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Dorothea Hilhorst, a professor of Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction at Erasmus University, has argued for an independent ombudsperson system to police aid agencies in light of the revelations of sexual exploitation and abuse by several international organizations. I agree that change is needed, but I believe we need a much stronger way to address the problem and one that brings in a key element of the sector: donors.
In principle, the proposed ombudsperson system — where complaints can be lodged and then investigated — is an excellent idea. However, I see two major weaknesses. First, the ombudspersons would not be connected directly to program funding decisions. Second, ombudspersons ultimately would not have the ability to enforce findings and recommendations. They would be limited to publicly naming and shaming offenders. This will not be enough to stop the sexual abuse perpetrated against aid recipients and staff of aid organizations. It is an insidious problem that needs to addressed by a strong donor-funded solution.
I propose a system based on the Pakistan hotline experience. To be effective this hotline would have the following main features:
1. Jointly funded and staffed by major donors.
2. Connected to a powerful investigative authority.
4. Gender equity and justice intersection.
Read the full article about how donors can address aid agency oversight by Gregory Gottlieb at Devex International Development.