International ombuds for humanitarian and development aid: On the fight against sexual abuse

Event date 21 Nov '18 14:30 - 16:00 A (UTC +1)
Event location Humanity House • Prinsegracht 8, The Hague, 2512 GA, Netherlands

In the beginning of this year, the Humanitarian sector received criticism due to messages about vulnerable people being sexually abused by the humanitarian emergency aid workers. According to a recent research by professor Thea Hillhorst, implementing a humanitarian ombuds can be an important tool to go against these abusing’s. She conducted this research at the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We discuss the outcomes of her research and what further steps can be put in place.

People who receive emergency aid can be vulnerable and exposed to sexual abuse and exploitation, also by the aid workers. It is however difficult for these victims to call upon the responsibility of the abusers, one of the reasons being that there is no independent reporting center where they can report such crimes. It has been said for a while now that an international humanitarian ombuds can help within this matter and expand the protection of these vulnerable people.

By the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, professor Thea Hillhorst has been doing exploratory research on the potential of an international humanitarian ombuds. Together with co- researcher Asmita Naik and Andrew Cunningham she interviewed a diversity of specialized groups and aid – workers. They also assessed countless documents and websites.

Thea Hillhorst and Asmita Naik discuss the outcomes of their research and get into conversation on the matter together with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Humanitarian sector.

About the speakers 

  • Dorothea Hilhorst is a professor of humanitarian aid and reconstruction at ISS. She has done extensive research on humanitarian aid in many settings, and one of her focus areas is humanitarian accountability. She is also an independent board member of the Core Humanitarian Standard Alliance.

  • Asmita Naik is an International Development and Human Rights Consultant with 25 years of experience working for a wide range of UN agencies, NGOs and donors. Her specialist areas include the rule of law, governance, safeguarding and child protection. She is co-author of the 2002 UNHCR/Save the Children report on “sex for aid” in West Africa which first put the issue of sexual exploitation by aid workers on the global policy agenda. 

  • Bart Romijn is the director of Partos. Partos is the Dutch membership body for organisations working in international development. From his position he has been closely involved in the conversation about sexual abuse in the humanitarian sector, both within the sector and with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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