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Exploitation in the aid sector

The recent revelations of abuse and sexual exploitation in the aid sector have rightly caused outrage and, as a Member of the House of Commons International Development Committee, I was this week at a special committee hearing to look into what has gone on.

The hearing did not only provide the opportunity for the Committee to take evidence from charities and the Government about what they have done to address the historic cases that have featured in the news in recent days. It also enabled us to question them on what they are going to do to prevent instances like these happening again. Recognising that the whole issue of how to improve safeguarding in the aid sector needs more depth investigation, we have also confirmed that the Committee will be holding a full inquiry into the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation in the aid sector in the coming weeks. You can see more about that here.

The Government also made a statement to the House this week, during which I took up these themes with the Secretary of State for International Development, including calling for the establishment of an international register of humanitarian workers to promote consistency in safeguarding mechanisms across the aid sector.

Recent examples of misconduct and abuse are awful and need to be called out. We should also remember, however, that the vast majority of people working in the aid sector do so for the best of motives and that they do amazing work in some of the most difficult and dangerous environments on earth, often at considerable personal risk to themselves.

So too we should reject the arguments of those who are cynically using recent events to discredit the UK’s work in the developing world and to cut international aid. UK Aid matters and it is a lifeline helping some of the most vulnerable people in the most horrific of circumstances. That includes in places like Yemen, where more than 8 million people are on the brink of famine. It also includes the Rohingya crisis where over 680,000 people have been forced to flee from Burma to Bangladesh and where women and girls have reported the most appalling cases of sexual and gender based violence. Cutting international aid would hit people in situations like these hardest and it is something we must not do.