Unit 3: Reporting, responding and investigations


3.2 A culture of silence

An illustration of a large brick wall. On one side is a figure of a person speaking into a megaphone. On the other side are two people deep in conversation, unable to hear what the megaphone person is saying.

One of the challenges for aid agencies is challenging the culture of silence.

This could be related to discomfort about the issues related to abuse and harassment, or a culture where those in leadership are all of the same gender and/or type, leading to those who are different (due to gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, etc.) not being listened to.

Sometimes managers, who are also safeguarding focal points, may be so overwhelmed with other issues that they do not have the resource capacity to manage safeguarding concerns, which require good analytical and monitoring skills, as there is insufficient internal resourcing for this work.

The other reason could be that organisations are much more inclined to make decisions in their best interest, or in the best interest of those who have perpetrated the misconduct, rather than what is a survivor-centred approach. Organisations may have failed to ensure a robust follow-up on cases or, more importantly, a lack of transparency with complainants on how the cases have been managed.

Indeed, as part of their due diligence processes, organisations should regularly, and proactively, publish the number of concerns reported, how they were followed-up and what the outcomes were, in an anonymised fashion, to demonstrate transparency and encourage increased reporting.

Experience has shown that early engagement with staff, associate personnel and partners on developing confidential and safe internal reporting mechanisms with the Board and/or an external oversight has been helpful. Many organisations may have external whistleblowing mechanisms.

However, are these external agencies equipped to deal with safeguarding concerns or are they better placed to deal with other concerns, such as bribery, corruption or conflict of interest?

Although there are some countries where workers may have access to an external, independent ombudsman to deal with workplace situations, such mechanisms may not be equipped to manage or investigate the safeguarding concerns of children and vulnerable adult beneficiaries who may not know how to access such mechanisms. Organisations that offer generic email addresses must ensure confidentiality and take appropriate next steps once reports are received.

Activity 3.1 Barriers to reporting

Read the two articles below and consider the questions that follow. Make some notes of your responses in your learning journal:

The readings contain details some people might find distressing.

What do these reports identify as barriers to reporting?

How can organisations foster trust in reporting mechanisms?

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