Category Archives: Focus (VEN)

The principles and challenges of the interplay and dual commitment between research and humanitarian action

P. Hancart Petitet

Pascale Hancart Petitet Medical anthropologist, Institut de recherche pour le développement

The author’s career perfectly illustrates the hybridisation at work between the worlds of humanitarian action and research. Drawing on her experiences and various projects carried out in Laos, Pascale Hancart Petitet presents her reflections and analysis of this “dual commitment”. Continue reading

Research and humanitarian aid: bibliographic resources

In addition to the July 2021 issue of Humanitarian Alternatives, which is dedicated to the work relationship between research and humanitarian actors, we have compiled and regularly update a non-exhaustive reading list of articles and online resources in French and English on this topic. Do not hesitate to let us know of any resources that you think are relevant.

Happy reading!

Last update: 21/07/2021

Disclaimer: Humanitarian Alternatives cannot be held responsible for the arguments developed in the articles listed below, nor for the non-maintenance of internet links to access their content.

Lessons learned from conducting six multi-country mixed-methods effectiveness research studies on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions in humanitarian response

Daniele Lantagne et al., BMC Public Health, 21/560, 22 March 2021
Provision of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) to affected populations in humanitarian emergencies is necessary for dignity and communicable disease control. Additional evidence on WASH interventions is needed in humanitarian settings. Between 2008 and 2019, we completed six multi-country, mixed-methods effectiveness studies in humanitarian response on six different WASH interventions. In each evaluation, we conducted: key informant interviews; water point observations and water quality testing; household surveys with recipients, including survey and water quality testing; focus group discussions; and/or, secondary data analysis. The research questions were: “What is the effectiveness of [intervention] in reducing the risk of diarrhea/cholera transmission; and, what programmatic factors lead to higher effectiveness?”

The Evidence Base on Anticipatory Action

Lena Weingärtner, Tobias Pforr and Emily Wilkinson, Overseas Development Institute and World Food Programme, 2020
WFP and ODI review the evidence base on Anticipatory Action (AA) and conclude that to achieve an effective scale up of the approach and ensure Anticipatory Action achieves the intended changes on both disaster response systems and people’s vulnerability and resilience to climate change, robust empirical data and a strong monitoring, evaluation and learning agenda are necessary.

Health research capacity building of health workers in fragile and conflict-affected settings: a scoping review of challenges, strengths, and recommendations

Rania Mansour et al., Health Research Policy and Systems, 19(1), December 2021
Fragile and conflict-affected settings (FCAS) have a strong need to improve the capacity of local health workers to conduct health research in order to improve health policy and health outcomes. Health research capacity building (HRCB) programmes are ideal to equip health workers with the needed skills and knowledge to design and lead health-related research initiatives. The study aimed to review the characteristics of HRCB studies in FCASs in order to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and to recommend future directions for the field.

Examining Conditions that Influence Evaluation use within a Humanitarian Non-Governmental Organization in Burkina Faso (West Africa)

Léna D’Ostie-Racine, Christian Dagenais and Valéry Ridde, Systemic Practice and Action Research, 34(2), 21 November 2019
Program evaluation can support capacity building and inform practice and policy. Yet long-term efforts to ensure evaluation use (EU) in the humanitarian sector are seldom documented, leaving much uncertainty about EU conditions. This study examined conditions that influenced EU by stakeholders of a humanitarian non-governmental organization (NGO) in Burkina Faso striving to base its health care program on solid evidence. Analyses focussed on characteristics of five broad conditions of research use previously documented. Results demonstrate that EU was facilitated by intended users with proactive attitudes, research experience, and willingness to participate in program evaluations. Also helpful was an organizational culture that valued learning, feedback, and accountability, wherein leaders collaborated toward common goals.

Action to protect the independence and integrity of global health research

Katerini T. Storeng et al., MJ Global Health, 4(3), June 2019
Researchers are responsible for conducting research ethically and with integrity. Yet, without strong and reliable institutional support, they are often in a vulnerable position when faced with vested interests. What action is needed to avoid undermining independent and critical research findings? What kind of institutional structures and practices might support researchers in dealing with the ethical and political dilemmas associated with the dissemination of (potentially) contested research findings and evaluation results? To start a discussion on ways forward, we invited input from an international network of global health, health systems and policy researchers from diverse disciplines. We discuss suggestions, endorsed by more than 200 researchers based in 40 different countries, on how the organisations that commission, undertake and publish research and evaluations can safeguard independence and integrity.

L’analyse d’une recherche-action. Combinaison d’approches dans le domaine de la santé au Burkina Faso

Bony Roger Sylvestre Aka, Valéry Ridde et Ludovic Queuille, in Valéry Ridde et Christian Dagenais (dir.), Évaluation des interventions de santé mondiale. Méthodes avancées, Éditions science et bien commun, 2019, p. 125-153
Only available in French
Il s’agit d’analyser la démarche de mise en œuvre d’une recherche-action en combinant une analyse externe menée par une personne extérieure à la recherche-action à une analyse interne (analyse réflexive) faite par les acteurs et actrices de la recherche-action.

Household-level effects of providing forecast-based cash in anticipation of extreme weather events: Quasi-experimental evidence from humanitarian interventions in the 2017 floods in Bangladesh

Clemens Gros et al., International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, vol. 41, 2019
In 2017, Bangladesh experienced the worst floods in recent decades. Based on a forecast and pre-defined trigger level, a Red Cross Red Crescent project distributed an unconditional cash grant of BDT 5000 (USD 60 equivalent) to 1039 poor households in highly vulnerable, flood-prone communities in the Brahmaputra river basin before an early flood peak. Systems that can deliver forecast-based cash grants are a potential adaptation strategy to deal with changes in extreme events linked to climate change. This paper presents the results of a mixed-methods, quasi-experimental study, based on a post-disaster household survey. The research assesses the effectiveness of the forecast-based cash distribution in helping beneficiaries to take preparatory early actions and reduce the negative impacts of the flood on their health, well-being, assets and livelihoods.

