WaterAid statement in response to allegations of sexual misconduct across the sector
All of us at WaterAid are angered and saddened by reports of sexual misconduct on the part of aid workers who abused their power and, in some cases, exploited the communities they were supposed to help. This unacceptable behaviour undermines the critical and life-changing work conducted by all aid agencies and the trust on which all agencies depend in order to carry out their work. We condemn this behaviour in the strongest terms.
WaterAid expects all staff, volunteers, partners, interns and consultants to conduct themselves in a way that preserves the dignity and respect of every individual, and our policies against sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour reflect that expectation. We do not tolerate harassment, bullying or exploitation. Whilst we are confident in our policies and procedures, we are taking this opportunity to carry out a fresh and comprehensive review.
We have reviewed our records for the last 5 years and undertaken a further check with all our country offices. Our records show that no cases of sexual misconduct reported to WaterAid UK have involved children or beneficiaries or have been in a humanitarian context.
In that time, we have dismissed four staff members following investigation for sexual harassment of their colleagues. One further case, also involving an allegation of sexual harassment of a colleague, although not proven, resulted in disciplinary action. All of these cases were outside the UK and all the staff involved were locally employed nationals of the country in which they were working. No references have been provided for any of these dismissed staff members other than for one individual where the reason for termination was given. No other allegations of sexual misconduct have been reported.
Following recent high-profile media coverage on this issue, WaterAid UK Chief Executive Tim Wainwright has reached out to the Country Director of every country in which we work, who have confirmed that they know of no further cases.
This and other media coverage in recent months reflect gender inequality and abuse of power which affects all parts of society. As an organisation working with some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, safeguarding is of the highest priority, and WaterAid is committed to the aid community’s efforts to ensure these arrangements are stronger, better coordinated and more effective.
WaterAid is committed to being accountable and transparent, and we have submitted our reports to the UK Department for International Development and the Scottish Government, copied to the Charity Commission, around our safeguarding policies and approaches.
WaterAid has signed a joint letter calling on the sector to pledge to eradicate unacceptable behaviour. We believe that everyone within the sector must reflect on what has happened and learn from others' experiences. Whilst we are confident in our safeguarding policies and procedures, and that we have a culture where sexual misconduct is not tolerated, we are not complacent and it is for that reason we have committed to the promises to increase focus and resources on safeguarding made in the letter.