It was March 2018. I had been at USAID for less than a year and had just been asked to serve as acting deputy administrator. The #MeToo movement was in full swing and the international aid community was reassessing its part in devising ways to prevent and hold individuals accountable for misconduct.
Administrator Mark Green, who had expressed zero tolerance for sexual misconduct from his earliest days as administrator, asked me to lead the Agency’s new Action Alliance for Preventing Sexual Misconduct (AAPSM), the first of its kind in USAID history.
From the outset, the response from within the Agency was inspiring — more than 100 staff from Washington and the field volunteered to participate in the AAPSM, and more would join later. To effect sector-wide change, we knew it was important to engage a wide range of external stakeholders.
In March, Administrator Green consulted with implementing partners and USAID mission directors around the world. Our mission directors, in turn, consulted closely with our implementing partner community, connecting with more than 1,700 representatives from NGOs, private contracting companies, and public international organizations in 100 countries.
Our ultimate goal is a sector-wide culture of respect and inclusion.
Administrator Green and I also briefed members of Congress, including the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on our efforts. By June, we had issued an online toolkit, through the AAPSM’s new website, to educate and provide resources to USAID staff and implementing partners on these issues.
Flash forward seven months from the beginning of our efforts. Last week, I stood with leaders from around the world at the Department for International Development (DfID) International Safeguarding Summit in London as we pledged our commitment to preventing sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment within the international aid community. The summit brought together international donors, NGOs, private companies, U.N. agencies, and research organizations.
We reached important agreements to ensure support for survivors and whistleblowers, strengthen our reporting and accountability structures, and uphold a shared set of standards around preventing sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse.
While the real work of implementation has just begun, USAID is committed for the long haul. Gratefully, I can tell you that USAID has a head start.
Our humanitarian assistance programs include protections to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. For example, funding recipients must submit plans to protect beneficiaries and to strengthen the ability of local partners to implement these protections on the ground.
These protections existed before creation of the AAPSM. But over the last seven months, we’ve begun to expand these protections into all our assistance programs. We’ve updated our implementing partner codes of conduct to ensure that all USAID activities adhere to international standards on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.
We’re working on our first-ever comprehensive Preventing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse policy, which will roll out early next year. We’re also developing standard business processes to improve the way we handle and address allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Preventing sexual exploitation and abuse in our assistance is critical; we must also eradicate sexual harassment and misconduct in our own workplace. We’ve taken important steps since the formation of AAPSM to ensure a respectful workplace for our employees. We reviewed and updated existing policies, and will release a new comprehensive policy targeting internal sexual misconduct in early 2019. We issued a new Standard of Conduct for all USAID staff that affirms staff responsibilities to uphold USAID’s Policy on Diversity in the Workforce, Equal Opportunity Employment, and Non-Discrimination, among other policies.
We’ve implemented mandatory, agency-wide sexual harassment training and enhanced Countering Trafficking in Persons training, while also piloting a new Sexual Harassment, Unwanted Attention, and Bystander Intervention training. And we’ve identified employee performance standards tied to promoting a respectful work environment.
Next week, USAID mission directors from around the world will gather in Washington, D.C. We will discuss ways to cultivate both assistance and a workplace where there is no tolerance for sexual misconduct and perpetrators are held accountable, where people are empowered to thrive in a safe environment, and where human dignity is at the heart of everything we do. Our ultimate goal is a sector-wide culture of respect and inclusion. Each of us has a role to play in this effort. I am proud to work alongside you to achieve this vital goal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Moore is USAID’s acting deputy administrator and chair of the Action Alliance for Preventing Sexual Misconduct.