Reducing flood impacts through forecast-based action. Entry points for social protection systems in Kenya

Lena Weingartner et al., ODI, 2019
This paper examines the potential for scaling up forecast-based early action (FbA) in Kenya through existing social protection systems, with a focus on reducing flood risk. The authors assess the components of a flood FbA system: flood forecasting capabilities; the types of action that could reduce impact and the institutions that would need to be involved in taking them; options for using social protection systems to deliver support ahead of time, and questions around targeting the most vulnerable; and potential financing instruments.

Population health intervention research training: the value of public health internships and mentorship

Anne-Marie Hamelin and Gilles Paradis, Public Health Reviews, 39(1), December 2018
Better alignment between academia and public health practice and policies are critical to improve public health actions. Training of future researchers to address complex issues and to conduct transdisciplinary and collaborative research will help improve this alignment. In this paper, we describe the role of internship placements and mentorship for trainees’ skills development in population health intervention research and the benefits of embedding research trainees within public health organizations.

How Burkina Faso used evidence in deciding to launch its policy of free healthcare for children under five and women in 2016

Valéry Ridde and Pierre Yaméogo, Palgrave Communications, 4(1), December 2018
In March 2016, the newly elected government of Burkina Faso decided on a major change in health financing policy: it abolished direct payment for healthcare for women and children under five. Unlike other countries in Africa, this decision took a long time, given that the first pilot projects for this policy instrument date from 2008. This article describes that political process and presents a reflexive analysis by two authors who were at the heart of events between 2008 and 2018. The analysis shows that, while the decision took a long time and certainly amounted to a policy paradigm shift, it was the result of a complex series of events and activities whose specific contributions are difficult to identify.

As local as possible, as international as necessary: understanding capacity and complementarity in humanitarian action

Veronique Barbelet, Overseas Development Institute, 2018
Many international humanitarian organizations have decided to localize humanitarian action. However, the localization agenda has been interpreted and understood differently by actors at the international and local levels. This is due to a lack of clarity around key terms, but also the understanding and assessment of actors’ capacities to respond to crises. This working paper outlines the key trends and issues highlighted in the literature on localization. It also reviews operational examples and provides important implications and recommendations for current and future practice.

Preparing for Ebola outbreaks: not without the social sciences!

Bertrand Taverne for the Coordination Committee of the West Africa Ebola Social and Human Sciences Network, Global Health Promotion, vol. 22(2), June 2015, p.5-6
As with any scientific discipline, the social sciences require dedicated resources and time to study these social aspects and to support the responses to health system failures or the public’s mistrust. In several countries at risk of epidemic in West Africa, social science teams have conducted research on EVD and participated in designing the national response. They have formed a network to promote information sharing and to develop a regional approach to the epidemic; however, to date, most of these teams are still struggling to find the funding required to conduct crucial studies. There is an urgent need to financially and institutionally support social science research on a regional scale, in countries at risk of any epidemic. Decision makers must take note and allocate funding to ensure appropriate actions are taken.

Forecast-based financing: an approach for catalyzing humanitarian action based on extreme weather and climate forecasts

Erin Coughlan de Perez et al., Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, vol. 15, 2015, p.1-10
Disaster risk reduction efforts traditionally focus on long-term preventative measures or post-disaster response. Outside of these, there are many short-term actions, such as evacuation, that can be implemented in the period of time between a warning and a potential disaster to reduce the risk of impacts. However, this precious window of opportunity is regularly overlooked in the case of climate and weather forecasts, which can indicate heightened risk of disaster but are rarely used to initiate preventative action. Barriers range from the protracted debate over the best strategy for intervention to the inherent uncomfortableness on the part of donors to invest in a situation that will likely arise but is not certain. In general, it is unclear what levels of forecast probability and magnitude are “worth” reacting to. Here, we propose a novel forecast-based financing system to automatically trigger action based on climate forecasts or observations. The system matches threshold forecast probabilities with appropriate actions, disburses required funding when threshold forecasts are issued, and develops standard operating procedures that contain the mandate to act when these threshold forecasts are issued. We detail the methods that can be used to establish such a system, and provide illustrations from several pilot cases. Ultimately, such a system can be scaled up in disaster-prone areas worldwide to improve effectiveness at reducing the risk of disaster.

A Dangerous Delay: The cost of late response to early warnings in the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa

Oxfam, jointly with Save the Children, 2013
More than 13 million people are still affected by the crisis in the Horn of Africa. There were clear early warning signs many months in advance, yet there was insufficient response until it was far too late. This briefing, published jointly by Oxfam and Save the Children, examines the factors that allowed a drought in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti to develop into a full-scale crisis of hunger and livelihoods, such that millions of people suffered and thousands died. Its main focus is the response of international aid system, although the ultimate importance of enhanced resilience for the communities themselves is recognised. Recommendations: A change in approach to chronic drought situations is needed: managing the risks, not the crisis. This means that the all actors national governments, donors, NGOs, and the UN need to act decisively on information from early warning systems and not wait for certainty before responding; actively seek to reduce drought risk in all activities, ensuring that long-term development interventions increase resilience and adapt to the changing context; and change organisational structures, invest in people and provide flexible funding in order to break down the divisions between humanitarian and development work.

