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The UK’s approach to safeguarding in the humanitarian sector

ICAI review


Independent Commission for Aid Impact

Safeguarding at-risk adults and children from physical and emotional abuse, exploitation and neglect across a multiplicity of industries and social sectors has become a matter of acute concern to policy makers and the public. In recent years, within the aid sector, the UK government’s attention has focused on safeguarding against sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment.

This review focuses on the humanitarian aid sector and examines the extent to which the UK government’s safeguarding efforts have been effective in preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) of affected populations, perpetrated by aid workers operating in humanitarian aid contexts. The review considers how well the UK government has identified and addressed evidence gaps about best practice for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) and how well it has developed a coherent response to the issue.

ICAI awarded an amber-red score and made five recommendations to government following this review, finding that the government could do more to learn from people affected by humanitarian crises, including victims and survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse, to improve safeguarding in the humanitarian sector. Though the UK government is strongly committed to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse in humanitarian crises, its top-down approach means insufficient attention has been given to learning from the recipients of humanitarian aid on how to reduce the risks they face.

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