Aid agencies can fix culture of abuse from within


New abuse revelations are horrific, but aid agencies are making changes and can be trusted to improve says Scotland’s International Development Alliance

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31st May 2018 by Susan Smith 1 Comment

Scotland’s international development sector does not need a new regulator but a zero tolerance attitude to abuse.

Jane Salmonson of Scotland’s International Development Alliance has rejected a call made by the author of a 2001 report into the food-for-sex culture in west-African refugee camps, details of which were only brought to light this week,.

In a letter to the Times Asmita Naik said that many large organisations are “wilfully turning a blind eye or are grossly incompetent” by failing to take seriously abuse in international aid 16 years after her report was created.

She wrote: “organisations that cannot do better do not deserve our funding” and added: “only external pressure will force through desperately needed reform.”

Naik was employed at UNHCR Geneva at the time and contributed to the joint UNHCR/Save the Children report as one of its authors. Details of the report were first published this week in The Times.

Salmonson told TFN: “I read the Times report and the report referred to, with horror. Not only was the content of the report extremely disturbing, but even more so was the subsequent inaction by the agencies named in the report.  

“To dismiss it so lightly and easily seems to reek of arrogance and lack of respect for people living in the harshest of circumstances who suffered abuse at the hands of those who were there to help them.”

However, she said that while she agreed with Naik that organisations who can’t do better do not deserve funding she does not thing an ombudsman for the sector would improve things.

“Would those refugees in West Africa, the subject of the 2001 report the Times has published, have gone to an ombudsman? Of course not! 

“What they need is to be served by employees of organisations with an organisational culture of zero tolerance of abuse, and who maintain an operating environment within which any complaints are heard, respected and swiftly acted upon.”

The alliance is currently creating a package of safeguarding support services to help its members build on the good practice which is out there and to make their systems more effective.

Salmonson concluded: “I understand Asmita’s frustration at recent events unfurling fifteen years after the report she co-authored was ignored, but legislation and the creation of public sector bodies cannot provide the silver bullet. A permanent shift in organisational culture, a sea change in approach to importance of safeguarding, is the over-riding factor. Unlike Asmita I think this is on the way.”

Save the Children told TFN earlier this week it had taken the findings of the 2001 report very seriously, taking action against three individuals and improving its safeguarding policies.

1st June 2018 by Lok Yue

Without enforced rules humans have the disturbing tendency to act like the children in Lord of the flies. There needs always to be oversight, especially of agencies functioning far away from home. Even at home, such scrutiny is needed. A few years ago I needed the Ombudsman to force a response from NHS Scotland. It matters not whether agencies 'change their cultures' : without a supervisory body, things can and will go wrong