L’Outil diagnostique de l’action en partenariat : fondements, élaboration et validation

Angèle Bilodeau et al., Canadian Journal of Public Health, 102(4), 5 avril 2011, p. 298-302
Only available in French
L’action sur les déterminants sociaux de la santé requiert que les acteurs de santé publique s’engagent dans des actions en partenariats intersectoriels. Un frein important à une argumentation convaincante sur l’action en partenariat est le manque d’outils valides pour en évaluer la qualité. Devant cette lacune, l’Outil présenté dans cet article évalue les processus de l’action collective autour des dimensions clés de son efficacité.

Promouvoir la recherche face à la consultance. Autour de l’expérience du Lasdel (Niger-Bénin)

Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan, Cahiers d’études africaines, n° 202-203, 2011, p. 511-528
Only available in French
La recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique même souffre de divers handicaps parmi lesquels l’omniprésence de la consultance, financée par les institutions de développement, qui accapare le temps des universitaires africains. Les règles du jeu de la consultance sont assez différentes de celles de la recherche, mais les frontières sont le plus souvent brouillées au détriment de la recherche, qui s’éloigne alors des standards internationaux. Mais cette évolution n’est pas fatale. L’expérience du Lasdel, laboratoire de sciences sociales nigéro-béninois, montre qu’il est possible de développer en Afrique même des pôles de recherche de niveau international, évitant les pièges de la consultance, à condition de respecter certains principes.

Operational research in low-income countries: what, why, and how?

Rony Zachariah et al., The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 9(11), November 2009, p.711-717
Operational research is increasingly being discussed at institutional meetings, donor forums, and scientific conferences, but limited published information exists on its role from a disease-control and programme perspective. We suggest a definition of operational research, clarify its relevance to infectious-disease control programmes, and describe some of the enabling factors and challenges for its integration into programme settings. Particularly in areas where the disease burden is high and resources and time are limited, investment in operational research and promotion of a culture of inquiry are needed so that health care can become more efficient. Thus, research capacity needs to be developed, specific resources allocated, and different stakeholders (academic institutions, national programme managers, and non-governmental organisations) brought together in promoting operational research.

Higher education for sustainability by means of transdisciplinary case studies: an innovative approach for solving complex, real-world problems

Gerald Steiner and Alfred Posch, Journal of Cleaner Production, 14/9, 2006, p.877-890
Sustainable development and the interplay between its ecological, social, and economic dimensions can be regarded as a highly complex task. As a logical consequence, educating for sustainable development also has a complex character. Traditional unidirectional educational processes are only of very limited use when educating for sustainable development: Firstly, the initial state of the considered system (case) cannot be described precisely; secondly, the target state of the system is also not sufficiently known; and thirdly, the process between initial state and target state and potential barriers that might have to be passed are also not exactly known. Pure analytically based solutions are therefore, not available; a dynamic mutual learning process is required instead.

Evaluation, knowledge management, best practices, and high-quality lessons learned

Michael Quinn Patton, American Journal of Evaluation, 22(3), 2001, p.329-336
In the endlessly hyped knowledge age of the new millennium, evaluators are being asked to generate lessons learned and best practices. Pressure to do so seems only likely to increase. At the end of this article, I’ll suggest a way of bringing some increased rigor to evaluators’ use of these terms, but first I’ll examine and opine on popular usage and the current context.

The SAGE handbook of action research. Participative inquiry and practice

Peter Reason and Hilary Bradbury (eds.), Thousand Oaks, 2001
Building on the strength of the seminal first edition, The Sage Handbook of Action Research has been completely updated to bring chapters in line with the latest qualitative and quantitative approaches in this field of social inquiry. Editors Peter Reason and Hilary Bradbury have introduced new part commentaries that draw links between different contributions and show their interrelations. Throughout, the contributing authors really engage with the pragmatics of doing action research and demonstrate how this can be a rich and rewarding reflective practice. They tackle questions of how to integrate knowledge with action, how to collaborate with co-researchers in the field, and how to present the necessarily ‘messy’ components in a coherent fashion. The organization of the volume reflects the many different issues and levels of analysis represented.

The transdisciplinary evolution of the university condition for sustainable development

Basarab Nicolescu, document presented at the International congress of the international association of universities, Université Chulalongkorn, Bangkok, 12-14 November 1997
If the universities intend to be valid actors in sustainable development they have first to recognize the emergence of a new type of knowledge – the transdisciplinarity knowledge – complementary to the traditional, disciplinary knowledge. This process implies a necessary multi-dimensional opening of the University: towards the civil society; towards the other places of production of the new knowledge; towards the cyber-space-time; towards the aim of universality; towards a redefinition of values governing its own existence.

Mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian interventions: critical analysis of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee guidelines

C. Coral

Camilo Coral Expert in clinical and community psychology

As the main mechanism for facilitating inter-agency decision-making in complex emergencies and natural disasters, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee has focused on the topic of mental health. The author here focuses his specialist’s gaze on these directives which largely condition the practices of the actors. Continue reading

The contributions of clinical sociology research to the socio-humanitarian sector

M. Pedreros

Maritza Pedreros Sociologist, independent researcher

In this article, the author invites us into her engaged and reflective personal journey as a researcher. When she began to measure the limits that she believes thwart the methods of traditional sociology, she determined to apply the methods of clinical sociology to her work with migrant Colombian women falling prey to domestic violence in France. Her scientific and empirical approach opens up new horizons for the case management of victims in humanitarian contexts. Continue reading

Improving collaboration between humanitarian and research actors to strengthen the evidence base for water, sanitation and hygiene interventions

M. Ricau

D. Lantagne

B. Lecuyot

Marine Ricau and Daniele Lantagne Tufts University (USA)

Baptiste Lecuyot Solidarités International

It is the subject of “water, sanitation and hygiene” that is the focal point for the three authors in this paper as they single out the obstacles to combined actions between researchers and humanitarian workers. They illustrate the possible solutions through an innovative mechanism that their respective organisations – Tufts University and the French non-governmental organisation Solidarités International – have put in place. Continue reading

