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We welcome the International Development Committee (IDC) report on sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector released this week. This important review outlines long-overdue recommendations for change in response to woeful failings. It’s imperative that we all play our part to assure that aid recipients and humanitarian workers are never harmed again or put at risk.

As the report makes clear, there has been a collective failure to deal properly with occurrences of abuse. Although the report acknowledges that significant steps have been taken since revelations first came to light earlier this year, the Committee criticises what it sees as a “reactive, cyclical approach, driven by a concern for reputation management.” It is wrong to put reputation before the safety and wellbeing of those we serve. We support the recommendations made by the Committee in its report and will support their implementation.

Y Care International’s ‘Working with Children and Young People Policy’ sets out our commitment to safeguarding children, young people and vulnerable adults. It covers responding to safeguarding concerns, our organisational Code of Conduct, recruitment and training policies and safeguarding support for our international partners. We are currently reviewing our Safeguarding Policy to ensure it complies with the recently enhanced Department for International Development (DFID) Safeguarding Due Diligence Standards.

Only by maintaining the highest safeguarding standards can we be sure that the young men and women we work with are treated with dignity and respect and feel empowered to take an active role in society and fulfil their potential. This is why we have always been committed to improving standards and delivering safeguards, including a zero-tolerance culture to sexual exploitation and abuse.

No individual organisation can achieve the necessary change on its own, which is why Y Care International echoes calls for across-the-board action. It is up to the sector’s multiple agencies to pull together. Aid organisations need to be proactive rather than reactive in tackling the root causes of problems. There is no room for complacency or a continuation of the “culture of denial”.

We welcome the committee’s specific call for an international register of humanitarian workers, the establishment of best practice guidelines for safeguarding in the context of international aid, and the suggestion of an independent aid ombudsman for fair review. These changes would help bring the sector in line with where it needs to be.

We also welcome DFID’s decision to hold an International Safeguarding Conference in October. This will provide a great opportunity for the sector to decide on practical next steps.

Leigh Daynes, Chief Executive of Y Care International, said:

“Most humanitarians do a good job in the toughest of circumstances. The few that have let us all down in the past have given us an opportunity to make sure that they never sully an otherwise noble cause again.  But all organisations need to change.  Policies and procedures are important but not as crucial as effecting change in culture, including ending for good cultures of silence or impunity.”

The purpose of humanitarian aid is to save lives and assure the dignity of those made vulnerable by disasters and crises, and to improve their ability to recover their livelihoods, while doing no harm as a first principle. That the sector has at times failed individuals and communities in this instance is a terrible reality that we are now all facing up to. We are all, as a sector, accountable. We need to move towards not just better safeguarding systems on paper, but also a safeguarding-focused culture in practice, so that these failings never happen again.