Agreeing a common approach to tackle sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment

Between November 2023 and February 2024, a public, online consultation sought views on the proposed ‘Common approach to protection from sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and sexual harassment (CAPSEAH)’.

Here’s what was heard in the consultation, and what the next steps are.

In our last blog, we showed how a common approach to protection from sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and sexual harassment, CAPSEAH, could support the international development sector. And we invited you to share your thoughts through the online consultation. The response was impressive, with nearly 4,000 views, 2,500 users and over 150 consultation responses submitted.

In this blog, we discuss the findings and how they are helping to improve CAPSEAH. But first, here’s a brief refresh on what CAPSEAH actually is.

CAPSEAH offers a unified framework, with common principles and minimum recommended actions to enhance safeguarding practices, improve accountability, and support survivors in international development, humanitarian assistance and peace settings. It aims to streamline efforts across organisations, donors and government bodies by providing a simple, accessible guide based on existing standards. CAPSEAH is voluntary and non-binding, but governments and organisations are encouraged to endorse it to signal their political support and commitment to tackling sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and sexual harassment and to improve the quality of safeguarding practices worldwide.

What the consultation told us respondents thought about CAPSEAH

Of those who responded to the online consultation, 93% said that CAPSEAH was ‘very helpful’ or ‘helpful’, and 84% could endorse the Common Principles as drafted. Respondents especially liked CAPSEAH’s multi-stakeholder approach, its brevity and clarity, the summarised overview of the principles and key actions, and its comprehensive online content. They saw CAPSEAH as a useful framework to engage national governments. Delivery partners particularly welcomed the prospect of clarity and consistency it provides in relation to funder ‘asks’ on protection from sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and sexual harassment.

How these learnings have improved CAPSEAH

Valuable suggestions from the online consultation, to improve the draft CAPSEAH, have now been incorporated. Definitions of sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment have been clarified and more focus has been put on prevention alongside response. Signposting to practical examples and guides for actors to use has been added, and emphasis has been placed on how CAPSEAH is intended to be an anchor for dialogue and more collective action, partnerships and collaboration to protect against sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and sexual harassment.

What are the next steps for CAPSEAH?

The updated CAPSEAH is available to download in English from the CAPSEAH website. A short two page CAPSEAH summary has also been developed. PDF downloads are also available in all other UN languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish) as well as Portuguese.

Preparations are now underway to rollout the updated CAPSEAH, starting with a cross-sector virtual roundtable on 27 June on how CAPSEAH can help broaden and strengthen the dialogue and approach to protection from sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and sexual harassment worldwide.

Bond’s position on CAPSEAH

Bond, as the umbrella body for UK NGOs, is an early endorser of CAPSEAH. Since 2018, Bond has been driving efforts to improve the quality, and – most importantly – the consistency of safeguarding in the sector. CAPSEAH offers a much-needed tool for the sector and will drive greater consistency in approaches to protection from sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment at all levels. CAPSEAH supports smaller organisations that appreciate having a framework to help their efforts in this area, and it also provides tailored approaches for larger organisations, donors and decision makers to ensure there is common, global understanding.

Bond believes that the more organisations who endorse and use CAPSEAH the more impact it will have. By being an early endorser of CAPSEAH, we hope to be able to bring Bond members, other overseas umbrella bodies of INGOs and other key stakeholders along with us, ensuring that it is lived and breathed in all our efforts for a safer world.

What can you do now?

  • Read CAPSEAH and consider endorsing it.
  • Use CAPSEAH and align with the Principles and Minimum Actions to ensure you are doing all you can to prevent harm and tackle sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment.
  • Engage in dialogue with your partners and communities about how to better protect against sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment.
  • Join the virtual roundtable on 27 June to learn more and be part of this long-term global effort.