The Scottish Government expects the highest moral and ethical standards from those we fund to provide services to those people and communities who look to our support at their time of greatest need. Both the international development sector and the humanitarian sector involve working with particularly vulnerable groups of people. We are clear that beneficiaries must always be put first, by the Scottish Government itself and by its partners.
We will not tolerate any form of human rights abuses or misconduct, wherever they take place. We are committed to a culture of zero tolerance to sexual exploitation and abuse in all that we do, and where we are involved in funding organisations involved in delivering international development or humanitarian aid, to supporting them, providing a proper framework, and holding them to account in order to achieve those objectives.
We expect our partner organisations wherever they are to monitor their work closely, and to be open, honest and transparent with us, and the public whenever there are any suggestions of abuse or malpractice. This is reflected in our grant conditions, as updated from 12 March 2018.
The Scottish Government recognises that the vast majority of those working in international development and humanitarian emergencies do so in a diligent and appropriate manner. However, the Scottish Government will not hesitate to take appropriate action whenever we suspect that any abuse has occurred, and we expect the same commitment from those working with us.
Recent events and Scottish Government response
Accordingly, in the light of media reports in February 2018 of serious misconduct and sexual abuse by staff working in the international development sector, specifically in relation to vulnerable groups, Dr Alasdair Allan, Minister for International Development and Europe, wrote to all bodies, international partners and NGOs that the Scottish Government provides with funding to confirm that they have robust safeguarding policies in place to protect vulnerable groups, and that any specific incidents of which they had become aware had been referred to the relevant authorities where necessary. Dr Allan additionally met with a number of Scottish organisations to emphasise the importance of safeguarding policies.
The Scottish Government will continue to have regular dialogue with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) and the UK Government on their own activity on these matters, and to work collectively and constructively with others within the international development sector, including our own partner organisations and the wider international development sector in Scotland.
Safeguarding Summit and commitment as a funder
On 5 March 2018 the Scottish Government, along with OSCR, participated in the Safeguarding Summit hosted jointly by UKG DFID and the Charity Commission for E&W (“CCEW”). The Summit addressed the safeguarding prevention and response failures that have led to sexual exploitation and abuse within the UK international development sector.
The Summit brought together collectively as a sector: Government and other funders, regulatory bodies, UK international development charities and independent safeguarding experts to:
- agree a way forward to improve safeguarding within charities and the wider international development sector working overseas
- commit to concrete steps that will ensure effective safeguarding in the sector where a set of actions are to be agreed to strengthen safeguarding processes and mechanisms, including around staffing and recruitment, paving the way for a series of events throughout 2018
One of the key outcomes from the Summit was a Joint Statement, which was agreed by the Summit. The Joint Statement is based on five principles and commitments for international development organisations to adhere and commit to:
- demonstrate accountability to beneficiaries and survivors
- take concrete steps to improve the effectiveness of safeguards
- take a holistic approach ensuring that safeguarding is integrated throughout the employment cycle
- ensure full accountability through rigorous reporting and complaints mechanisms, for any misconduct that occurs under the banner of their organisations
- a system-wide process of improving standards and restoring trust, including a whistleblowing process
As a funder, with its own international development programme since 2005, the Scottish Government supports these commitments for international development organisations, as contained in the Joint Statement, towards: ensuring that beneficiaries, staff, volunteers and communities are always put first, treated with care and dignity and given redress; and to improve the standards and delivery of safeguards, including a culture of zero tolerance to sexual exploitation and abuse.
Specifically, as a funder the Scottish Government agrees and commits to the text of the Summit Joint Statement that “where we are involved in funding, regulating, scrutinising or providing expert advice to charities involved in delivering international development, we are committed to supporting them, providing a proper framework, and holding them to account in order to achieve these objectives.”
In doing so, the Scottish Government commits to working collectively with the wider international development sector, towards driving up standards and ensuring that the aid sector protects the people it serves.
Amendment of grant conditions
The Scottish Government has taken the further step to amend its grant conditions from 12 March 2018, to now make it explicit that Scottish Government partner organisations must have robust safeguarding policies in place (and have carried out due diligence on their in-country partner in that regard too), and as regards notifying any safeguarding incidents as well as any irregular financial activity. Any new funding will be subject to these conditions.