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List of Sexual Misconduct in Humanitarian Organizations Grows

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) released a statement last month saying that 21 staffers have either resigned or been dismissed since 2015 after they broke organization policies by “paying for sexual services.”

Two more employee contracts were denied renewal due to sexual misconduct allegations.

“I am deeply saddened to report these numbers,” director general Yves Daccord said in the statement. “This behavior is a betrayal of the people and the communities we are there to serve.”

Paying for sexual services is specifically banned in by the ICRC’s code of conduct. The organization, which provides humanitarian aid to people affected by armed conflicts, has more than 17,000 employees worldwide. This sprawling number makes it difficult to know if there were any more cases of sexual misconduct that were not reported.

“This ban, in place since 2006, applies worldwide and at all times, including in locations where prostitution is legal, as the ICRC believes that staff paying for sex is incompatible with the values and mission of the organization,” said Daccord.

The ICRC, however, is not the only humanitarian organization that has been negatively affected by sex scandals.

Plan International UK recently released that they had confirmed six cases of sexual abuse of children by employees or volunteers. They have said that they are going to do more to prevent this type of activity.

Last month, it also came to light that Oxfam knew that senior aids in Haiti had formed a makeshift brothel. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has subsequently been involved in the same scandal after they fired an employee who had worked with that group of aids. Because of these actions, the organization is reconsidering its hiring process.

“Consequently we are conducting a review of the recruitment process and safeguarding in this case,” deputy secretary general Geir Olav Lisle said in the statement. “In addition we are also currently carefully reviewing our systems and procedures in order to identify areas that may need to be strengthened.”

These various instances of sexual misconduct in the humanitarian aid sector prove that this is not just a one-time occurrence, but instead, a widespread issue.


“We have to recognize that this is not the occasional bad apple but a structural sector wide problem,” Save the Children’s chief executive Kevin Watkins told the House of Commons International Development Committee. “This is a real problem; it is systemic, it’s a large-scale problem, and we have to fix it.”

Though there is still no established way to fix the problem, many people have suggested the creation of a registry for humanitarian workers as well as the use of more invasive questions during the hiring process. It is their hope that they can weed out the employees who have engaged in sexual misconduct and prevent these activities from spreading from organization to organization.

Featured Image by Defence Images on Flickr

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