MPs have concluded in a “damning report” that, “sexual abuse and exploitation is endemic across the aid sector and charities have demonstrated complacency verging on complicity in response to it.”

The International Development Committee launched an investigation into abuse in the aid sector following reports that Oxfam’s senior staff members had paid survivors of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti for sex.

Stephen Twigg Chairman of the Committee has stated that MPs have concluded that an independent ombudsman should be set up, together with a register of aid workers to keep track of known abusers and ensure that complaints are dealt with fairly.

The Committee found that organisations were aware that, “vulnerable recipients of aid were being targeted as far back as 2002 but they had “put their own reputations ahead of dealing with the issue.”

Despite charities knowing about the problem there has been a “collective failure of leadership” which meant that safeguarding policies were never implemented.

The Committee said charities needed to focus on four areas:

  • Empowerment – ensuring the beneficiaries of humanitarian aid have knowledge and confidence in their rights;
  • Reporting – reports of sexual exploitation and abuse should be proactively sought and responded to robustly with feedback to victims and survivors;
  • Accountability – a zero tolerance culture on sexual exploitation and abuse is the least that victims should expect;
  • Screening – it is imperative that known perpetrators of sexual exploitation and abuse, identified through improved reporting and accountability, are prevented from moving into new positions.

The Chair of Trustees at Oxfam, Caroline Thomson said that while the report was “incredibly painful reading”, it was welcome.

She said she was, “truly sorry for the organisation’s failure to protect vulnerable women in Haiti. We have made improvements since 2011 but recognise we have further to go.”

There is an International Summit planned in October to discuss the issue and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has said that charities must be able to demonstrate the progress they have made at the summit.

She commented,

“until the sector is fully prepared to address the power imbalance, cultures, and behaviours that allow sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment to happen, we will never stamp it out.”

If you have been affected by this article and would like advice about pursuing a civil claim for compensation please contact the Child Abuse team at Jordans Solicitors. We can be contacted on 033 0300 1103 or you can request a call back. We can advise you on the available options of pursuing a civil damages claim. Jordans successfully represent and secure compensation for numerous victims of abuse and are experts in overcoming the particular challenges that arise in these sensitive cases.

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