Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Policy
POLICY ON PREVENTION AND RESPONSE TO SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND ABUSE
Action Against Hunger Canada places human dignity at the centre of its relief and development work. We take seriously all concerns about sexual exploitation and abuse and complaints about them brought to our attention. Action Against Hunger Canada initiates rigorous investigation of complaints that indicate a possible violation of this Policy on Prevention and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (“PSEA Policy” or Policy”) and takes appropriate disciplinary action, as warranted. This policy applies to complaints of sexual exploitation and abuse involving Action Against Hunger Canada team members and related personnel.
Action Against Hunger Canada commits to the prevention of acts of sexual exploitation and abuse by our team members and related personnel and we endorse the Statement of Commitment on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN and Non-UN personnel of December 2006. On the same occasion, we, through this policy, affirm our goal of achieving full implementation of the six core principles adopted in 2002 by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Force on Prevention and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.
The Core Principles provide that:
1. “Sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarian workers constitute acts of gross misconduct and are therefore grounds for termination of employment.
2. Sexual activity with children (persons under the age of 18) is prohibited regardless of the age of majority or age of consent locally. Mistaken belief regarding the age of a child is not a defence.
3. Exchange of money, employment, goods, or services for sex, including sexual favours or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behaviour is prohibited. This includes exchange of assistance that is due to beneficiaries.
4. Sexual relationships between humanitarian workers and beneficiaries are strongly discouraged since they are based on inherently unequal power dynamics. Such relationships undermine the credibility and integrity of humanitarian aid work.
5. Where a humanitarian worker develops concerns or suspicions regarding sexual abuse or exploitation by a fellow worker, whether in the same agency or not, they must report such concerns via established agency reporting mechanisms.
6. Humanitarian workers are obliged to create and maintain an environment which prevents sexual exploitation and abuse and promotes the implementation of their code of conduct. Managers at all levels have particular responsibilities to support and develop systems which maintain this environment.”
Managers and supervisors must ensure that all Action Against Hunger Canada team members and related personnel understand and comply with this Policy and its Core Principles. To aid in implementing this policy and in educating our team members and related personnel, the organization and its managers and supervisors commit to:
1. Develop organization-specific strategies to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse.
2. Incorporate our standards on sexual exploitation and abuse in induction materials and training courses for our team members and in other relevant organizational codes of conduct.
3. Incorporate appropriate job responsibilities (such as team member training, complaints and response mechanisms, coordinating high-level oversight and progress reports) in specific team member positions to support and ensure effective implementation of organizational strategies to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse.
4. In compliance with applicable laws and to the best of our abilities, prevent perpetrators of sexual exploitation and abuse from being rehired or redeployed by Action Against Hunger Canada. This could include use of background and criminal reference checks.
5. Establish and ensure that complaint mechanisms for reporting sexual exploitation and abuse are accessible, particularly to participants of Action Against Hunger Canada programs, and that Action Against Hunger Canada focal points for receiving complaints understand how to discharge their duties.
6. Take appropriate action to the best of our abilities to protect persons from retaliation when allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse are made in good faith.
7. Investigate allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse involving Action Against Hunger Canada team members in a timely and professional manner, and to the best of our ability encourage related personnel to do the same. This includes the use of appropriate interviewing practices with complainants and witnesses, particularly with children. Engage professional investigators or secure investigative expertise as appropriate.
8. Take swift and appropriate action, including legal action when required, against Action Against Hunger Canada team members and Related-Personnel who commit sexual exploitation and abuse. This may include administrative or disciplinary action, and/or referral to the relevant authorities for appropriate action, including criminal prosecution, in the abuser’s country of origin as well as the host country.
9. Provide basic emergency assistance (medical, legal) and basic psychosocial support as appropriate and feasible to complainants of sexual exploitation and abuse.
10. Create and maintain mechanisms to systematically educate Action Against Hunger Canada team members and related personnel and the communities we serve on measures taken to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse.
