Developing the PSEA Handbook – What We Learnt

28 April 2017
Lucy Heaven Taylor

by Lucy Heaven Taylor

Lucy Heaven Taylor is an accountability and PSEA specialist with 17 experience in the sector.

Lucy Heaven Taylor co-author of the PSEA Implementation Quick Reference Handbook shares their experiences on the process of developing the Handbook.

‘The challenge was how to roll out PSEA. Most employees received Code of Conduct, but the reality was that it was signed then went in a drawer.’ – Handbook interviewee

The CHS Alliance has developed a new resource for supporting NGOs to implement PSEA. Here’s what we learnt along the way.

We already take it seriously

The international community knows that PSEA (protection from sexual exploitation and abuse) is of utmost importance. It is embedded at the heart of the Core Humanitarian Standard. In particular, in the following Key Actions and Organisational Responsibilities:

Key Action 3.6:  Identify and act upon potential or actual unwanted negative effects in a timely and systematic manner, including areas of … sexual exploitation and abuse by staff

Organisational Responsibility 5.6: Communities and people affected by crisis are fully aware of the expected behaviour of humanitarian staff, including organisational commitments made on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse

Organisational Responsibility 8.7: A code of conduct is in place that establishes, at a minimum, the obligation of staff not to exploit, abuse or otherwise discriminate against people

Where to start?

However, PSEA can seem like a daunting concept. Agencies know that they need to implement measures, but can be put off because of the sensitive issues involved, and the feeling that they need to be experts in the area. The purpose of developing the PSEA Implementation Quick Reference Handbook was to de-mystify PSEA, and to show that it can be done, no matter what kind of agency you are. We spoke to a variety of organisations, large and small, national and international, and they generously shared their experiences with us – the successes and the challenges alike.

The Handbook

The resulting Handbook is designed to provide support on implementing PSEA that is practical and based on peer-learning. Taking international standards as its basis, it looks at key areas for implementing PSEA, and gives practical advice on how to take it forward.

Sometimes the first step is the hardest. In the Handbook, you will find different PSEA subject areas (based around on the IASC Minimum Operating Standards for PSEA), then practical step-by-step instructions on how to get started. This is followed by a real-life example from an agency like yours: how they got started, the steps they took, and the lessons they learnt along the way.

Developing the Handbook involved talking to a range of programme practitioners in different organisations across different locations. We wanted to find out what could be practically done, what went well, and what lessons were learnt, so we talked to people in Indonesia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya to name just a few – and we discovered that there is a lot of really impressive PSEA practice out there.

Learning from good practice

These are some of the interesting things that we learnt from working on the Handbook:

The prompt for looking at PSEA can come from different sources. For example, when new national legislation on anti-harassment procedures was issued by the Indian Supreme Court, EFICOR took the opportunity to introduce new policy in their organisation. Meanwhile, the Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK) in Kenya were prompted to strengthen PSEA after starting a partnership with UNHCR, where implementing PSEA is part of the contractual agreement.

Implementing PSEA in the community can increase trust. Yakkum Emergency Unit (YEU) are a Christian NGO working in Indonesia, a majority Muslim country. They found that introducing PSEA has shown the community that YEU are committed to working with them respectfully, and has helped them gain acceptance.

Staff are more likely to report SEA to someone that they know – or feel that they know. Oxfam GB found that most reports were made to an individual, such as a trusted manager or Focal Point, or even someone whose name and picture the complainant had seen on a website, in preference to an impersonal channel such as a Whistleblowing Hotline.

The importance of engaging all staff.  One theme that came up with most organisations we interviewed was the importance of consulting and including all staff in PSEA implementation. This particularly applied to those staff who are essential to the running of the organisation but that we sometimes overlook, such as guards, drivers and maintenance staff.

The ethos of the Handbook is for us summarised in these words from Oxfam GB: ‘If in doubt, ask an NGO with expertise to help. The CHS Alliance can also provide you with guidance and support. You are not on your own.