The UK International Development Committee (IDC) has released its Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in the Aid Sector report, for which Palladium provided evidence alongside other organisations, including private contractors like ourselves. As CEO, I’m grateful for the attention being paid to this issue. I expect my position and my company to take the lead in creating a culture of safety and security for every person served by international aid and development. We have a long way to go before that vision becomes a reality, as the IDC’s inquiry has made clear.
Like many of you, I was disgusted by the allegations against Oxfam in Haiti, and undertook an immediate review of our reporting mechanisms. But the IDC’s report rightly states that “Action only seems to come when there is a crisis”, and while an event like this lends itself to a strong reaction, it was still just that – a reaction – and doesn’t come close to being enough.
We know that where power imbalances exist, so too can abuse. Palladium is not immune to abuses of power, in our own offices or in the communities we serve. We have a clear zero tolerance policy for abuse of any kind – a policy that has been longstanding before any recent crisis – which includes a strict Code of Conduct and Child Protection Guidelines, both of which are available in multiple languages and which all employees are required to sign following formal training. These are enforced by a confidential Whistle-Blowing Hotline, which is available both to our own people, and to anyone we encounter.
But we also know that reporting instances of abuse can feel impossible to victims. It’s all very well to act swiftly and decisively when we learn of abuse taking place, but to sit back and wait for those reports to come in would be, as the IDC describes, “complacency verging on complicity”.
This report has been described as “damning”, and I see only one way forward: to face this reality head-on, uncover and condemn every incident, and hold ourselves accountable for transformational change. The #MeToo movement has shaken other industries where power imbalances exist, but none that I’ve seen where the targets of abuse have so little recourse as in many of the places we work.
Aid plays a vital role in the lives of millions across the globe, and I want to take this opportunity to send a clear message to victims, perpetrators, our clients, the public, and each other: we may not have all the answers, but our stance is unambiguous. The time is up for those who would hide amongst our ranks. We stand united with the IDC and those in our industry who are ready to roll up their sleeves and take on the challenging and essential work of safeguarding those we serve.
Managing Director | CEO