NGOs work together to prevent exploitation and abuse

A joint statement from Partos, Goede Doelen Nederland, Dutch Relief Alliance and SHO/Giro555.

The news in the last weeks concerning abuse by aid workers affected our sector deeply. Such behaviour is unacceptable – it goes against everything we stand for and damages public confidence in our work.

Every day, thousands of aid workers work extremely hard to combat inequality worldwide and support victims of disasters and war. Their work – in times of prolonged conflict, poverty, increasing incidences of severe natural disasters and more than 65 million people forcibly displaced people worldwide – is more important than ever.

Aid work is undertaken in extremely hard and often chaotic circumstances where people are very vulnerable – so it is of utmost importance that aid workers do their work with integrity. Accordingly, aid organisations can be expected to do everything they can in order to prevent exploitation and abuse, take necessary action in such cases and be directly transparent about all events and measures taken.

In recent decades, various measures have already been taken to ensure progress towards these aims. The Core Humanitarian Standard initiative, endorsed by aid organisations worldwide, provides clear guidelines. Partos – the Dutch membership body for organisations working in international development – enforces a compulsory code of conduct for member organisations. In addition, the Central Bureau on Fundraising (CBF) in the Netherlands supervises the NGO sector to enforce strict quality requirements.

Individual aid organisations enforce their own codes of conduct and utilise confidential counsellors and internal hotlines for reporting. Employees are required to submit a Declaration on Behaviour (an official statement declaring how an individual’s past behaviour doesn’t pose an impediment to fulfilling a specific task) and undertake training sessions.

Even so, in some cases these existing measures are not always sufficiently respected. This is why aid organisations continually reassess their existing policies and mechanisms, making necessary adjustments as required.

In addition, as a sector, we are jointly exploring areas for improvement for both prevention and response to such cases of exploitation and abuse. It is imperative that existing policies are adhered to. This means rigorous monitoring on compliance with existing integrity policies; improved background checks; enhanced transparency about existing policies and incidents of abuse inside organisations; and the sharing of best practices.

It should also be made known to everyone where and how to report incidents of exploitation and abuse. We are examining the possibility of establishing hotlines for reporting in crisis areas. In this way, organisations can respond more quickly and emphatically to accusations of abuse.

We will soon discuss these issues with the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag. In the meantime, we feel strengthened by the many statements of support we have received. Many people continue to acknowledge the importance of emergency aid and development cooperation. After all, the work of aid organisations in these areas is vital – and therefore indispensable.

Partos, Dutch Relief Alliance (DRA), Samenwerkende Hulporganisaties (SHO/Giro555) en Goede Doelen Nederland.