Zero tolerance of abuse

Ensuring protection for women and girls – preventing abuse

Ensuring protection for women and girls – preventing abuse, © blickwinkel

29.10.2019 - Article

Germany is working at international level to prevent abuse within the context of crisis management and humanitarian assistance.

Ensuring protection for women and girls – preventing abuse

Women and girls are often harder hit by the effects of crises and, for instance, are more likely than men to become the victims of sexual abuse. The prevention and suppression of sexual violence is a key concern of the international community and of many organisations in crises around the world. Unfortunately, abuse and sexual exploitation also occur time and again within the context of aid and crisis missions. It is intolerable if those who are supposed to provide protection are involved in such crimes. Abuses of power of this nature not only violate fundamental human rights but also destroy the trust of those dependent on international support.

Tasks for organisations and donors

Not only partner organisations on the ground but also donors therefore have a duty to strengthen the mechanisms which provide protection from sexual exploitation and abuse. This is the only way to prevent further cases and to ensure that the victims receive the support they need. Against this background, the Federal Foreign Office has become more actively involved in the debate and is backing various international initiatives. This engagement is anchored in the measures to combat sexual violence in conflicts within the context of “Women, Peace and Security”, a main priority of Germany’s membership of the Security Council in 2019/2020.

International obligations and coordination with other donors

The German Government is working closely with other donors to provide protection from sexual exploitation and abuse in crisis contexts. In this connection, Germany has signed a series of international declarations and commitments. These include the Whistler declaration on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse in international assistance (G7), the Tidewater Joint Statement on Combating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in the Development and Humanitarian Sectors (OECD), as well as the joint donor commitments which Germany and 21 other states made at the Safeguarding Summit in London in October 2018.

Requirements for partner organisations in the sphere of humanitarian assistance

Germany expects its partners in the field of humanitarian assistance to have preventive structures, mechanisms and strict ethical codes of conduct for their staff in order to prevent misconduct and abuse. Where misconduct occurs nevertheless, it must be fully and transparently investigated and the perpetrators held to account. Channels must be provided through which violations can be reported without informants suffering any disadvantages. These requirements must also be met in full by partner organisations in the field. Furthermore, the Federal Foreign Office expects the organisations to report suspected cases transparently of their own accord.

The requirements are based on the internationally recognised Minimum Operating Standards of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC).

Cooperation with the United Nations

Germany is also addressing this issue at the United Nations. UN Secretary-General Guterres has declared combating sexual exploitation and abuse a priority and launched various initiatives in order to successfully implement the UN-wide zero tolerance policy. For example, the post of Victims Advocate has been created and a comprehensive strategy based on prevention, investigation and support for the victims has been devised.

Germany supports the UN Secretary-General’s efforts: in September 2017, the German Government signed the Voluntary Compact, a commitment on combating sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping missions drawn up by the United Nations. By signing the Voluntary Compact, Germany has undertaken to investigate incidents in which German personnel are suspects as well as to take preventive measures. These include preparatory courses at national level which raise awareness of this issue among civilian and military personnel to be deployed within the UN context.

Furthermore, Chancellor Angela Merkel is a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Circle of Leadership, which consists of 74 Heads of State and Government and has sent a strong political message at the highest level of the UN member states that sexual exploitation and abuse will be tackled.

Further information:

Whistler declaration

Tidewater Joint Statement on Combating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in the Development and Humanitarian Sectors

Donor Commitments Safeguarding Summit 2018

Overview of the relevant UN initiatives

IASC Minimum Operating Standards  


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