Incorporating the sciences into humanitarian interventions: the case of anticipatory action

C. Balcou

Camille Balcou Graduate of Sciences-Po Bordeaux and the Institut d’études du développement

The anticipation of natural risks, especially due to climate change, has received increasing attention over the past few years. The author explains which forms this “anticipatory action” can take as well as the support and the reservations it attracts. Most importantly, she calls for an alliance of some sort between the “hard” and the social sciences in terms of their concepts, establishment and implementation. Continue reading

How to co-produce transdisciplinary and plural knowledge to solve complex humanitarian problems? An illustration in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

J. Allouche

C. Maubert

Jeremy Allouche Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS, United Kingdom)

Camille Maubert Research Officer at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS, United Kingdom)

Delving deeper, Camille Maubert and Jeremy Allouche shine a light on what the tensions and dilemmas might be. In addition to those inherent to the conflict of cultures between aid actors and researchers, there are the unequal considerations and conditions that researchers from the Global South and North face. The complex crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo provides a unique anchor to the authors’ analysis. Continue reading

Research and humanitarian aid: navigating the unpredictable, limiting the avoidable

D. McLean

C. Jamet

Duncan McLean Researcher at the Médecins Sans Frontières Research Unit on Humanitarian Stakes and Practices (UREPH) in Geneva (Switzerland)

Christine Jamet Director of Operations for Médecins Sans Frontières – Switzerland

This Focus opens with an article on the place of research within Médecins Sans Frontières, taking us headfirst into the tensions and dilemmas that are engendered by collaboration between researchers and aid actors. Written by two representatives from each side of the question, underpinned by a reflective approach conducted with some of their colleagues, their contribution provides a balanced starting point for discussion. Continue reading

Sexual and gender-based violence: bibliographic resources

In addition to the March 2021 issue of Humanitarian Alternatives, dedicated to sexual and gender-based violence in the humanitarian sector, we have compiled and regularly update a reading list of articles and online resources in French and English on this topic. This non-exhaustive list includes contributions from the social and political sciences, general press and popular science articles, activity reports, videos and news reports. Do not hesitate to let us know of any resources that you think are relevant.

Happy reading!

Last update: 27/04/2021

Disclaimer: Humanitarian Alternatives cannot be held responsible for the arguments developed in the articles listed below, nor for the non-maintenance of internet links to access their content.

Press articles

Oxfam accused of ‘rotten’ work culture in Congo by former staff

6 April 2021, The New Humanitarian
Only available in English
Claims of sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, bullying, fraud, and breaches of safeguarding procedures detailed in a February letter to Oxfam chiefs had built up over years with an organisational culture that made it difficult – and dangerous – for employees to report misconduct, five whistleblowers who worked for Oxfam and who signed the letter have told The New Humanitarian.

Oxfam: UK halts funding over new sexual exploitation claims

7 April 2021, BBC News
Only available in English
The UK has suspended aid funding for Oxfam again after fresh allegations of sexual exploitation and bullying were made against staff. Two Oxfam workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were suspended last week following the latest claims. The charity had only been allowed to start reapplying for aid funds in March.

Then and Now: 25 years of sexual exploitation and abuse

11 February 2021, The New Humanitarian
Only available in English
Last year, our investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation uncovered allegations of extensive sexual exploitation and abuse during the 2018-2020 Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was far from the first time we had reported on this widespread, chronic problem – whether at the hands of aid workers or UN peacekeepers. From Bosnia to Haiti to Central African Republic, such abuses have long stained the reputation of the UN and international NGOs, undermining basic trust in the institutions meant to protect and assist people in crisis. The crux of the issue often comes down to imbalances of power – and the power relations between those providing the aid and those receiving it could not be more stark in humanitarian relief. Beginning in the 1990s, this timeline exposes a long cycle of impunity: grave abuses followed by statements of shock and outrage, then belated efforts to stem the problem before another revelation of abuse, either in the same country or in a different part of the world.

Abus sexuels-Ebola : OCHA encourage les humanitaires à œuvrer avec « dignité et intégrité »

15 octobre 2020, Actualité
Only available in French
Dans une déclaration publiée le 13 octobre, le coordonnateur humanitaire David Mclachlan-Karr a réagi aux récentes allégations d’exploitation et d’abus sexuels attribuées aux employés de la riposte à la 10e épidémie d’Ebola dans l’Est de la République démocratique du Congo (RDC). Il a encouragé le gouvernement congolais à poursuivre les enquêtes et les humanitaires à poursuivre l’offre de leurs services dans le respect de la dignité et intégrité des personnes bénéficiaires.

Why the UN must set up an independent body to tackle sexual abuse

8 october 2020, The New Humanitarian
Only available in English

RDC: sous le choc des révélations, les humanitaires veulent en finir avec le fléau des abus sexuels

2 octobre 2020, VOA Afrique
Only available in French
Les acteurs humanitaires cherchent à en finir avec le fléau des abus sexuels au sein de leurs équipes, après le choc des révélations d’un nouveau scandale lors de la lutte contre la dernière épidémie d’Ebola dans l’Est de la République démocratique du Congo.

Congo ‘jobs-for-sex’ expose prompts calls for greater scrutiny of aid workers

1 October 2020, Reuters
Only available in English
Vetting aid workers more closely and giving women more power is critical to tackle sex abuse in humanitarian crises as exposed in a joint investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The New Humanitarian, aid experts said on Wednesday.

Ebola en RDC : l’OMS et de grandes ONG au centre d’un scandale sexuel

30 septembre 2020, Jeune Afrique
Only available in French
Des agents de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé et de plusieurs ONG sont accusés d’abus sexuels à l’encontre de plusieurs dizaines de femmes, dans une enquête réalisée par The New Humanitarian et la Fondation Thomson Reuters.

