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Photo: Courtney Corlew, Unsplash

Driving up safeguarding standards: one year on

8 February 2019

It’s been a year since media stories first emerged of sexual abuse and exploitation in the aid sector. Since then, Bond and international NGOs have been working together to drive up safeguarding standards in the sector and share best practice.

Here we look back over the last year at how the sector stepped up to prevent sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment. You can also check out our links to resources and tools to help your organisation.

The sector’s 12 commitments to change

In October, we published the sector’s commitment to change document, which pulls together a dozen commitments and 34 actions to tackle sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. We worked closely with members to develop the commitments, which build upon the best examples of safeguarding policies and practices from the UK charity sector. The commitments have also been endorsed by other international civil society networks.  Bond is continuing to work with members on implementing actions from the commitments. 

Members updated the Bond charter

At last year’s annual general meeting (AGM), Bond members voted to adopt a new principle around safeguarding into the Bond charter, building on our 12 commitments to change. The principle requires all members to ensure consistency and high quality in their safeguarding practices. All Bond members are signatories to the charter as part of the terms of membership.

NGO-led initiatives to improve practice

In the wake of the media stories, four working groups made up of Bond members and experts were created to drive forward better practice across four thematic areas, including organisational culture and accountability. These groups are collaborating on a series of projects and are developing safeguarding resources, tools and guidance to support the rest of the sector.

In August 2018, 240 people attended our Safeguarding for Development event to hear how the sector has been working to improve standards. Delegates from 183 organisations came together to work on creating sustainable sector-wide solutions to safeguarding and share experiences. We wrote about six of our key takeaways from the event.

NGOs pushing forward

We have been surveying members to better understand what they are doing on safeguarding. Our survey in July 2018  was positive, finding that 74% of respondents had increased safeguarding resources since February and that 85% of boards had asked for greater oversight or a review of relevant policies. 

A voice for civil society at DFID’s Safeguarding Summit

Bond represented the wider membership at DFID’s Safeguarding Summit in October 2018. The sector’s commitments to change listed above were presented to a wider audience, while the secretary of state for international Penny Mordaunt made several announcements including the development of a Resource and Support hub, a pilot for background checks on aid workers with Interpol, and a pilot of passports for humanitarian staff. You can read more about the event and the important points for the sector here

Training to build skills and organisational culture

We launched three safeguarding courses last year to develop the confidence and skills of those in the sector – Safeguarding essentials, Developing good safeguarding practice and Promoting a culture of respect. We also provided tailored training for organisations and boards. So far, we have trained 133 people from 80 organisations, with another 170 people expected to attend safeguarding training this year. We’ll be adding new programmes to broaden the support we can provide in the near future.

What next?

We’re continuing to support our members with implementing actions that contribute to improved safeguarding practices and align to the twelve commitments. We are also continuing to share knowledge and ensure organisations have access to a comprehensive set of resources.

  • We are running three safeguarding sessions at the Bond Conference in March. The first session, “What have we learnt about safeguarding”, reflects on whether the sector has made enough progress in changing practices and addressing deeply-rooted power imbalances. “Cultivating good safeguarding practice” looks at different approaches and successes in embedding good policies and practices. And “Nurturing a culture of equality” explores how we change the culture and leadership of our organisations to encourage inclusivity.
  • We’ll also continue running and expanding our popular training courses, with details of some further events to be announced shortly. 
  • We will be finalising the working groups’ resources and guidance on leadership and culture, governance and reporting and complaints mechanisms. We will share more details soon.
  • The Bond Safeguarding Group will continue to provide an opportunity for the sector to engage on safeguarding.

Keep up to date with our safeguarding work by signing up to our newsletter. If you’d like further support on your safeguarding policies, check out some of the resources we’ve collected here