CHS Alliance response to IDC report on tackling sexual exploitation and abuse within the aid sector

14 January 2021
Tanya Wood

by Tanya Wood

Executive Director, CHS Alliance

The CHS Alliance welcomes the UK International Development Committee’s report “Progress on tackling the sexual exploitation and abuse of aid beneficiaries” released today, which highlights that while some progress has been made, the aid sector needs to do much more to protect people in vulnerable situations and to ensure the rights and dignity of people affected by crisis.

As the report recognises, sexual exploitation and abuse is about systemic power imbalances, and we need to transfer meaningful power into the hands of people affected by crisis. This is the driving force of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS).

The CHS Alliance is committed to continuing our work with our 150+ members to ensure that no woman, man, boy or girl suffers from sexual abuse, exploitation or harassment in any form at the hands of aid workers, and that action is taken when these abuses do occur.

We fully support the report’s key findings on the need for aid organisations to:

  • address the power imbalances in the sector by empowering people affected by crisis to be involved more directly in aid delivery
  • make sure that reporting mechanisms are designed in collaboration between the aid organisations and the people who will use them
  • give more importance to increasing investigation capacity and ensuring the right course of redress
  • ensure people receiving aid who are victims or survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) have access to support services
  • improve organisational cultures to protect whistleblowers and make sure that Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) are not used to cover up power abuses
  • recognise that changing this culture will, in some instances, “require a root and branch transformation of the culture at the organization”

The CHS Alliance’s work with our members supports these recommendations of the report.

The CHS sets out the essential elements of principled accountable and high quality aid, with Nine Commitments the sector has made to affected populations. Protection against sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment (PSEAH) is critical to meeting these commitments. How an organisation should prevent and respond to allegations of sexual abuse and harassment is integrated throughout the Nine Commitments of the Standard.

In my oral evidence to the committee in September 2020, I shared the important work the CHS Alliance had undertaken to update its CHS PSEAH Index to ensure it incorporated all the elements of other sector wide standards, including the FCDO Enhanced Due Diligence requirements. The updated index is absolutely clear on what requirements need to be in place for organisations measuring themselves against the CHS. It will also influence the revision of the CHS, which will be carried out with sector-wide consultation this year.

The updated PSEAH index was launched in October 2020 and shared with the Committee. It is therefore disappointing that this substantial piece of work, funded by FCDO, which sets out all the PSEAH requirements to fulfill the CHS indicators, is not clearly referenced in the report. We will raise this issue in the written formal response to the IDC that we are preparing in the coming weeks.

We will continue to support the sector on our collective commitment to tackling sexual exploitation and abuse, through better prevention, protection and support, and pushing for the culture changes needed to put more power in the hands of the people affected by crisis who we serve.