MPs committee says aid sector has been 'failing miserably' to tackle sexual exploitation

A session of the International Development Committee, chaired by Labour's Stephen Twigg, was questioning Frances Longley of Amref Health Africa UK and Tracey Smith, representing private sector suppliers

Stephen Twigg MP: 'Evidence unsatisfactory'
Stephen Twigg MP: 'Evidence unsatisfactory'

The UK aid sector has been accused of "failing miserably" to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse during an oral evidence session of the International Development Committee.

Yesterday, the committee quizzed aid representatives from all sectors on progress since October's safeguarding summit.

Frances Longley, chief executive of Amref Health Africa UK and a representative of the Bond NGO working groups, and Tracey Smith, who represented private sector suppliers, were the witnesses in the first part of the session.

Pauline Latham, the Conservative MP for Mid Derbyshire, asked why the NGO working groups had deemed it unnecessary to conduct a full audit of reporting on sexual abuse because what had been revealed so far could just be "the tip of the iceberg".

Latham said the sector was "failing miserably". She added: "There should be a study to find out the extent of the abuse that's happening."

Longley said such a study "wasn't necessary to the piece of work we were doing rather than not necessary at any point".

She said the NGO working groups had made progress in key safeguarding areas, including creating a tool for self-assessment and developing training, but it was an issue for all sectors, otherwise "we could have a strong safeguarding culture in the NGO sector but people that want to abuse will go elsewhere".

MPs questioned Smith, the chief executive of British Expertise International, a membership organisation for UK companies, on whether it had made sufficient safeguarding progress since October's summit.

At the end of the session, Stephen Twigg, Labour MP for Liverpool, West Derby, and chair of the committee, said: "This evidence is completely unsatisfactory.

"We had some concerns with the evidence from Bond but, frankly, the concerns about the private sector are enormous and nothing you have said today has served to reassure me in terms of concerns I had prior to today's session."

During the second part of the session, Rory Stewart, Secretary of State for International Development, defended the progress made by NGOs.

Stewart spoke after Nigel Evans, the Conservative MP for Ribble Valley, said some charity chief executives had "helped to burn their charities by lack of urgency and almost disregard for what was going on under their watch".

Stewart said: "In quite a slow-moving sector, the impact made within 12 to 15 months has been pretty dramatic.

"What happened at Oxfam and Save the Children has set a fire under the entire sector.

"Even very small NGOs now are falling over themselves to generate these policies on safeguarding. They are looking at that stuff in a completely different way." 

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