• Sun. Jul 3rd, 2022

Uk works with Interpol to reduce paedophile “aid workers” worldwide abuse

Byscarcity news

Apr 3, 2022

“There is a girl who sleeps in the street, and there were a group of people in the streets who decided to make money off of her. They took her to a man who works

for an NGO. He gave her one American dollar and the little girl was happy to see the money. It was two in the morning. The man took her and raped her. In the morning the little girl could not walk.”

(Young boy, Haiti)

It is because of examples like the one shown above that government have had to create a project aiming to reduce Sexual abuse and exploitation (SEA) in the peacekeeping and humanitarian aid sectors worldwide with Interpol now stepping in to prevent it in specifically the aid sector.

Project Soteria, currently being implemented in Africa and Asia, aims to prevent sexual predators from abusing some of the world’s most vulnerable people according to a statement from the international criminal police organisation.

In its largest ever partnership with the aid sector, Interpol’s new project aims at cracking down on perpetrators of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (SEAH, adding another component to the SEA used in military and peacekeeping) working for humanitarian and development organisations.

Project Soteria is named after the Greek goddess of safety and has enlisted support from 20 prominent aid organisations, including Oxfam, Save the Children and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The globalised nature of humanitarian and development work, combined with the urgency to recruit and deploy staff presents challenges in conducting thorough screening of personnel before and after hiring.

Too often, past sexual offenders are able to continue working and moving in the sector, putting children and vulnerable adults at risk Interpol alleges in its statement.

“We must end sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment in the international development and humanitarian sectors,” said Foreign, Commonwealth and Development (FCDO) Minister with responsibility for safeguarding, Vicky Ford.

“That is why the UK is working with Interpol, NGOs and others in Project Soteria to identify and take action. We are shining a spotlight on these abuses to keep vulnerable people safe,” Ford said.

“Aid sector organisations often provide a sanctuary for women, men and children in the midst of conflict or poverty, they are also targeted by individuals seeking to abuse the vulnerable,” Interpol Secretary-General Jürgen Stock said.

“The broad cross-sector partnership Project Soteria has built with the UK’s support demonstrates common commitment from the aid sector and law enforcement to protect aid recipients and bring sexual offenders to justice, no matter the circumstances,” Stock added.

Aid organisations are vital in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable, delivering development and humanitarian assistance to alleviate suffering of vulnerable communities worldwide. SEAH perpetrators undermine this mission, harming the people they are meant to protect and assist.

Project Soteria seeks to build trust between aid organisations and law enforcement while working to strengthen capacity to prevent and respond to SEAH cases.

Leveraging its global databases and 195 country police network, Interpol will work with national law enforcement to reinforce SEAH investigations and manage criminal records. The global police organisation will collaborate with the aid sector facilitating information exchange and bolstering efforts to detect previous and deter potential offenders.

“I see first-hand the devastating impact sexual exploitation and abuse by aid workers has on individuals, families and communities. Project Soteria promises to make perpetrators accountable and deter others from committing these wrongs.  This will reassure survivors abuses are taken seriously and their rights are recognised and protected.” said Jane Connors, UN Victims’ Rights Advocate.

In the coming months, Project Soteria will roll out simultaneous workshops to train 100 child protection and sexual or gender-based violence investigators in East Africa and South Asia to use Interpol capabilities and other tools to target offenders.

Interpol’s Project Soteria team will then launch in-country activities, including the organisation’s first ever joint law enforcement and aid sector workshop on SEAH and a two-day training course for aid sector employees, volunteers and interns on what constitutes SEAH and how to respond to it.

A global “search and check” scheme will be developed to enable selected pilot aid sector organisations to forward Interpol information on candidates to identify individuals possibly posing a threat to vulnerable adults and children.

Project Soteria is funded by the FCDO and benefits from technical support from the UK Criminal Records Office (ACRO). An advisory board of representatives from government, law enforcement, the UN, legal experts, the private sector, civil society and survivors of SEAH in the aid sector informs the project.

Focus group participants identified children as young as six having been abused.Younger children were said to be more vulnerable to abuse than older children. However, the most common age to be a victim of abuse was thought to be 14 or 15 years old.

The majority of beneficiaries we spoke to identified girls as being far more likely to become victims of abuse than boys. In Southern Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire no boys were identified by focus group participants
as victims of abuse. However, child protection professionals working in the same areas cited cases
of abuse against both girls and boys. Moreover, focus group participants in Haiti identified several cases of sexual abuse of boys.

Research revealed cases of abuse associated
with a sum total of 23 humanitarian, peacekeeping and security organisations.These include civil humanitarian agencies such as those delivering food and nutritional assistance, care, education and health services, reconstruction, shelter, training, and livelihood support, as well as military actors providing peace and security services.

Research suggests several reasons for the
chronic under-reporting evident in the gap between
the levels of abuse indicated by research and the statistics collected by agencies. Many of these reasons are symptomatic of broader failures within the international community. First, people are not speaking out for fear of losing much-needed material assistance. In particular, children who trade sex
for food or other forms of support are unwilling to jeopardise this survival tactic. “He’s using the girl but without him she won’t be able to eat.” (Teenage girl, Côte d’Ivoire) This implies that assistance provided by the international community is either not enough to sustain vulnerable populations or that it is not reaching those most in need.