Power, poverty, and aid: The mix that fuelled sex abuse claims in Congo

29 septembre 2020, The New Humanitarian
Also available in French
Sex-for-jobs schemes were an open secret during the Democratic Republic of Congo’s recent Ebola outbreak, half a dozen senior UN officials and NGO workers told reporters from The New Humanitarian and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Strategies put in place to stop such abuses largely failed during the outbreak that swept through the country from 2018 to 2020, aid officials and workers, gender analysts, and researchers who examined the response told reporters in nearly a year of interviews. Reports commissioned by organisations and donors also cited abuse concerns.

More than 50 women accuse aid workers of sex abuse in Congo Ebola crisis

29 septembre 2020, The New Humanitarian
Also available in French
More than 50 women have accused Ebola aid workers from the World Health Organization and leading NGOs of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an investigation by The New Humanitarian and the Thomson Reuters Foundation revealed.

Sexual abuse in aid sector still ‘widespread’

17 juillet 2020, Devex
Only available in English
Almost two years on from a landmark summit on safeguarding in the aid sector, sexual abuse and exploitation are still “widespread” and continuing unreported, according to experts.

Opinion: Global aid worker register to prevent abuse risks doing more harm than good

10 July 2020, Devex
Only available in English
Strengthening preemployment checks to prevent perpetrators from being hired is a key part of the response to sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment, or SEAH, in the aid sector. But the framework proposed by the U.K Department for International Development in its consultation on the Aid Worker Registration Scheme does little to tackle the core issue and risks precipitating new human rights violations with respect to workers’ rights, data protection, and privacy.

Sexual abuse ‘endemic’ within aid sector

31 July 2018, Al Jazeera
Only available in English
Sexual abuse and exploitation of some of the world’s most vulnerable people by humanitarian workers is “endemic”, according to a new report by British members of parliament.

Affaires d’abus sexuels : les ONG ne se soucient pas vraiment de la confiance des populations locales

26 avril 2018,
Only available in French
Depuis deux mois, les révélations d’abus sexuels commis sur le terrain par des membres d’ONG s’accumulent. Seulement, la prise de conscience ne s’est pas accompagnée d’une plus grande implication des bénéficiaires de l’aide humanitaire.

The humanitarian MeToo moment: Where do we go from here?

23 March 2018, The New Humanitarian
Only available in English
What happens when you bring together an Oxfam executive, a whistleblower, an investigator, and representatives from NGO and donor organisations to discuss what’s next in the aid sector’s #MeToo moment? A conversation that, as moderator and executive director of IRIN Heba Aly described it, explored the many “layers of gray” that are often overlooked when discussing how to curb sexual abuse and misconduct within the humanitarian sector.

Urgent action needed to enforce zero tolerance of sexual exploitation by aid workers

21 March 2018, The Conversation
Only available in English

Violences sexuelles par des humanitaires : les ONG peinent à trouver des solutions

1 mars 2018, Le Monde
Only available in French
Après chaque scandale, les ONG mettent en place de nouvelles mesures, chartes et commissions. Sans parvenir à empêcher de nouvelles affaires.

Scandale Oxfam : peut-on vraiment contrôler la vie privée des employés dans les ONG ?

20 février 2018, The Conversation
Only available in French

The Oxfam scandal does not justify demonising the entire aid sector

17 February 2018, The Guardian
Only available in English

Ex-Oxfam official denies organising orgies as Haiti opens probe

16 February 2018, France 24
Only available in English

Comment MSF lutte contre les abus sexuels

15 février 2018, Le Parisien
Only available in French
Dix-neuf personnes ont été licenciées l’an passé à Médecins sans frontières pour abus ou harcèlement sexuel. La directrice juridique de l’organisation humanitaire explique comment l’entreprise aide en interne à la révélation des faits.

Oxfam : la presse britannique parle d’un scandale sexuel “plus important que l’affaire Weinstein”

12 février 2018, Le Monde
Only available in French

Oxfam Haiti sex claims: Charity ‘failed in moral leadership’

11 février 2018, BBC News
Only available in English
Ministers could cut off funding for Oxfam if it cannot account for the way it handled claims of sexual misconduct by aid workers, the international development secretary has warned.

Oxfam in Haiti: ‘It was like a Caligula orgy with prostitutes in Oxfam T-shirts’

9 February 2018, The Times
Only available in English

Minister orders Oxfam to hand over files on Haiti prostitute scandal

9 février 2018, The Times
Only available in English
The government has ordered Oxfam to hand over files on charity staff who paid for sex in earthquake-torn Haiti. The demand follows an investigation by The Times that revealed Oxfam covered up the use of prostitutes by senior aid workers.

Sexual assault and harassment in the aid sector: Survivor stories

7 February 2017, Devex
Only available in English
Aid agencies and international nongovernmental organizations are slowly beginning to recognize that sexual harassment, discrimination and assault against female aid workers is a serious problem within the industry — and that perpetrators are often men holding senior positions. Two advocacy groups formed in the past 18 months by women working in the sector — the Humanitarian Women’s Network and Report the Abuse — have lifted the lid on the problem, collecting survey data from hundreds of female aid workers. The results reveal that sexual harassment, unwanted touching, sexual comments and, in some cases, rape, are a common experience for women working in remote and dangerous humanitarian settings.

Verdict today in case of UN employee accused of raping 23 African girls

11 September 2008, The Irish Times
Only available in English
A Paris court will today hand down a verdict in the case of Didier Bourguet (44), a French citizen accused of raping 23 African girls while serving as a mechanic for a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Crimes sexuels : Comment arrêter les brebis galeuses de l’humanitaire ?

