The theme of this edition of Humanitarian Exchange is protection from sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment (PSEAH) in humanitarian action, co-edited with Wendy Cue, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Senior Coordinator on PSEAH. It has been 20 years since the shocking West African sex- for-food scandal came to light. Since then, humanitarians have made considerable efforts to address such abuses and support victims and survivors by creating policies, tools and guidance, including codes of conduct and complaint channels, and improving investigative approaches and procedures. But have we made as much progress as we should have and what more needs to be done? Contributors to this edition critically reflect on measures taken so far, what other changes are necessary, and share country-level experience of how principles and policies are being interpreted and implemented in practice.
In the lead article, Martin Griffiths, Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, outlines the three priority commitments of the new multi-year IASC PSEAH strategy. Moira Reddick, author of the 2021 PSEAH 10-year review, follows with a discussion of the review findings and recommendations. Andrew Morley, the 2022 IASC Champion for PSEAH, calls for a culture change that recognises that the absence of reports of abuse may be a cause for concern. Asmita Naik, a member of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Save the Children team that uncovered the 2002 West Africa abuse, argues that to achieve cultural and behavioural change the sector must set standards, enforce them and create deterrents. Drawing on his leadership experience across a range of crises, David Gressly makes the case that humanitarian operations need formal structures with full-time staffing to address sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) effectively, rather than relying on focal points and goodwill. Based on their experience as safeguarding incident investigators, Hannah Clare and Carolyn Bys challenge humanitarians to stop producing more tools and guidance and focus instead on investing in the right expertise. In a related piece, Carolyn Bys interrogates the Western ‘feminisms’ that are driving approaches to addressing sexual misconduct.
Gang Karume Augustin and Thérèse Mapenzi explore the potential role of national and local non- governmental organisations in safeguarding efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Irene Coello and Maria Alvarez compare and contrast their experiences working as PSEA coordinators in Mozambique and Venezuela, while Husni Husni reflects on lessons from collective PSEA and accountability to affected people initiatives in Ethiopia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Jane Connors explains the roles of Field Victims’ Rights Advocates in high-risk contexts, a cornerstone of the UN strategy to give voice to victims. Diane Goodman, Blanche Tax and Zuhura Mahamed tell the story of UNHCR’s journey towards adopting a victim-centred approach. Laurens Kymmell and Taryn Kurtanich share recommendations from a global Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment Community of Practice initiated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2020. Heike Niebergall-Lackner and Paulien Vandendriessche explain how the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ‘bystander conversations’ are helping to instill confidence in staff to speak up and raise concerns. The edition ends with an article by Clara Satke, Madison Jansen, Nina Lacroix and Noor Lakhdar-Toumi, which focuses on the ways in which the IASC’s Six Core Principles relating to SEA are adapted, interpreted and applied by IASC members.