In Brief: FCDO launches new measures to support sexual abuse survivors

The Barotse Flood Plain in Zambia. FCDO will trial an online platform in Zambia as part of a program to combat sexual abuse in the aid industry. Photo by: Clayton Smith / WorldFish / CC BY-NC-ND

The United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has announced new measures to combat sexual abuse, exploitation, and harrassment in the aid industry and to support survivors.

FCDO said the U.K. was sending a “tough message to abusers in the aid sector.” Critics have repeatedly accused the government of not doing enough to tackle sexual abuse and exploitation in the sector, said to be widespread.

The program, dubbed Supporting Survivors and Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment, will last three years. Some aspects have already begun, according to FCDO.

Among the measures is an online platform to report abuse, to be trialed in Zambia, which is designed to link survivors of abuse and support organizations, “including taking their case to the police or the perpetrator’s employer, if they wish.”

“Up to £1.5m [£1.5 million, or $2.1 million] will be used to strengthen support services for survivors and victims of sexual exploitation and abuse and harassment through the UN Trust Fund and local organisations,” according to an FCDO spokesperson. That will include cash payments and psychological support for survivors. Design is also underway for training, set to be introduced this year, to improve safeguarding investigations conducted by international organizations.

Sexual abuse in aid sector still 'widespread'

Little progress has been made on safeguarding since a landmark summit in 2018, according to aid experts.

The announcement was received well by safeguarding expert Asmita Naik, but she said questions remain. "This is a panoply of measures; the new emphasis on survivors is very welcome,” she said, “But it’s unclear if the lion's share of overall funding is going on interventions that are the most needed and most effective at tackling aid worker abuse."

The announcement came as the U.K. government Oxfam GB can once again bid for U.K. funding. Oxfam was barred from accessing aid funding following its 2018 Haiti sexual abuse scandal, but has since “significantly strengthened” safeguarding measures, according to the Charity Commission.

About the author

  • William Worley

    William Worley is the U.K. Correspondent for Devex, covering DFID and British aid. Previously, he reported on international affairs, policy, and development. He also worked as a reporter for the U.K. national press, including the Times, Guardian, Independent, and i Paper. His reportage has included work on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, drought in Madagascar, the "migrant caravan" in Mexico, and Colombia’s peace process. He can be reached at william.worley@devex.com.