Never has it been more important to apply the Core Humanitarian Standard

15 February 2018
Judith Greenwood

by Judith Greenwood

Form Executive Director of the CHS Alliance.

In the last few days news reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarian aid workers in Haiti have shocked our sector. These reported cases show just how vital it is to apply existing standards and use all available tools.

Sexual exploitation and abuse by aid workers is unacceptable. It means that people who are already vulnerable through conflict or disaster are hurt by those who are supposed to be there to help them. It is terrible that the actions of a few undermine the excellent work of the humanitarian community as a whole.

For the CHS Alliance it underlines yet again how essential it is to continue to promote and apply the Core Humanitarian Standard and support our members and the wider humanitarian community to do so.

The Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) is mainstreamed throughout the Standard, with three commitments specifically referencing it, namely:

  • 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.

Last year, in 2017, we published a PSEA Implementation Quick Reference Handbook. Funded by UKaid, the purpose of the handbook is to demonstrate how aid workers can implement practical measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. We also compiled Guidelines for Investigations, advising humanitarian organisations on receiving and investigating allegations of abuse, exploitation, fraud or corruption by their own staff.

It is also a good opportunity to highlight that the CHS Alliance provides training on SEA investigations. Our courses are always over-subscribed. Unfortunately, we are currently only able to offer one per year, due to limited resources.

Lastly, as part of the Transforming Surge Capacity project we have contributed to the development of two excellent resources, namely:

All our member organisations have to have a Code of Conduct in place which includes Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. Sadly, having policies and procedures in place does not mean that no offences will ever happen anymore. Nevertheless, organisations, whether at headquarter or field level, are responsible to do everything they can in order to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse from happening. When allegations are found to be true, it is important that the perpetrator be held to account by the appropriate, competent authorities. What is key, in any event, is that such cases are dealt with in a transparent way.

At a policy level, United Nations organisations and NGOs have been working together on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse through the Inter-Agency Standing Committee AAP/PSEA Task Team. Challenges and solutions are shared and discussed at monthly meetings.