‘Pivotal moment’ for aid sector as new global register cracks down on abuse

19 Oct 18

British aid money is going to help launch a global register of sex offenders that aims to crack down on abuse in the sector.

The Department for International Development will work with Interpol, the Association of Chief Police Offers’ Criminal Records Office and Save the Children to launch a five-year project to stop sexual predators from moving between aid organisations without being caught.

This follows a revelation earlier this year that Oxfam covered up claims that its staff had used sex workers while working in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. Further misconduct within Save the Children and UN agencies was later uncovered.

Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s secretary of state for international development, said today: “This is a pivotal moment. The entire international community is in one place, as it looks to change for the better the way the aid sector works.”

She announced that £2m of British aid money will be spent launching the register, which is part of a “concerted global effort” to clean up the charity sector.

The project, named Operation Soteria after the Greek goddess of safety, will harness Interpol’s green-notice system, which issues international alerts over those “considered to be a threat to public safety”.

It will also include deploying teams of specialists to two regional hubs in Africa and Asia to strengthen criminal record checks and information sharing between all 192 members, including ‘high-risk countries’, to build a more robust law enforcement response, Mordaunt said.

The current criminal background checks for employees within the sector is carried out through commercial suppliers, which makes the process “complex and unwieldy”, Save the Children said.

The NGO, which is still under investigation for misconduct, said the “landmark initiative” would help root out perpetrators of abuse.

Mordaunt made the announcement at the Safeguarding Summit, where other international donors are expected to make concrete commitments to tackle the issue.

Interpol secretary general Jürgen Stock said of the register: "A critical part of Interpol’s mission is to protect the most vulnerable members of society from the most dangerous.

“This is all the more important when sexual predators attempt to exploit the very people – be it men, women or children - they are supposed to be safeguarding from harm.”

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