Moving in the right direction: A pledge to end sexual abuse and exploitation

Photo by Sam Tarling, Oxfam

Moving in the right direction: A pledge to end sexual abuse and exploitation

More than 110 aid organizations commit to stronger global standards

Here’s some positive news: The heads of 116 development organizations based here in the US have endorsed a pledge to protect their staff and the people they serve from sexual abuse and exploitation, and to take concerted action against harassment and abuse.

It’s called the CEO Pledge on Preventing Sexual Abuse, Exploitation, and Harassment by and of NGO Staff, and it was created by the members of InterAction, the alliance of international nongovernmental organizations here in the US. Oxfam is a longstanding member of InterAction, and I was honored to serve as co-chair of the group tasked with creating this CEO pledge, which we started working on in December, 2017.

I see the CEO Pledge as an essential and welcome first step to get all of us who work on international development to agree on and commit to fundamental standards for our organizations to address problems of sexual abuse and exploitation. While many InterAction members (including Oxfam) already have more robust standards in these areas, the CEO pledge will help all the signatories to create transparent policies and a culture that encourages reporting of incidents. It will also commit us all to find ways of ensuring our investigations of incidents are comprehensive and we prevent offenders from being re-employed by others in our sector.

I hope this is just the beginning of coordinated and collective action that the aid and development world needs to stamp out sexual abuse and harassment. Our staff and the people we serve demand it.  We must create an environment for our work where we prevent the more powerful people from preying on the more vulnerable. This type of injustice is not unique to the aid and development world, but organizations committed to ending poverty and human rights violations have a special responsibility to respond to it.

I’m proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow CEOs to move our sector in the right direction. But I am also hoping the US organizations signing this pledge, along with InterAction, will facilitate collaboration with organizations based in other countries to build a global pledge to do the same. It may be a small step, but it is the start of a new era.

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