Four ways to turn safeguarding commitments into practice

IMC’s Kathryn Hancock reflects on how the private sector working in international development can ensure the commitments made to improve safeguarding can be brought to life in view of the DFID international summit on 18 October.

Tuesday 16 October 2018, Kat Hancock

On 18 October 2018, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) will host a summit in London to drive collective action to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse, and sexual harassment (Click here to watch the summit live stream).

Back in July, IMC volunteered to sit on the summit steering group to represent the views of the private sector working in international development. Early September, the steering group was asked to develop a series of commitments to four strategic shifts that DFID had set out related to wider reforms to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse, and sexual harassment.

As one of the two private sector representatives on the steering group, IMC has been working with Oxford Policy Management. Representatives from the NGO, UN, donor, international finance institutions and research sectors were also asked to develop similar documents.

As you can imagine, this was quite a task in the time available, but we set out to rally as much participation as possible given the challenges and constraints we were facing.

This was a fast-tracked consultation. It was challenging to get the word out about this process and get feedback into the different drafts.

Nevertheless, the general feeling across the organisations that participated was that this was a useful opportunity to discuss the issues faced by our organisations. The document details suggested commitments and example actions under each strategic shift.

The DFID-funded Rural Access Programme, delivered by IMC in Nepal, employs 9,000 poor local people in the construction and maintenance of roads that connect remote communities to markets, healthcare and education facilities.
The DFID-funded Rural Access Programme, delivered by IMC in Nepal, employs 9,000 poor local people in the construction and maintenance of roads that connect remote communities to markets, healthcare and education facilities.

As a sector, we work in challenging contexts with complicated supply chains – translating policy and procedures to all of our operations takes resources, not just motivation.

From my experience over the last few weeks, private sector organisations in the aid and development sectors are committed to meeting or exceeding the minimum standards on safeguarding and are willing to work together to achieve this.

IMC’s four key priorities

For IMC, there are a number of priorities that the sector must get right in order to contribute to the strategic shifts.

  1. The private and NGO sectors should not have different standards or approaches. The division in the steering group wasn’t particularly helpful, but we were able to work with the NGO representatives to some extent. As a private sector organisation, we bid with NGOs, building consortia that seek to deliver our clients’ projects in the most impactful way. Different safeguarding commitments across these two sectors potentially create challenges that needn’t exist and slow us down.
  2. We have to be proactive in tackling safeguarding issues on programmes. We must have early conversations with potential partners to discuss how we, as a consortium, will manage existing risks. We cannot rely on flowing down contractual responsibilities to organisations in our supply chain that may not have the capability or capacity to respond appropriately. We need to look for the gaps and work out how to fill them effectively. This should inform our proposition to the client and be costed transparently. We need to be clear about expectations and prepared to defend these decisions during negotiation with our clients.
  3. Working collaboratively is the only way that safeguarding measures can be effective across varied programme operations and in complex environments. We need to work together to build capacity and strengthen working relationships – the effectiveness of our safeguarding reporting procedures relies on this. This entails collaboration within organisations (programmes and head office) as well as between organisations.
  4. We must keep talking to our clients and donor executing agents in-country to share experiences. To support knowledge sharing, we must be willing to have difficult conversations about the challenges that we face. A mature, non-punitive attitude from our clients is important to this. We need to be honest about where we struggle to implement our own procedures due to constraints at the local level. We want to inform future programmes and raise standards of programme delivery.

The DFID Terms & Conditions and Supply Partner Code of Conduct are useful mechanisms for strengthening contracts with our supply chains and have dialogue with DFID. However, in my experience, it has been widely recognised that the sector needs to do more in order to make a difference to those that are impacted by our operations. We hope that the commitments and example actions set out in the summit document serve as a useful reference for organisations that aim to improve their safeguarding measures.

Thank you to the Centre for Development Results and British Expertise International for their support during the short consultation period. IMC would welcome further collaboration and discussion around safeguarding reform in the sector.

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