This statement is in response to cases of sexual misconduct in the aid sector. BRAC UK received a request for information from the Secretary of State for International Development and submitted a response on 26th February. Below is a summarised version of that response:
The issues that have arisen since the distressing revelations in Haiti should make all organisations scrutinise their due diligence processes. It is an opportunity for the international development sector to work together to identify best practice in different scenarios so that learnings can be spread in a collaborative spirit of developing the sector. BRAC UK looks forward to contributing to this process.
BRAC UK attaches great importance to safeguarding and have put in place robust policies and procedures. The organisation is unaware of any serious incidents that it should have reported related to projects it has raised resources for or managed.
The majority of people working with BRAC in the field are women. We have over 110 million programme participants worldwide and the majority of them are women and girls from the poorest and the most marginalised communities. Empowering them and eliminating harassment and abuse are core organisational and programmatic priorities for BRAC and have been for over four decades.
BRAC UK is also strongly committed to providing a safe and trusting environment for our staff, volunteers, beneficiaries and anyone else the organisation has contact with. BRAC UK’s expectations around conduct are detailed in our staff handbook and policy documents such as the child protection policy. BRAC UK expects staff to respect and comply with the customs, culture and laws of the country they are working in, and not become involved in any religious, political, illegal or other issues that are inappropriate for staff or for BRAC to be associated with. BRAC provides staff with the necessary information and training about the law, customs and culture of the country where they will be working. This includes information about business practices, customs, etiquette, any risk of harassment, discrimination or violence based on gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion or disability. Staff personal actions while working abroad will be subject to the law of the country they are working in.
BRAC UK aims to create an open, transparent and safe working environment where staff feel able to speak up, as they are often the first people in the Charity to witness any type of wrongdoing. We strongly encourage staff to come forward and report incidents and concerns to senior staff and to trustees and to have open lines of communication to facilitate the raising of such concerns. Indeed, there has been a concerted effort to allow staff to have a direct line to trustees when and if required and this has been utilised on numerous occasions.
Outside of the UK, BRAC in Bangladesh has in place a Code of Conduct, Sexual Harassment Elimination (SHE) Policy and UN standard policy on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA). These are given life through measures such as the establishment of a dedicated Gender Training Group responsible for creating awareness and building the capacity of its employees on the prevention of sexual harassment, gender violence and early marriage and also the setting up of 26 local Sexual Harassment Elimination Teams located across Bangladesh providing primary support, necessary information and caring for survivors and witnesses.
However, BRAC is a global organisation with a complex structure and we recognise that this can pose challenges. Discussions around global governance continue to evolve within the BRAC Global family. The BRAC UK board and executive will be liaising with BRAC and BRAC International as a matter of priority to review our safeguarding policies to ensure they are up to the mark.
More broadly, we look forward to a nuanced debate in the sector around global governance issues, especially relating to safeguarding.