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Humanitarian agency steps up fight against paedophilia within ranks

Terre des Hommes wants to further protect children from paedophiles

(Keystone Archive)

The Geneva-based aid group, Terre des Hommes, has unveiled a campaign aimed at stopping paedophiles from infiltrating humanitarian agencies. The move comes after the organisation discovered paedophiles among its own staff.

Terre des Hommes told swissinfo on Tuesday that it hoped to persuade other international aid agencies to adopt a code of conduct, which aims to prevent paedophiles from gaining employment in international aid agencies

The measures include tougher screening of candidates during the recruitment process, closer evaluation of people working in the field, and more institutional cooperation among aid agencies.

The code was created after Terre des Hommes discovered paedophiles within in own ranks. The first case came to light in a few years ago in Ethiopia, when an employee was dismissed on suspicion of being a paedophile.

The organisation's former general secretary for India, was later denounced. He is due to appear in court at the end of the month.

Terre des Hommes has also called for the creation of national registers of convicted or suspected paedophiles. Some humanitarian organisations have baulked at this proposition, saying it breaches a person's right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

But Bernard Boëton, the head of Terre des Hommes children's rights department, defended this position. He told swissinfo that people who have been dismissed on suspicion of being paedophiles should be prevented from working with children.

"When someone has been sacked for [abusing] a child, the judicial procedure takes months and sometimes years, and during that time, the person is still able to apply for jobs working with children."

Terre des Hommes has also made internal changes to its organisation. Employees and the board must now sign a declaration confirming they don't have a paedophile past.

For the past three years, the organisation has used psychologists in the recruitment process in a bid to prevent potential paedophiles from entering its ranks.

"Our field delegates are isolated, and wield a lot of financial clout," said a spokesman. "Certain types of behaviour will only appear under given circumstances."

The idea of the code was first mooted at a seminar near Zurich last year, when Terre des Hommes called on children's aid agencies to take steps to prevent paedophiles infiltrating their ranks.



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