DFID Safeguarding Summit: A commitment to change

Image (c) Michael Hughes / DFID
 

On Thursday 18th October, the UK's Department for International Development convened a summit on safeguarding.

The day-long conference brought together dozens of organisations from across the humanitarian and development sector, showcasing the work that has been done to date to strengthen safeguarding policies, practices and culture, and setting out further commitments to change.

 

The summit began with powerful testimony from some of those affected by sexual abuse and exploitation. Several survivors took to the stage to share their stories and call for meaningful change.

 

 

 

Amref Health Africa UK's Chief Executive Frances Longley was invited to speak on behalf of UK NGOs in her capacity as Co-Chair of one of four working groups set up by Bond to drive a radical review of safeguarding across the sector. The text of her speech is reproduced below.

Amref Health Africa reaffirms its commitment to this process. We will continue to work with our colleagues from the NGO sector and beyond to achieve "generational change", putting the safety, wellbeing, rights and dignity of those we work with before anything else.

 

 


Speech delivered by Frances Longley on Thursday, 18th October 2018

“This morning we have heard powerful accounts from survivors of abuse. On behalf of the UK NGO sector I want to start by saying to you that we have heard you, we will continue to listen to you, and we thank you for your courage in coming forwards and holding us to account where we have fallen short.

Every time a woman is sexually exploited by one of our staff, every time a child in our care is abused, every time a colleague is bullied, every time we have failed to listen and act, is a time when we have not lived up to who we are as a sector and what is rightly expected from us.

The primary responsibility of the NGO sector is to Do No Harm. Every day, around the world, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the most vulnerable, and work with them to help them to change their lives for the better. This is our purpose. For us to do this with legitimacy, we must ensure that we put the safety and wellbeing of our staff, and those we work to support, at the core of all that we do.

Over the last few months, we have worked hard to identify the best in safeguarding and child protection practice, from within our own organisations, across the UK domestic sector, and in the countries where we work around the world. Now, we are setting the bar higher than ever before and working together to ensure that every NGO across the UK sector reaches that standard.

Today we make 12 commitments which will drive change in the following ways:

  1. We will prevent abusers from entering our organisations in future. Building on the experience of the domestic sector, we will work with the UK government and international agencies, to establish consistent and rigorous referencing and background checks for our staff.
  2. We will continue to listen to whistle-blowers and survivors. We will put their safety and protection at the heart of our reporting and complaints systems, and we will make it as easy as possible for incidents to be reported.
  3. We will act on complaints swiftly, robustly and responsibly. This will include being transparent when reporting incidents to the appropriate authorities - while ensuring we protect and support survivors and victims throughout.
  4. Crucially, we will build organisational cultures that prevent abuse, embedding ethical behaviour which upholds honesty, dignity and respect. This will require strong leadership that has the courage to acknowledge shortcomings, make uncomfortable choices and challenge inequalities in power, starting with gender.

From today, our commitments as a sector will form part of the Bond Charter, which is the shared statement of the common goal, principles and values of Bond’s more than 400 NGO members.

But the NGO sector cannot do this alone. Every link in the chain of international development and humanitarian assistance must be strong and consistent if we are to keep people safe.

We have come together today to focus on safeguarding, but we will only achieve real change if that focus and commitment remains just as strong tomorrow, next week, next year, and beyond.

Today the UK aid and development sector pledges to hold true to that focus and deliver a generational change, which ensures that safeguarding, and the rights and voices of victims and survivors, are at the heart of all that we do.”

 


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