Sexual abuse by aid workers in poorer countries is STILL going on three years after Oxfam Haiti scandal, MPs tell
- The vast majority of those surveyed believe that abuse of aid recipients continues
- Exploiters can still be rehired in the aid sector as investigations are lacking
- The MPs report warns that perpetrators are still escaping with impunity
Sexual abuse of women in poorer countries by aid workers has gotten worse during the coronavirus pandemic, MPs say in a damning report.
Three-quarters of those polled by the Commons International Development Commission believe abuse of aid recipients is still ongoing – three years after the Oxfam Haiti abuse scandal surfaced.
A quarter of the 64 surveyed, mostly aid workers, said they had witnessed a suspected abuse of those receiving aid.
Labor MP Sarah Champion, the chair of the committee, said that abuse in the aid sector was still ‘widespread’ and that it was the ‘last safe haven’ for perpetrators.
MPs have suggested that sexual abuse of women in poorer countries has worsened during the pandemic
She said: “Beneficiaries of aid are by nature the most vulnerable people on Earth.
‘I have great admiration for the aid sector, but it needs to wake up to what is going on and embed the safeguarding in all its programs.
“Our research has shown that beneficiary abuse is widespread and that the industry has actually become the last safe haven for offenders.
“During the investigation, we heard repeatedly that abusers acted with impunity, whistleblowers were expelled from their jobs and that victims found it impossible to obtain justice.”
Labor MP Sarah Champion, the chair of the Commons International Development Committee, said abuse in the aid sector was still ‘widespread’
The MPs report warned that despite the changes that have been made since the Haiti scandal, the perpetrators were still escaping with impunity.
They found that sexual exploiters may still be rehired in the aid sector, as employment schemes designed to exclude them often do not sufficiently research.
They also warned that arrangements to prevent abusers from being rehired could lead to retaliation against those who raise legitimate concerns.
MEPs insisted that aid should not be phased out due to the coronavirus pandemic, as it could leave women even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Committee members noted that the government has made significant efforts to support schemes designed to prevent perpetrators of exploitation and abuse from being rehired in the aid sector.
However, they said, the “lack of capacity” in the industry and the “lack of common standards” means that the results of surveys are “unreliable.”
“Therefore, there is a risk that the duty cycle schemes could be used to retaliate against people who raise legitimate concerns and who may not be able to properly identify and prevent the relocation of offenders,” they wrote.
The State Department should review the cost and effectiveness of the “employment cycle arrangements” to prevent abusers from re-entering the industry, MPs urged.
The committee acknowledged that it is “difficult to estimate how widespread the problem” of exploitation is, but pointed to a small survey to suggest that it “is still a problem.”
About 73 percent of the 64 respondents, mostly relief workers, said they believe there is still a widespread problem of relief workers committing acts of exploitation and abuse against aid recipients.
Twenty-six percent said they had witnessed suspected sexual exploitation or abuse of aid recipients, and 57 percent believed whistleblowing procedures were inadequate.
MPs also expressed concern that nondisclosure agreements could be used to ‘cover up misconduct’.
Helen Stephenson, general manager of the Charity Commission for England and Wales, said: “The IDC report is bleak.
“No one should ever be exposed to harm or abuse, but when the victims of abuse are among the most vulnerable in the world, it is particularly shocking and betrays the very purpose and ethos of international aid.”