International aid charities commit to new safeguarding measures

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Penny Mordaunt, international development secretary, speaking at the Safeguarding Summit

Aid organisations, the Charity Commission and the Department for International Development have issued a joint statement making five key commitments that will improve safeguarding standards.

The organisations have issued a joint statement following the Safeguarding Summit hosted by DfID and the Charity Commission on 5 March. The statement, which was put out by Bond, the membership body for international aid, agrees five key commitments which all signatories must meet.

These are: demonstrating accountability to beneficiaries and survivors; demonstrating a step change in shifting organisational culture to tackle power imbalances and gender inequality; ensuring that safeguards are integrated throughout the employment cycle; ensuring full accountability through rigorous reporting and complaints mechanisms; and, ensuring that concerns are heard and acted on.

Charities that have signed this statement include ActionAid, Bond, DEC, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Save the Children UK, Oxfam GB, VSO and World Vision UK. The full list can be seen here.

The statement said that “while it will take time for everyone to raise their standards to those of the best, and change the culture, we must ensure the collective challenge starts today”.

It said that those organisations who are membership bodies will “commit to communicating and promoting this statement to our members”, and offering members support to raise safeguarding standards through advice, information and training.

‘Immediate actions’

The statement said that these organisations commit to a set of “immediate actions”. It said these will be taken both individually and jointly, and will be published by individual organisations within two weeks.

The organisations have also committed to defining and proposing implementable solutions to these commitments through a set of five working groups.

Penny Mordaunt, secretary of state for international development, has provided an update to Parliament outlining the actions taken by DfID to strength safeguarding in the aid sector. She reiterated agreements made at the summit and said DFID is now building on the 5 March Summit outcomes and working with a wide range of stakeholders, including other nations, to “shape and deliver an ambitious agenda for the Safeguarding Conference to be held later this year”.

‘Sexual misconduct’ at Shelterbox

Meanwhile, the Charity Commission said it is assessing concerns raised over sexual misconduct at Shelterbox “as a matter of urgency”.

A BBC report revealed that three people involved in allegations of "sexual misconduct incidents" resigned or were dismissed from a multimillion-pound disaster aid charity.

A serious incident report was only made to the Charity Commission once the BBC asked the charity a series of questions, it had been revealed.

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that we have received a report from the Shelterbox Trust relating to non-recent safeguarding related incidents.

In a statement, Chris Warham, chief executive of Shelterbox, said that in the light of recent events in the sector, the charity is “undertaking a comprehensive safeguarding review”. He said this had stretched back more than five years to a time when a different chief executive and trustees were in place.

He said: “As part of the review we have discovered three incidents of sexual misconduct which happened before 2013, one of which is unproven. These have now been reported to the Charity Commission and are still under investigation

“We are assessing these serious concerns as a matter of urgency and are engaging with the charity to understand whether they were handled appropriately at the time and ensure that there are policies and processes in place which make the charity a safe space for all who come into contact with it.”

He said that no incidents have been reported since 2013 which would require reports to the Charity Commission, and that the charity intends to commission an external audit of its safeguarding policies and practices.

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