Kaag: aid organisations that tolerate abuse may face sanctions

Dutch aid and development organisations must take steps to prevent future abuse by their staff in crisis zones, and adopt a clear approach to tackling new cases of abuse that do occur.

Development minister Sigrid Kaag does not rule out financial consequences for organisations that do not meet her ministry’s standards for strict integrity policies. ‘The abuses that have come to light require a greater emphasis on prevention and action,’ she said, ‘and with that in mind we’re looking into the possibility of sanctions.’

On Tuesday the minister met with the directors of around 70 organisations and alliances whom she had invited to the foreign ministry in the wake of news reports about sexual misconduct and abuse of power by aid workers. ‘This kind of behaviour is unacceptable. This is a wakeup call for all of us,’ Ms Kaag said. In her view, aid organisations must do everything in their power to prevent any recurrence of such abuse and regain the trust that has been lost. Working with the aid organisations, the minister wants to take some additional steps. Her staff is already in regular contact with the NGOs, so that detailed proposals for prevention and action can be agreed within the next two months.

Ms Kaag believes that the organisations themselves are chiefly responsible for enforcing their integrity policy. At the same time, the ministry is reviewing its own procedures in this area and tightening up rules on sexual misconduct and abuse of power in its grant frameworks. The Netherlands is also working with other donors, the UK in particular, to set international standards.