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Safeguarding against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment (SEAH) in the aid sector

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DFID’s standards, guidance for partners and information on how to report a concern

Safeguarding broadly means avoiding harm to people or the environment. Since early 2018, DFID has been focused on safeguarding against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Sexual Harassment (SEAH) in the international aid sector.

Our goal is to ensure all those involved in poverty reduction take all reasonable steps to prevent harm, particularly SEAH, from occurring; listen to those who are affected; respond sensitively but robustly when harm or allegations of harm occur; and learn from every case.

DFID’s work on SEAH looks at both DFID and the partners we fund with Official Development Assistance (ODA) to deliver development and humanitarian programmes around the world, often with vulnerable people.

This site provides an overview of DFID’s work and points to guidance for those working in the aid sector on how to safeguard their people and programmes.

At DFID we use the UN definitions for SEAH:

  • Sexual Exploitation: Any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust for sexual purposes. Includes profiting momentarily, socially, or politically from sexual exploitation of another. Under UN regulations it includes transactional sex, solicitation of transactional sex and exploitative relationship.

  • Sexual Abuse: The actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. It should cover sexual assault (attempted rape, kissing / touching, forcing someone to perform oral sex / touching) as well as rape. Under UN regulations, all sexual activity with someone under the age of 18 is considered to be sexual abuse.

  • Sexual Harassment: A continuum of unacceptable and unwelcome behaviours and practices of a sexual nature that may include, but are not limited to, sexual suggestions or demands, requests for sexual favours and sexual, verbal or physical conduct or gestures, that are or might reasonably be perceived as offensive or humiliating.


DFID’s Safeguarding Standards

DFID expects all partners we work with to take all reasonable steps to safeguard the people they come into contact with (including staff and the communities in which programmes are delivered) from SEAH. DFID holds ourselves to at least the same high standards we expect of our partners.

Along with other OECD DAC donors, we adhere to 2 sets of international minimum standards on tackling SEAH:

For partners under an accountable grant or MoU, these standards are reflected in our Enhanced Due Diligence on Safeguarding guidance. All DFID partners delivering a programme via an accountable grant or MoU must have an enhanced due diligence assessment in place before funding is dispersed to assess risks and the organisation’s adherence to these standards (there are some exceptions in humanitarian crisis response where the due diligence can be conducted at a later date to enable quick dispersal of funds to reach those in urgent need).

For partners under a contract, the standards are reflected in our Supply Partner Code of Conduct and Terms and Conditions. The Supply Partner Code of Conduct will also apply to partners with whom DFID has an accountable grant from late 2019.

The safeguarding principles that will underpin all our due diligence are as follows:

  • everyone has responsibility for safeguarding
  • do no harm
  • organisations have a safeguarding duty of care to beneficiaries, staff and volunteers, including where down-stream partners are part of delivery. This includes children and vulnerable adults in the community who are not direct beneficiaries but may be vulnerable to abuse
  • act with integrity, be transparent and accountable
  • all activity is done in the best interests of the child/vulnerable person
  • a child is defined as someone under the age of 18 regardless of the age of majority/consent in country
  • all children shall be treated equally, irrespective of race, gender, religion/or none, sexual orientation or disability
  • organisations that work with children and vulnerable adults should apply a safeguarding lens to their promotional communications and fundraising activities