EU considers register for aid workers

EU considers register for aid workers
By Catherine Hardy with Devex
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As part of a review of relationships with development and humanitarian NGOs, Brussels is considering a register system for aid workers.


The EU's top development official says Brussels has not ruled out a register of aid workers as part of a review of procedures to prevent, detect and respond to allegations of misconduct in NGOs it funds.

It is part of a review of procedures prompted by the outcry over alleged misconduct by Oxfam workers in post-earthquake Haiti.

In the UK, the idea has already been floated by international development secretary Penny Mordaunt. It forms part of plans to stop offenders moving freely between organisations.

What is the Commission doing?

Officials have written to more than 200 organisations that receive development and humanitarian funding. They are reviewing details of codes of conduct, whistle-blowing channels and disciplinary measures in place following the outcry about alleged sexual exploitation of local women in Haiti by Oxfam employees sent there in the wake of the devastating earthquake in 2010.

Development Commissioner Neven Mimica hopes the example of Haiti will "really make us think about how to somehow strengthen and fortify our own procedures."

"That might lead in the end also to this register."

Why is this not already in place?

It partly is. All NGOs must sign a "Framework Partnership Agreement" before they start work with the Cmmission.

These require "zero tolerance" for sexual exploitation and abuse through effective and coordinated prevention, reporting and response mechanisms."

Organisations must also have "an effective and efficient internal control system for the management of actions, which includes the respect of ethical and humanitarian values, effectie segregation of duties and appropriate risk management mechanisms, identifying risks and appropriate risk responses."

Mimicatold Devex it might be necessary to revisit "our rules of engagement with partners to make it even more clear what the procedures (and) the criteria for implementation contracts would be, and what timelines of suspension or any other actions once we establish the behaviour."

What is the latest situation regarding Oxfam?

The charity has agreed temporarily to stop bidding for fresh UK government funding.

The government gave all charities until the end of February to give assurances about their safeguarding and reporting practices.

Officials are now "making further decisions about continuing or amending how those programs are delivered."

The Commission has put the signing of new development and humanitarian contracts for all Oxfam affiliates on hold while it carries out its own assessment. This is more detailed that the inquiries involving other organisations.

"When it comes to Oxfam, it has been more than 40 million euros of projects where they have participated, be it in humanitarian or development assistance and we shall now really look into - but not for too long - the explanations that we shall get from them," Mimica said in the interview with Devex.

What has Oxfam said?

That it wants to respond to the allegations "with full transparency and share with them Oxfam's code of conduct, the existing safeguarding measures, policies and mechanisms"

This includes a new "comprehensive plan of action, which aims to protect Oxfam staff and those we support with our programs from sexual or other abuse."

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