Sexual abuse and exploitation has no place in our world, and certainly not among those who serve the most vulnerable.
At Plan International, our purpose is to improve the lives of others. As a child rights organisation, protection of the children and young people who we serve is our foremost priority – nothing trumps this. That’s why we must do everything in our capacity to safeguard those we work with.
Sadly no organisation, including Plan International, is immune from abuses of power. From 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017, we had 6 confirmed cases of sexual abuse and exploitation of children by staff or associates. One involved a staff member and the other 5 were associates. The staff member was dismissed without a reference and contracts of associates were terminated. Five out of the total 6 cases were of a criminal nature in the local contexts and were reported to the local authorities. In all cases we linked victims and families with local support networks including but not limited to medical and psychosocial support.
In the same period, there were 9 confirmed incidents of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct by staff. This resulted in 7 dismissals. The other 2 staff, whose misconduct amounted to use of inappropriate language, were given a warning. All incidents involved adults.
No child, youth, staff member or adult should ever face abuse, harassment or exploitation. We are truly sorry for the harm that any child or young person has suffered. We are determined to be an organisation where abuse and exploitation cannot take place.
We will strengthen the safeguards we have in place and introduce new systems and procedures to weed out sexual abuse and exploitation.
Plan International has comprehensive policies and codes of conduct at global and national levels which clearly explain the standards we expect from our staff. All staff are briefed on these policies as part of their induction to the organisation.
We set stringent standards for all contact between staff and children or young people. Contact is also subject to legal checks in line with national standards - such as the Disclosure and Barring Service check in the UK.
Our Codes of Conduct – covering staff in the field and staff in our fundraising offices worldwide – set out that we expect all staff to treat people with dignity and respect.
We have multiple reporting mechanisms in place for breaches of our policies. We are committed to preventing all abuses of power and ensuring full support and protection for those who do speak out. But we recognise more must be done. We cannot be complacent. Improvements include:
- We are training dedicated staff to better manage investigations related to breaches of our policies, including sexual harassment and misconduct.
- In November 2017 we put in place a central reporting mechanism for sexual misconduct.
- We are reviewing our incident reporting and management systems to make them stronger
- We have strengthened our Code of Conduct, specifically to prohibit staff from exchanging money, employment, goods or services for sex, and to outlaw any other forms of humiliating, degrading, or exploitative behaviour.
- We are applying a gender responsive safeguarding lens to our programme and influencing work. This will help us respond to the specific risks and needs of differing genders, addressing forms of discrimination and violence which may arise from gender bias and abuse of power.
These actions will help us to root out abuse and exploitation.
Plan International is determined to work with our staff, partners and other organisations – and above all with children and young people – to ensure we do no harm to those we serve.
Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO Plan International