30 mai 2008, The Economist via Courrier International
Only available in French
Publié mardi 27 mai 2008, un rapport de l’ONG Save The Children accuse des travailleurs humanitaires et des soldats de la paix de commettre des abus sexuels lors de leurs missions. Malheureusement, l’ONU n’a pas toujours les moyens juridiques d’agir.

L’ONU relativise les dérives de l’humanitaire

25 octobre 2002, Libération
Only available in French
En février 2002, c’était l’électrochoc : un rapport conjoint du Haut Commissariat aux réfugiés (HCR) et de Save the children Fund (SCF) affirmait que les camps de réfugiés de Sierra Leone, du Liberia et de Guinée étaient le théâtre d’abus sexuels commis en toute impunité par des humanitaires et des Casques bleus. Le rapport, fondé sur des centaines d’entretiens, accusait plus d’une soixantaine de personnes, employées par 40 organisations internationales et non-gouvernementales, d’avoir profité de leur pouvoir pour abuser des réfugiées. Le 24 octobre, un communiqué de presse de l’ONU s’employait à relativiser l’affaire : «L’enquête menée par les inspecteurs des Nations unies n’a pas trouvé d’indices de mauvais traitements répandus des réfugiés par des humanitaires.»

L’humanitaire vire au sordide en Afrique

28 février 2002, Libération
Only available in French
Après le scandale d’un réseau criminel qui avait infiltré le bureau du Haut-Commissariat des Nations unies aux réfugiés (HCR) au Kenya, une nouvelle affaire secoue le monde humanitaire. Un grand nombre d’enfants auraient été victimes d’abus sexuels perpétrés par des humanitaires, aussi bien par le personnel local qu’international ainsi que par des Casques bleus en Sierra Leone, au Liberia et en Guinée. C’est ce que vient de révéler une mission d’évaluation, dont le premier rapport est publié conjointement par le HCR et l’organisation britannique Save the Children Fund. L’ONU vient d’envoyer une équipe d’enquêteurs pour vérifier les graves allégations basées sur les témoignages de quelque 1500 personnes, essentiellement des enfants. A ce jour, 67 personnes travaillant pour 40 organisations humanitaires sont soupçonnées d’abus sexuels sur des filles, âgées pour la plupart de 13 à 18 ans.

Études et rapports

Abus, exploitation et harcèlement sexuels, une prise de conscience collective : Humanitalents donne la parole aux travailleurs humanitaires

Juin 2019, Humanitalents
Only available in French
Humanitalents a souhaité faire une enquête auprès des humanitaires francophones pour comprendre leurs préoccupations sur les questions de harcèlement, exploitation et abus sexuels. Il s’agit d’un premier pas pour mieux cerner la situation actuelle, les perceptions des personnes travaillant dans le secteur ainsi que leurs attentes. Dans un premier temps nous observerons les profils des participant.e.s à l’enquête et leur niveau de préoccupation quant aux différentes problématiques de PSHEA. Ensuite nous regarderons de plus près la connaissance qu’iels ont des outils existants dans la structure où iels travaillent. Enfin, nous étudierons de plus près les freins à prise de parole et à la bonne gestion des cas de SHEA ainsi que leurs recommandations et attentes concernant la prévention et la prise en charge des cas.

Whole of Syria. Gender-Based Violence Area of Responsibility: Voices from Syria 2019-Assessment Findings of the Humanitarian Needs Overview

2019, United Nations Population Fund
Only available in English
With the Syria crisis approaching its ninth year, the country faces a new reality in which gender dynamics have been significantly altered. Even as parts of Syria appear to be stabilizing, the situation has long since passed a tipping point in terms of accumulated effects, with women and girls shouldering the larger portion of the consequences of the crisis. The lingering ramifications of conflict and displacement are now so fundamentally ingrained that they require long-term and strategic solutions. This report provides and in-depth look in to the lives of women and girls who are striving to find their place in the aftermath of conflict. The information, individual accounts and recommendations contained in this report serve as a valuable primer for aid agencies in delivering a comprehensive and effective response to gender-based violence, which continues to pervade the lives of women and girls throughout Syria.

Enhancing accountability SEA: Is a Sector Ombudsperson the next step?

September 2018, ICVA
Only available in English
Since the media disclosure of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) cases by humanitarian actors in February 2018, attempts to address the issue and increase protection against SEA have multiplied. Among other efforts to improve internal practices and create effective complaint mechanisms, the idea of creating a Humanitarian Sector Ombudsperson’s office (HSO) with the power to handle SEA issues throughout the sector is also being discussed. This paper aims at feeding this reflection among ICVA members by briefly discussing some elements and practical implications in the establishment and running of an HSO.

Humanitarian Experiences with Sexual Violence: Compilation of Two Years of Report the Abuse Data Collection

August 2017, Report The Abuse
Only available in English
Report the Abuse (RTA) began operating on 19 August 2015, and one of its first acts was to open up a public, confidential, non-judgemental, and anonymous platform where humanitarian aid workers could express their experiences and knowledge about sexual violence incidents within the humanitarian community. With the closure of RTA on 20 August 2017, we wanted to ensure that information about sexual violence in the humanitarian community was available long past the end of the NGO’s operations.

