of the prevention of sexual misconduct in the aid sector and examples of good practice, leadership and innovation.

Commenting CEO of ACFID, Marc Purcell, said:

“From top-to-bottom ACFID and our members are agitating for change. This is a tipping point at which the level of standards, policy and culture can be raised, and our members are pushing and challenging each other to do better.”

Commenting on the change to ACFID’s Code of Conduct, Purcell added:

“ACFID’s members have high standards of practice on child protection and this binding change of the Code of Conduct will drive new requirements around how sexual harassment and sexual misconduct is dealt with. There is no doubt that this is a priority and I welcome the unanimous decision by our members.”  

IWDA CEO, Bettina Baldeschi, who proposed the resolution on preventing sexual misconduct at ACFID’s AGM, said:

“IWDA is pleased that ACFID members have adopted a resolution which asserts the vital role of sector leadership to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation. Our response must be survivor and complainant centred.

“Critically, it must also adopt a transformative approach which challenges the gender power relations as well as individual and systemic gender norms at the core of this abuse of power and trust. We look forward to our sector acting strongly and quickly to implement the recommendations in the VIFM report.”

In the wake of the UK reports on sexual misconduct in the aid sector, aid organisations are looking at ways to improve and streamline safeguarding in the recruitment of staff and volunteers – an acute challenge in a global sector in which staff transfer between agencies and travel between countries often.

Australian Red Cross will share progress on its ‘Identity Platform’ – a blockchain based employee and volunteer on-boarding system.

Director of International Programs at the Australian Red Cross, Peter Walton, said:

“The system allows aid organisations to trust one another’s verification processes, thus reducing duplicate identity and compliance procedures across the sector as well making the reputation of participants more transparent. In doing so we are able to offer a more robust approach to ensuring the safety of the communities we seek to support”.

Alongside the development of the platform, Australian Red Cross – in consultation with a number of other organisations such as Oxfam and RedR Australia – is establishing The Identity Alliance to support the cross-sector collaboration of the humanitarian sector’s work as it relates to identity.

This would give aid workers and volunteers a verified digital ID so humanitarian organisations can ensure that the people they employ are approved to work and have the necessary qualifications and checks.


Notes to Editors

ACFID provided further detail of the change to its Code of Conduct in advance of the conference.

Text of IWDA Resolution.

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