Bond, the umbrella body for international development charities, has launched a 12-step approach to tackling sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment in the international aid sector.
The commitment to change in safeguarding, which was published today, has been designed to help charities deal with complaints about abuse quickly and effectively and prevent abusers joining organisations in the first place.
Bond’s commitment to change in safeguarding has been launched to coincide with the UK’s international safeguarding summit, which is being run by the Department for International Development and is a response to a number of scandals in the sector that hit the news this year.
High-profile allegations of sexual harassment and abuse by staff members have bedevilled Oxfam and Save the Children this year, prompting both charities to withdraw from applications for DfID funding and the Charity Commission to begin inquiries.
Yesterday, the Catholic development charity Cafod confirmed that it had been suspended from an international beneficiary protection scheme because of failings in its abuse-reporting mechanisms.
Bond’s 12 commitments include focusing on supporting survivors of abuse and increasing accountability through rigorous reporting and complaints processes, monitoring progress and ensuring victims are at the heart of the safeguarding response.
Efforts at cultural change will include working with partners to improve employment practices in the international aid sector, including background checking, and to have senior sector leaders "nurture a strong safeguarding culture that addresses structural inequalities".
Minimum standards for safeguarding policies should also be implemented, Bond said.
Technology should be used to strengthen safeguarding practice, and awareness of safeguarding issues should be raised among staff, volunteers and trustees, including sharing good practice, Bond said.
Judith Brodie, interim chief executive at Bond, said: "Today marks a turning point for the NGO sector and reflects our commitment to ensuring people are kept safe from harm.
"We have a stronger understanding of where the inconsistencies and gaps are when it comes to reporting and handling incidents, as well as what we must do to address them."
She said that some work to improve the sector’s response to safeguarding was already under way and Bond expected there to be an increase in the number reported incidents as people felt more confident about speaking out.
DfID and the Home Office are exploring ideas such as global Disclosure and Barring Service checks and a passporting system for aid workers as longer-term measures to improve safeguarding in international development.
"This is about significant and sustainable change for the long term," Brodie said.
"Our 12 commitments show we are raising the bar on safeguarding, but this isn’t just about words – our commitments are backed up by much-needed action."