Aucun Recours : La Sous-Représentation de l’Exploitation et de la Violence Sexuelles Subies par les Enfants aux Mains des Travailleurs Humanitaires et des Soldats de la Paix

1 mai 2008, Save The Children
Only available in French
Des enfants qui vivent dans des pays sous l’emprise de conflits et de désastres naturels font l’objet d’exploitation et de violences sexuelles aux mains de ceux mêmes qui ont été embauchés pour les aider : les travailleurs humanitaires et les soldats de la paix. Le silence assourdissant qui entoure ces abus est presque aussi choquant que les actes eux-mêmes. La crainte et un sentiment d’impuissance font que les enfants et leurs familles ne dénoncent pas leurs agresseurs. D’autre part, les organisations internationales ne gèrent pas suffisamment efficacement les allégations de maltraitance portées contre leur personnel. Aucun recours cherche à faire avancer le débat et à stimuler les efforts pour tenter de résoudre ce terrible problème. En se basant sur une étude menée auprès des communautés et des organisations internationales, il examine la sous-représentation chronique de la maltraitance et l’absence de mesures adéquates pour y faire face. Il fournit une nouvelle analyse sur les raisons pour lesquelles la maltraitance perdure malgré les efforts internationaux et propose de nouvelles solutions pour y faire face.

To complain or not to complain: still the question. Consultations with humanitarian aid beneficiaries on their perceptions of efforts to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse

2008, HAP
Only available in English
Between August and November in 2007, 295 humanitarian aid beneficiaries in Kenya, Namibia and Thailand participated in consultations about their perceptions of prevention and response to sexual exploitation and abuse. This report provides the background, purpose and methodology of the consultation. Then follows a detailed report for each of the three countries where consultations were held, including country-specific recommendations. The report concludes with an assessment of challenges facing humanitarian agencies in their efforts to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse, and a set of recommendations for next steps.

Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Assistance

2008, Transparency International
Only available in English
This report is the first product of the second phase of Transparency International’s (TI) program aimed at preventing corruption in humanitarian operations, focusing on the aftermath of both natural disasters and civil conflicts. It is hoped that this TI program will enable the documentation sharing and implementation of good practice and tools for minimising the risks of corruption in humanitarian assistance. The first phase of the TI program concentrated on improving the diagnosis of corruption risks in humanitarian assistance programmes.

Investigation into sexual exploitation of refugees by aid workers in West Africa: Note by the Secretary-General A/57/465

11 novembre 2002, ONU
Also available in French
This report contains observations as to the factors which contribute to sexual exploitation in refugee communities, including aspects of refugee camp life, camp structure, camp security, food and services distribution, employment opportunities, profiles of camp workers and quality and quantities of food and other relief items distributed.

Note for Implementing and Operational Partners on Sexual Violence and Exploitation by UNHCR and the Save the Children-UK: The Experience of Refugees Children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone

February 2002, UNHCR and Save The Children UK
Only available in English
This assessment was initiated by UNHCR and Save the Children-UK (SC-UK) due to growing concerns, based on their field experience, about the nature and extent of sexual violence and exploitation of refugee children and other children of concern to UNHCR1 in the countries of the Mano River Sub Region2 in West Africa. The purpose of the assessment was primarily to gather further information, primarily through consultations with children, about the scope of the problem in the countries concerned and the responses of the different actors: UN agencies, governments, NGOs, refugee and internally displaced person (IDP) communities and the children themselves. This would inform the development of an action plan for UNHCR and the child protection agencies to better address the problem.

Circulars and official texts

Secretary-General’s Bulletin ST/SGB/2003/13: “Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse”

9 octobre 2003, ONU
Also available in French
The Secretary-General, for the purpose of preventing and addressing cases of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, and taking into consideration General Assembly resolution 57/306 of 15 April 2003, “Investigation into sexual exploitation of refugees by aid workers in West Africa”, promulgates dispositions in consultation with Executive Heads of separately administered organs and programmes of the United Nations.

Academic reviews and journals

Sexual exploitation and abuse in peace operations: trends, policy responses and future directions

1 March 2017, Jasmine-Kim Westendorf and Louise Searle, International Affairs
Only available in English
In 2013, a UN investigation declared sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) ‘the most significant risk to UN peacekeeping missions’. The exploitation and abuse of women and children by peacekeepers, aid workers, private contractors and other interveners has become ubiquitous to peace operations, ranging from rape to transactional sex, sex trafficking, prostitution and pornography. This article investigates the causes of SEA by interveners, and the development of policy responses undertaken by the UN and the international humanitarian community to prevent and ensure accountability for SEA. We argue that use of the umbrella term ‘SEA’, while helpful in distinguishing such behaviour from other forms of abuse, obscures the significant differences in the form, function and causes of the behaviours that fall under it, and we develop an account of the dominant forms SEA takes, based on survivor testimony, in order to better understand why policy responses have been ineffective. Our analysis of global policies around SEA demonstrates that it is dealt with as a discrete form of misbehaviour that occurs on an individual level and can be addressed through largely information-based training processes that inform personnel of its prohibition but fail to engage them in discussions of the local, international, normative, systemic and structural factors that give rise to it. We identify the structural and bureaucratic pressures that have contributed to the narrowing of approach regarding SEA to focus on individual compliance rather than the more complex set of factors at play, and which have undermined the effectiveness of policies globally.

Les opérations de maintien de la paix des Nations unies : le problème des violences sexuelles

2017, Nathalie Durhin, Revue Défense Nationale
Only available in French
La question des violences sexuelles attribuées aux casques bleus lors d’opérations de maintien de la paix (OMP) est ancienne mais toujours d’actualité. Les Nations unies (NU) sont revenues sous le feu des projecteurs depuis quelques années, pour des allégations concernant la République centrafricaine (RCA) et des militaires français, qui n’étaient pourtant pas sous le commandement onusien. La persistance de ces accusations pose question : quelles sont les causes et les conséquences de ce fléau, et pourquoi est-il si difficile d’y mettre un terme ? Existe-t-il un risque de manipulation à des fins politiques, comme cela a été parfois mentionné ? La nouvelle approche retenue par les NU pourra-t-elle permettre d’inverser la tendance ?