11. Ensure that when engaging in partnership, sub-grant or sub-recipient agreements, these agreements a) incorporate this policy as an attachment; b) include the appropriate language requiring such contracting entities and individuals, and their team members and volunteers to comply with this Policy; and c) expressly state that the failure of those entities or individuals, as appropriate, to take preventive measures against sexual exploitation and abuse, to investigate allegations thereof, or to take corrective actions when sexual exploitation or abuse has occurred, shall constitute grounds for Action Against Hunger Canada to terminate such agreements.
12. Ensure high level oversight and information systems on SEA reports received and actions taken in order to monitor effectiveness, report progress and improve efforts to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse.
13. Engage the support of communities and governments to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse.
14. Undertake a review of Action Against Hunger Canada policy to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse at least every five years.
Team Member Standards
Action Against Hunger Canada’s capacity to achieve its vision and mission depends upon each and every one of us in the organization, individually and collectively. To this end, all team members of Action Against Hunger Canada must uphold and promote the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct and abide by the organization’s policies. This PSEA Policy sets the minimum standards to be followed by all Action Against Hunger Canada team members.
The need for this policy flows from a recognition that our work often puts Action Against Hunger Canada team members in positions of power in relation to the communities we work with, especially vulnerable women and children. We have an obligation to use our power respectfully and must not abuse the power and influence we have over the lives and well-being of the participants of our programs and others in the communities where we work.
These standards apply to all Action Against Hunger Canada team members and are intended to provide an illustrative guide for team members to make ethical decisions in their professional and personal lives. Any violation of these standards is serious a concern and may result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, in accordance with disciplinary procedures of the applicable laws in Canada.
1. Team members will not request any service or sexual favour from participants of Action Against Hunger programs, children or others in the communities in which Action Against Hunger works in return for protection or assistance and will not engage in sexually exploitative relationships.
2. Team members will not exchange money, employment, goods or services for sex, including sexual favours or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behaviour. This prohibition against exchange of money for sex means Action Against Hunger team members may not engage the services of sex workers while on Action Against Hunger Canada business, including on Action Against Hunger premises or accommodation, or while travelling to/from or attending workshops, meetings and training, regardless of the local or national law concerning sex work or prostitution in the country.
3. Team members are strongly discouraged from having sex or engaging in sexual activities with program participants because there is an inherent conflict of interest and potential for abuse of power in such a relationship. If a team member engages in sex or sexual activities with a program participant, the team member must disclose this conduct to his /her supervisor for appropriate guidance. Failure to report such conduct may lead to disciplinary action pursuant to Action Against Hunger’s policies and procedures.
4. Team members must refrain from sexual activity with any person under the age of 18, regardless of the local age of consent, i.e. the local or national laws of the country in which the team member works. Ignorance or mistaken belief of the child’s age is not a defence. Failure to report such a relationship may lead to disciplinary action pursuant to Action Against Hunger’s policies and procedures.
5. Team members will not support or take part in any form of sexual exploitative or abusive activities, including, for example, child pornography or trafficking of human beings.
6. Team members must report any concerns or suspicions they have regarding possible violations of this SEA Policy via Action Against Hunger’s Whistleblower reporting mechanism. Team members must report any such concerns via Action Against Hunger established reporting procedures even when the person who may be in violation of this policy is Related Personnel, as previously defined, and not an Action Against Hunger Canada team member.
7. Sensitive information related to incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse whether involving colleagues, program participants or others in the communities in which Action Against Hunger Canada works shall be shared only with enforcement authorities and Action Against Hunger Canada agents and team members of the appropriate seniority or function who have a need to know such information.
8. Team members must undertake to create and maintain an environment that promotes implementation of this policy.
9. Managers and supervisors at all levels have particular responsibilities to support and develop systems that maintain an environment that facilitates implementation of this policy and which is free of exploitation and abuse.