The theme of this edition of *Humanitarian Exchange* is Protection from Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment (PSEAH) in Humanitarian Action, co-edited with Wendy Cue, Senior Coordinator of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) ) on the PSEAH. It’s been 20 years since the shocking sex-for-food scandal in West Africa came to light. Since then, humanitarians have made significant efforts to address these abuses and support victims and survivors by creating policies, tools and guidance, including codes of conduct and complaint channels, and improving approaches and investigation 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 actions taken so far, further changes needed, and share country-level experience on how the principles and policies are 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 IASC PSEAH multi-year strategy. Moira Reddick, author of the PSEAH 2021 10-year review, continues with a discussion of the review’s findings and recommendations. Andrew Morley, the 2022 IASC Champion for PSEAH, calls for a culture change that recognizes that failure to report abuse can be a cause for concern. Asmita Naik, a member of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Save the Children team that uncovered the 2002 abuses in West Africa, says that to achieve cultural and behavioral change , the industry needs to set standards, enforce them and create deterrents. Drawing on his leadership experience in a series of crises, David Gressly argues that humanitarian operations need formal structures with full-time staff to effectively address sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), rather than rely on focal points and good will. Based on their experience as protection incident investigators, Hannah Clare and Carolyn Bys challenge humanitarians to stop producing more tools and advice and instead focus on investing in good expertise. In a related article, Carolyn Bys questions Western “feminisms” that are guiding approaches to addressing sexual misconduct.
Gang Karume Augustin and Thérèse Mapenzi explore the potential role of national and local non-governmental organizations 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 learned from collective PSEA initiatives and accountability to affected people in Ethiopia, in Indonesia and the Philippines. Jane Connors explains the role of victims’ advocates on the ground in high-risk settings, a cornerstone of the UN’s strategy to give voice to victims. Diane Goodman, Blanche Tax and Zuhura Mahamed tell the story of UNHCR’s journey to adopting a victim-centred approach. Laurens Kymmell and Taryn Kurtanich share recommendations from a global community of practice on sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment initiated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2020. Heike Niebergall-Lackner and Paulien Vandendriessche explain how the International Committee of the Red Cross’ (ICRC) ‘bystander conversations’ help inspire confidence in staff to speak up and raise concerns. The edition concludes with an article by Clara Satke, Madison Jansen, Nina Lacroix and Noor Lakhdar-Toumi, which focuses on how the IASC Six Core Principles of SEA are adapted, interpreted and applied by IASC members.
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