De la domination sexuelle dans les empires coloniaux

3 décembre 2019, Philippe Testard-Vaillant/CNRS
Only available in French
Un an après la polémique sur leur livre « Sexe, race & colonies », des chercheurs publient un nouvel ouvrage sur la domination sexuelle dans les empires coloniaux. Explications avec deux de ses codirecteurs, l’historienne Christelle Taraud et l’anthropologue Gilles Boëtsc.


Sexual Violence and Abuse in the Aid Workplace (dataset)

2018, Centre for Humanitarian Data, OCHA
Only available in English
This dataset contains agency- and publicly-reported data on sexual violence and abuse against aid workers between January 2015 and December 2017.

Violences sexuelles dans le secteur de la coopération internationale

2018-présent, AQOCI
Only available in French
En 2018, le CQFD de l’AQOCI a entamé un vaste chantier de travail à propos des violences sexuelles. Cette démarche témoigne de la ferme volonté politique des membres de l’AQOCI d’accroître leurs capacités relativement à la prévention et à l’accompagnement des personnes ayant subi une forme de violence sexuelle, quelle que soit cette dernière. Le CQFD a développé approche féministe et centrée sur la survivante, avec l’appui des Centres d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel et la violence faite aux femmes (CALAQS). Une série de fiches est disponible, destinée à renforcer les capacités de ses membres et soutenir le travail relatif aux politiques, procédures et culture organisationnelle.

Conduct in UN field missions

2016-present, UN
Only available in English
Record keeping and data tracking of allegations of misconduct started in 2006. In July 2008, the Department of Field Support (DFS) launched the Misconduct Tracking System (MTS), a global, restricted-access database and confidential tracking system for all allegations of misconduct. MTS is now managed by the Conduct and Discipline Service in the Department for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, and it facilitates case management and information sharing between field missions and CDS. When information about possible allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse is received, the information is assessed by the Heads of Missions, by DMSPC and/or by the Office of Internal Oversight Services. Reconciliation of information received by the various entities takes place. This is a continuous process that aims to confirm whether information received refers to new allegations. Updates to the data on allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse are made once reconciliation and assessment of information have been completed, or when information has been received on the outcome of investigations or actions taken in response to substantiated allegations.

Survey on Sexual Aggression and Assault, Full survey results

2016, Humanitarian Women’s Network
Only available in English

Building Safer Organisations (BSO) Handbook

2007, International Council of Voluntary Agencies
Only available in English
This 2007 Handbook was the first of Building Safer Organisations’ (BSO) publications and contains training materials on receiving and investigating allegations of abuse and exploitation by humanitarian workers. A compilation of materials from the BSO Learning Programmes, it is an informal syllabus for workshop facilitators and a general reference on good practice for participants.

Press releases

Sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector: next steps

8 July 2020, UK Parliament
Only available in English
This Committee agreed early in this Parliament to draw up a comprehensive re-examination of progress taken to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector. Our focus is the aid recipients who become victims and survivors of abuse at the hands of individuals working in the sector. This inquiry will consider the support needed by victims and survivors to secure justice and rebuild their lives when they have experienced abuse, what can be done to change the culture in the aid sector to prevent it from occurring in the first place, and how the new Foreign Affairs and Development Office (FCDO) should take this work forward.

Prévention du harcèlement, de l’exploitation et des abus sexuels : Oxfam déploie des systèmes de prévention plus solides dans le monde entier

23 octobre 2018, Oxfam
Only available in French
Oxfam rend public le deuxième rapport d’avancement de son « Plan d’actions en dix points » visant la prévention du harcèlement, de l’exploitation et des abus sexuels ainsi que le soutien aux victimes.

International summit to crack down on sexual predators in the aid sector

18 October 2018, UK Government
Only available in English
World’s leading aid players gather in London to make major commitments at International Safeguarding Summit on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.


Webinaires sur les codes de conduite pour prévenir et répondre aux violences sexuelles : Partie 1 et Partie 2

20 juin 2019 et 28 aout 2019, AQOCI
Only available in French

Webinaire : Mettre fin aux abus sexuels par les humanitaires et les Casques bleus : Actions concrètes du terrain

27 Septembre 2016, Peer to Peer Support
Only available in French
L’exploitation et les abus sexuels commis sur les populations affectées par le personnel humanitaire et des missions de maintien de la paix constituent l’un des pires échecs de redevabilité envers ceux avec qui et pour qui nous travaillons. Comme le Secrétaire général des Nations Unies l’a clairement stipulé, la confiance que les populations nous accordent ne devrait jamais être brisée par d’abjects actes d’exploitation et d’abus sexuels. Il est de notre responsabilité de protéger ceux que nous servons. Ce webinaire se focalise sur les actions que tous les acteurs humanitaires et personnel des missions de maintien de la paix peuvent et doivent mettre en place concrètement dans leur pratique humanitaire pour, premièrement, s’assurer que la Protection contre l’exploitation et les abus sexuels (PSEA) est correctement mise en œuvre, et deuxièmement, qu’une protection et un soutien satisfaisants sont apportés aux survivants d’exploitation et d’abus sexuels. Nous prenons exemple sur les actions mises en œuvre en République centrafricaine, qui a été le théâtre de graves cas d’exploitation et d’abus sexuels.

“Do no harm”: the challenge of transactional sex in humanitarian operations

J.-K. Westendorf

Jasmine-Kim Westendorf Senior Lecturer in International Relations at La Trobe University (Australia)

Based on testimonies gathered in different theatres of humanitarian operations, Jasmine-Kim Westendorf analyses the political, as well as the concrete, conditions that facilitate abuses. The author focuses on “transactional sex”, which is particularly complex to combat as it is so ingrained in the power imbalance between humanitarians and beneficiaries. Continue reading