Given the evolution of the Covid-19 epidemic, we decided to postpone the focus themes of “Sexual and sexist violence” and “Between repressive policies and identity-related tensions, how can NGOs help migrants?” to 2021 in order to focus our last two issues of the year in the impacts of COVID-19 in the humanitarian field. However, we will make sure, that we do not overlook other issues that deserve our full attention, both in these two issues and on our website.
We thank you for your understanding.
For its forthcoming 14th issue, which will be published in July 2020, Humanitarian Alternatives is launching a call for papers for its next focus theme, “Sexual and sexist violence in the humanitarian sector”. If you are an actor, a researcher or an observer of the international humanitarian community, and you wish to submit a proposal for an article on this subject, please send a summary of your argument and an outline (2 pages maximum) to the following email address by March 23rd 2020: email@example.com. You will receive a reply by March 27th, 2020 at the latest.
The final deadline for submitting the article is May 29th, 2020. Please observe that the article must be around 15 000 characters, including spaces (approximately 2,400 words).
As for each issue, the call for papers extends to “miscellaneous” articles, which could fit into the following columns: “Perspectives”, “Transition”, “Innovations”, “Ethics”, “Reports” or “Opinion”.
Prevention, warning and sanctions for sexist and sexual violence:
the current state of the humanitarian sector
In early 2018, the “Oxfam affair” – in which several of the organisation’s employees were accused of committing acts of sexual abuse in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake in 2010 – revealed that the humanitarian sector is not immune to the epidemic of sexist and sexual violence. Other NGOs, and international organisations, subsequently revealed cases of “sexual misconduct” within their organisations, with victims including direct beneficiaries, vulnerable populations or other humanitarian staff. In reference to the MeToo movement, the hashtags AidToo and ReformAid began trending, becoming the banners for those who had decided to reveal, fight and punish the sexual abuses carried out by staff in the international aid sector. In response, a number of humanitarian organisations outlined the mechanisms which they had already put in place, or offered to reform their recruitment procedures, to develop training on sexist and sexual violence, or to overhaul existing sanctions already available.
In October 2019, a report published by the International Development Committee of the British Parliament reported the limited progress achieved by NGOs in terms of transparency, with some organisations remaining reluctant to publish the number of allegations of sexual abuse which they had received, and the results of their enquiries. Some months earlier, in France, Coordination SUD and its member organisations adopted a Charter committing them to implementing specific procedures to prevent and treat cases of physical and mental harm, and in particular cases of sexist or sexual violence. These procedures included transparency surrounding confirmed cases, internal sanction measures and reporting to the courts. Other NGO platforms throughout Europe (VENRO in Germany, Partos in the Netherlands, Bond in the United Kingdom), fell in line with this approach, whilst the European Union’s General Directorates ECHO and DEVCO demanded similar assurances from their NGO partners.
In short, the “Oxfam affair” became the affair of the entire sector of international solidarity, representing both a revelation of practices and a possible transformation of the sector.
This focus section aims to study how the moral condemnation of sexist and sexual violence is being translated into organisational reform. Firstly, it is necessary to establish an inventory of existing mechanisms to fight against sexual harassment in the workplace and against sexist and sexual violence towards direct beneficiaries, vulnerable populations or other humanitarian staff.
Based on this perspective, articles may fit into one of the three following themes:
1/ Grasping sexist and sexual violence in the humanitarian sector
How are these forms of violence defined and categorised by humanitarian actors? Which facts are associated with which kinds of violence? Between abuse, exploitation, sexual misconduct and sexism, which perspective should we be working from in order to identify these facts, and why? Which mechanisms have been put in place to flag up and index these facts? How and when were these mechanisms implemented? What are their limitations?
2/ Situating sexual violence
Do these kinds of violence in humanitarian aid originate in specific social and gender relations? How can they be situated in the interweaving of the relationships between the West and the Global South, rich countries and poor countries, stable countries and fragile countries, and gender relations? What role do field dynamics and relationships between headquarters and field staff play in the reproduction of this kind of violence?
3/ Fighting against sexual violence
Which procedures and tools have been put in place by humanitarian actors in order to fight against this violence within their organisations? What kinds of sanctions are in place, and how are they implemented? What are the organisational challenges with regard to disciplinary procedures? Which protective measures are available for the victims? How are humanitarian organisations raising awareness amongst their staff in order to fight against sexual violence? What is the role of recruitment procedures in the prevention of said violence?
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