#MeToo and #AidToo: Update and Resources

By ,

As the #MeToo movement has grown, incidents of sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment have increasingly come to light, including several involving foreign aid workers. I was moved by the powerful personal account given by President and CEO of Project Concern International Carrie Hessler-Radelet at InterAction Forum’s Courage of Our Convictions opening plenary on June 13. She tells a gripping story of her own sexual assault, perpetrated by her supervisor in the Peace Corps.

Her story and those of too many others are deeply troubling—-but this brave truth telling is also a wellspring of hope and the catalyst for preventing future abuses and holding abusers accountable. This is the heart of the #MeToo movement. None of us in any sector, profession or national borders can abide silence or inaction any longer. I believe this is especially true for our community—those serving to improve the lives of the most vulnerable around the globe—#AidToo.

So, what is being done?

In the spring, VEGA’s President and CEO Mike Deal, signed onto the CEO Pledge on Preventing Sexual Abuse, Exploitation, and Harassment by and of NGO Staff organized by InterAction with 120 signatories to date. VEGA is working now to fulfill the commitments in the CEO Pledge, and will be reporting our progress to our members and the larger community, including by posting the revisions to strengthen our policies and procedures on our website.

Since the release of the pledge in March, the InterAction CEO Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Assault has continued to “advance our collective responsibility to create values-based environments where our employees and those we serve can thrive.” Carrie Hessler-Radelet is serving as the Co-Chair of the Task Force, and her Co-Chair, Oxfam President Abby Maxman, spoke at a United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) side event on June 19 – Rebuilding Trust and Increasing Accountability to Prevent Sexual Abuse, Exploitation and Harassment of and by Humanitarian Staff – along with other notable speakers.

How has the leading agency for U.S. global development and humanitarian assistance responded? On February 16, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green reaffirmed zero tolerance for sexual misconduct, abuse and fraud. On March 7 the Administrator established the intra-Agency Action Alliance for Preventing Sexual Misconduct (AAPSM) with two objectives: preventing sexual harassment in the workplace and protecting beneficiaries from sexual exploitation and abuse. On June 20, USAID released the AAPSM’s more detailed goals, actions and resources. On the same day, USAID notified implementing partners that mandatory standard provisions for Assistance awards entitled “Recipient and Employee Conduct” and “Regulations Governing Employees” have been revised. Essentially this change is intended to require implementing partners to ensure that their employees adhere to the same international standards as UN employees, as per Section 3 of the UN  Secretary-General’s Bulletin: Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (October 2003).

VEGA will be working with each of our implementing members to modify our awards accordingly.

Here are more details from USAID about the new policies, modifications and reporting misconduct:

Revisions to the assistance provisions have been incorporated into ADS 303maa, Standard Provisions for U.S. Nongovernmental Organizations and ADS 303mab, Standard Provisions for Non-U.S. Nongovernmental Organizations (Click here for Bilateral Modification #4 and Click here for Bilateral Modification #5).

USAID policy also requires its employees, and implementing partners are encouraged, to report all allegations of sexual misconduct that affect beneficiaries — whether the allegations involve USAID personnel, grantees or contractors — to the USAID Office of Inspector General. Complaints can be submitted anonymously with an online form through the Office of Inspector General Hotline website, by telephone at 1-800-230-6539 or 202-712-1023, by email at ig.hotline@usaid.gov, by fax at (202) 216-3801, or by mail to the following address: U.S. Agency for International Development, Office of Inspector General, P.O. Box 657, Washington, DC 20044-0657

What else should you and your organization be doing now?

For starters, if you haven’t already, consider asking the head of your NGO or an organization that you support to sign the CEO Pledge on Preventing Sexual Abuse, Exploitation, and Harassment by and of NGO Staff. Contact us or fill out this easy form on InterAction to do so.

For our part, VEGA is committed to sharing updates and resources with our member NGOs and the larger community, as well as reviewing, strengthening and sharing our own policies and procedures and those of our implementing partners. We encourage you to do the same.

Here are some resources to help (some are new, and some are dated but worth another look):

To share additional updates, resources or feedback, please send a note to us at info@vegaalliance.org.

In the near future, we will be sharing additional updates and changes to our policies and procedures. We encourage you to join us in sharing what you are doing on this critical issue.