14 January 2021 | Comment | Article by Alan Collins

Review into sex abuse by aid workers "should talk to real victims not just NGO's"

The UK Parliamentary International Development Committee (IDC) has today published a report on the progress on tackling the sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) of aid beneficiaries. The report found that SEA is still happening in the sector.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Hugh James Partner and specialist abuse lawyer, Alan Collins, said:

“Today’s report is welcome and brings into sharp focus the tragedy and trauma of the sexual exploitation of aid beneficiaries.

I have found that when talking to victims and survivors of abuse in the developing countries, that they do not necessarily look at the issues through our Western world prism. Both the IDC and the Government should talk to real victims of SEA and not rely on information and evidence from Non-Governmental organisations (NGOs). They need to ask the right people – the victims and their communities the following questions:

  • Do they share the same understanding of sexual abuse as Western communities and do they see what we understand to be sexual abuse, as sexual abuse?
  • If so, what do they want the Aid sector and Governments to do about it?
  • What are the barriers to reporting allegations? It is unrealistic to expect victims for example, in a refugee camp to telephone to make a complaint.

The challenge for both the UK government and the UN is to undertake the hard and very necessary work to make the prevention of sexual exploitation a reality in the developing world. This is very clear from reading the report, and the reports published in the past by the UN and others. The problems and challenges are recognised, but you are left with the impression that the key questions have not been asked. Instead, answers are provided without having thought about those questions.

It has to be hoped that the UK government takes up the report recommendations, but these in themselves are likely to be inadequate”.

The report publication comes ahead of the Committee securing a debate in the House of Commons on the report, expected to take place this morning.

Read the full IDC report here.


We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com 

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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