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Sexual misconduct ICRC wants change in humanitarian sector

ICRC logo on a banner and a group of women

The ICRC insists that its more than 17,000 staff worldwide respect the ethical standards of the organisations

(Keystone)

The Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called for a cultural shift for the humanitarian aid sector following a series of scandals about sexual misconduct across multiple aid agencies.

“This is a watershed moment for the humanitarian sector as a whole. We owe it to the people we serve to behave with absolute integrity,” said the ICRC secretary general, Yves Daccord, in a statement on Friday.

He said a thorough internal review revealed that 21 staffers have left the ICRC since 2015 after “paying for sexual services”, or because of other inappropriate behaviour. Two others did not have their contracts renewed over similar circumstances, he added.

The Geneva-based organisation has more than 17,000 staff worldwide.

Daccord voiced concern that a number of incidents have not been reported, or reported cases were mishandled, and vowed the ICRC was working to address the problem.

Unlike crisis-hit British charity Oxfam, which did not explicitly bar its employees from hiring prostitutes, the ICRC has forbidden “the purchase of sexual services” since 2006, even in places where prostitution is legal, Daccord explained.

Oxfam scandal

The ICRC disclosures follow revelations earlier this month that Oxfam was investigating 26 cases of sexual misconduct since a crisis erupted over its handling of a scandal involving prostitution in Haiti.

Three of Oxfam's senior leaders have apologised for the charity’s handling of an internal investigation into the hiring of prostitutes by staff in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake.

UNICEF's deputy director Justin Forsyth resigned following complaints of inappropriate behaviour towards female staff in his previous post as head of British charity, Save the Children.

swissinfo.ch with SDA/ATS and AFP agencies, ug

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