Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, is one of more than 110 CEOs of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) who pledged to improve efforts to prevent sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment. The pledge represents a public commitment to practices and policies that will not only protect the staff of the participating organizations, but also the communities they serve.
“I am deeply troubled by revelations of harassment and sexual exploitation and abuse in the humanitarian sector. This is a betrayal of both the staff and the people aid organizations serve,” Schwartz said. “I commit myself and my organization to further strengthening our policies and procedures, in line with the commitments in this CEO pledge, to ensure that our work environment is also free from sexual abuse, exploitation, and harassment by and of aid workers.”
The CEO Pledge on Preventing Sexual Abuse, Exploitation, and Harassment by and of NGO Staff
The CEO Pledge on Preventing Sexual Abuse, Exploitation and Harassment by and of NGO Staff represents our commitment to practices and policies that will not only protect our own staff, but also the communities we serve.
While standards and legal frames already exist, this pledge is our promise to take additional steps towards greater success. The language used allows flexibility in implementation at the organizational level, with a common commitment to develop collective solutions over multiple years.
As the CEOs of InterAction members, we:
• Are committed to the establishment of working environments free from sexual abuse, exploitation, and harassment by and of NGO staff within our organizations and the countries in which we operate.
• Commit to strengthen our policies, procedures, accountability, and transparency of all incidents of sexual abuse, exploitation, and harassment, no matter where they occur or the personnel involved. This includes examining and strengthening ways to empower staff and the communities in which we work to report all incidents without fear of reprisal or punishment.
• Will create and proactively assure that reporting mechanisms are in place and that all staff understand their responsibility to report inappropriate behaviors, including suggestive jokes or remarks on physical appearance to more egregious and serious behaviors such as assault, even if they are not the target of the behavior.
• Will assure a review, as necessary, develop the appropriate policies on sexual abuse, exploitation, and harassment to ensure inclusivity, promote diverse and safe environments, and outline roles and responsibilities for each member of the organization. As appropriate, we commit to sharing a version of those policies on our websites.
• Will create mechanisms for feedback across all offices to allow staff to speak or share information, including time for staff to speak one on one with leadership, including CEOs.
• Commit to sharing the learning which emerges, including uncomfortable insights, within a confidential learning space, so we can all benefit from each other’s experiences and identify how to tackle this issue together.
• Will establish a reporting culture within our organizations that supports confidential reporting of all allegations of misconduct, with regular updates to the CEOs.
• Will ensure our training is adaptive, flexible, and properly resourced so that it meets the needs of our staff, includes specialized training on bystander intervention, and empowers supervisors to prevent, respond to, and report incidents.
• Will ensure a comprehensive review of our existing investigation procedures related to sexual abuse, exploitation, and harassment by and of NGO staff with attention to ensuring appropriate confidentiality, legality, and privacy, supporting due process while mitigating against “victim blaming.”
• Recognize the immediate and long-term effects sexual abuse, exploitation, and harassment have on our staff and the people we serve, and we will ensure our organizations have robust policies and funded mechanisms to provide the necessary medical and psycho-social support.
• Commit to informing the relevant authorities and cooperating in investigations, when applicable and as necessary.
• Will seek to develop a common reporting framework to openly demonstrate our commitment to our staff and the communities with whom we work.
• Will publicize a consolidated incident report on an annual basis, ensuring that this report includes the appropriate relevant data and maintains confidentiality.
• Will investigate mechanisms which will allow termination for cause when investigations determine that a violation has occurred.
• Reaffirm our expectation to partners that they must take all appropriate measures to prevent sexual abuse, exploitation, and harassment of and by their staff.
• Will work together to develop practices that facilitate greater transparency regarding incidents in an effort to prevent perpetrators from re-employment within the sector.