New reporting platform to track sexual violence in the aid sector

Photo by: Daria Nepriakhina / Unsplash / CC0

LONDON — A new reporting platform has been launched to document sexual abuse and harassment against humanitarian aid workers.

The NGO Insecurity Insight, best known for collecting data on attacks against aid workers, created the reporting mechanism to give survivors a space to tell their story anonymously and confidentially, and to push the aid industry to create safer workplaces for staff, Christina Wille, co-director at Insecurity Insight, told Devex.

It comes in response to growing awareness about the alarming number of cases of sexual abuse and harassment against aid workers, mostly women, and the humanitarian sector’s failure to support these victims.

The platform continues the work of Report the Abuse, which was the first NGO to highlight the issue in the sector but was forced to close in 2017 due to a lack of funding.

It is needed because instances of sexual violence in humanitarian settings are rarely reported as a security or safety incident, according to Wille, especially when the alleged perpetrator works within the aid sector, with victims often fearing reprisals.

“As most cases of sexual violence and abuse are related to control and power, many perpetrators hold higher positions within the organization than the survivor,” Wille explained.

While some aid agencies have safeguarding teams to whom incidents can be reported, others do not have well-established internal structures that allow allegations among staff members to be investigated.

The aim of the platform is therefore to both “give survivors the opportunity to anonymously and confidentially tell their story,” and also to paint a clearer picture of the scale of the problem and drive change within the sector, Wille said. The data will be used to produce annual reviews that will hopefully “highlight where change is needed to create a safer workplace for all aid workers,” she told Devex.

While the reporting mechanism is not intended to trigger investigations or prosecutions, since all the information is confidential, the database could help with cases in the future. “We will keep the records of reported events and should any survivor in some point in the future need evidence of having told others of a certain event, we should be able to confirm that the event had been reported and recorded,” Wille said.

The platform was developed in cooperation with survivors. Activist Megan Nobert, who founded Report the Abuse in 2015 after being raped by a co-worker while on mission in South Sudan, wrote the questionnaire. It is intended to make the reporting process as comfortable for victims as possible; survivors are only required to share as much information as they are comfortable with and can leave sections blank.

“Reporting should be an empowering process kept in the hands of those directly affected,” Wille said.

About the author

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    Sophie Edwards

    Sophie Edwards is a Reporter for Devex based in London covering global development news including global education, water and sanitation, innovative financing, the environment along with other topics. She has previously worked for NGOs, the World Bank and spent a number of years as a journalist for a regional newspaper in the U.K. She has an MA from the Institute of Development Studies and a BA from Cambridge University.