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Posted: 2018-03-23 14:03:20

March 22, 2018; Civil Society

As NPQ has covered the humanitarian aid sector’s longstanding problem of sexual harassment and abuse, we’ve observed a recurring problem: When an organization starts to take the issue seriously enough to encourage people to come forward, in the short term, it can end up looking worse to outsiders and external stakeholders than organizations that suppress reporting.

This isn’t any kind of surprise; the difficulty in measuring the abuse of women after improving the responsiveness of helping systems arises because if you are more responsive, you get more reports. The very agencies that look best on paper and show the fewest incidents of sexual assault may actually pose much higher risk to the women who work for them.

As a result, it’s hard for aid agencies that depend upon public support to move forward with full transparency, but they must—and quickly. Understanding this, some in the UK are calling for a sector-wide review of sexual assault and harassment, with an eye toward implementing reforms that will help, not harm, individual organizations.

Yesterday, at a meeting of the Haiti All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) in Parliament, Brian Concannon, executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, reiterated that the problem isn’t confined to individual agencies, and said that among the recommendations in an upcoming Institute report is a proposal for a “sector-wide inquiry.” He called for Oxfam to take the lead because it is already conducting its own review.

“Everyone else” in the international aid sector “needs to step up,” Concannon said, “because if they aren’t already, they will be suffering the same consequences as Oxfam until the problem is corrected. It’s an opportunity for the entire humanitarian aid sector to step up and do a review of accountability structures and procedures that are already in place.”

Jennifer Robinson from the law firm Doughty Street International agreed that a cross-sectoral review

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