* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Changing organisational culture and attitudes is the crux of the matter
Media revelations earlier this year of a
Since then, the media has largely fallen quiet and one might be forgiven for at least asking the question of whether the issue has - once again - simply been swept under the carpet.
After all, the problem of sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector is nothing new. There have been repeated warnings over the years. A 2002 report by UNHCR and SCF-UK was a damning indictment of sexual exploitation of refugee children in West Africa by aid workers, peacekeepers
So, are things any different this time
Personally, I’m convinced that things are different this time. Just as in the wider #MeToo #TimesUp movement, the demand for change is coming from affected people themselves - both within humanitarian
Moreover, the “Humanitarian #MeToo #AidToo #TimesUp” movement goes beyond the issue of sexual misconduct. It strikes at the heart of power imbalances in the aid sector (as in many other sectors of society): between men and women; between managers and staff; between international and local actors; and - crucially - between humanitarian workers and vulnerable people affected by
Clearly, we need to create meaningful change to power structures; to be seen to actually enforce codes of conduct and procedures; and to build an environment of integrity, respect and trust. Of course, we need to ensure a culture where people feel safe to speak out; where there is zero tolerance for abuse of any kind; where allegations are taken seriously and accountability by perpetrators is assured. Strong leadership and management is one important aspect of this.
But we need to go further than this. The time is now for long-term thinking and transformative change - to walk the talk not only with regard to ensuring accountability for sexual abuse and exploitation but more broadly with regard to achieving gender equality and real accountability to the people we aim to protect and assist.
As humanitarians, we must be honest and go beyond the rhetoric of “
In an environment where trust is a rare commodity, we as humanitarians will need to continuously prove our worth and live up to our promises – not only if we want to be taken seriously, but if we want to survive at all. The onus is on us.
Yves Daccord is Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.