Our safeguarding commitments

2. Tackling gender inequalities with a step change in organisational culture

To start this process within the UK, specific ACTIONS to address this for 2018 include:

  • Once a quarter the senior leadership team, with relevant staff, will review progress on safeguarding and anti-sexual harassment, and highlight any challenges or issues, communicating these to staff.
  • A gender audit will be completed in 2018 and then every two years thereafter with an action plan that is communicated and reported on to all staff after each audit.
  • Diversity and inclusion questions to be included within the annual staff engagement survey, and the resulting action plan to be communicated to staff, along with quarterly progress updates.
  • A diversity mapping exercise will be completed by mid-2018, the results and action plan will then be shared with staff. We will work with the internal Diversity, Inclusion, Power and Privilege group to improve in this area.

It is important to us that anyone who interacts with us feels confident and safe to report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. An important element within this is our work on addressing gender inequalities. We have already undertaken work to define our culture and behaviours in line with our desire to embed feminist principles in everything we do, ensuring that the debate about power imbalances is a frequent one in terms of our ways of working.

Our internal communications will echo this to build an environment where individuals feel safe and confident to come forward and report any case of discrimination on any grounds – gender, race, religion, sexuality, disability, nationality. Our focus is on building a culture where this is central.

We will create spaces where women and other minorities or those who tend to be marginalised can speak up, building on our existing feminist forum, and ensure that they feedback to the senior leadership team on a regular basis to ensure that these commitments are kept front and centre.

3. Safeguards are integrated throughout the employment life cycle

We will be transparent regarding safeguarding practices right through the employee life cycle.  


  • Statement added to all advertisements regarding checks we will take around safeguarding;
  • No references will be given for individuals dismissed for breaches of safeguarding and/or anti-sexual harassment;
  • Investigations will continue even if the accused resigns part way through or before they commence;
  • No congratulatory email for service will be sent out;
  • Safeguarding and anti-sexual harassment to form key part of performance management approach, especially for senior leaders, and this will be evaluated as part of the annual staff engagement survey.

As part of our recruitment approach we will add an explicit statement around safeguarding and the checks that we will undertake to all our advertisements, building upon the work that we already do for roles where individuals are likely to have contact with our programmes. We will continue to include questions around safeguarding as part of the interview process for any role that is likely to have contact with our programmes, and as part of our referencing processes. In addition, we will not provide references for anyone who has been dismissed for breaches of our safeguarding and/or anti-sexual harassment policies and will continue to investigate even if people resign. We will make this clear to the individual so that they understand that we will decide based on the information we have, and therefore they can decide whether they wish to remain part of the investigation. We will also ensure that no congratulatory email for their service is sent out.

Safeguarding will also form an essential part of our performance management approach for all senior manager positions, relevant roles, and people who travel, outputs of which will be monitored and included within the discussions within our safeguarding forum.

5. Concerns are heard and acted upon

As outlined in point 2 we will continue to develop a culture where all staff and stakeholders understand how to raise issues around safeguarding and are comfortable doing so.


  • We will convene a safeguarding and anti-sexual harassment forum who will meet quarterly and actions / communications as a result to all staff;
  • Alongside this we will develop an external safeguarding advisory group;
  • We will ensure gendered travel briefings to include safeguarding / anti-sexual harassment as well as security, and post de-briefings to capture any issues / incidents, and will report back to the complainant on any issue / incident as appropriate; 
  • Investigation training for key personnel who will then be deployable to support the wider Federation;
  • Mandatory safeguarding training for all staff in 2018, and this will then form part of the induction for all new staff.

We have formally appointed a safeguarding focal point within AAUK who will oversee our approach to safeguarding and anti-sexual harassment in the UK. This person will convene a safeguarding and anti-sexual harassment forum on a quarterly basis consisting of a core team and inviting in appropriate specialists and individuals who have visited programmes to discuss any concerns or issues that we need to address. They will also develop this year a safeguarding advisory group consisting of external experts that we can refer to, to ensure that our practices are sound, robust, and best practice. This group will meet at least twice a year.

These actions are in addition to the whistleblowing avenues already in existence.

Our process for overseas travel is being strengthened, and we will ensure that all staff are briefed on safeguarding polices pre-trip alongside existing security protocols and focus on ensuring that these briefings are gender specific, especially in relation to risk assessments. On return they will have a more structured post trip de-brief with HR or their line manager to enable them to raise any safeguarding or sexual harassment issues.

AAUK will also commit to training key personnel in delivering safe and effective safeguarding investigations. This will ensure that any AAUK-specific disclosures can be acted upon effectively, safely and in a timely manner. We will also ensure that our investigation capacity is available for deployment within the wider Federation as required.  

In addition to the investigations training, AAUK will also deliver mandatory safeguarding training for all staff throughout 2018, as well as training to managers specifically around how to deal with complaints responsibly and responsively. This will be included within inductions for all new staff.

Working with the wider Federation

As part of a Federation, we recognise that local context is a critical factor in any implementation, that said the Federation has embraced the need to be bold, and focus on the rights of women and girls, which means that all parts of the Federation are signed up to improving the lives of the most vulnerable. The Federation have echoed our zero tolerance of any form of abuse, which means that cultural sensitivities cannot be used to stifle review, and where needed, reform. We will therefore be bold AND respectful in working with our colleagues and have enshrined in our safeguarding policy within the UK that funding to countries may be withdrawn if the response to an incident is not robust (in line with grant conditions in the UK and the legal context under Charity Commission regulations).

We will call on the ActionAid General Assembly to adopt a transformative agenda to ensure that we safeguard people, most especially women and girls, and protect them from sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse. Our approach must be rooted in the experiences of survivors, and guidance from them on how to design effective procedures. It must also be in line with feminist leadership principles and designed to address the patriarchal attitudes and unequal power dynamics that underlie sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. Further, any form of sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by a development or humanitarian practitioner should be seen as a gross violation of human rights.  

As part of our responsibilities to the wider ActionAid Federation, we will therefore work with the Global Secretariat in these areas: -

The Secretariat will be appointing a global safeguarding lead and we will support them to increase safeguarding capacity, particularly investigation expertise as this is a central aspect of any effective safeguarding function. We will therefore work with them to ensure that investigative capacity is a key priority (in terms of strengthening our approach). We will help the safeguarding lead write guidelines for all Federation members and their partners as to how reported incidents should be investigated which is then implemented throughout the Federation, and with partners. We will encourage, and work with them, to help ensure best practice around beneficiary-orientated disclosure mechanisms is adopted consistently across all members of the Federation.

We will ask them to strongly advocate for member countries to appoint a safeguarding focal point / lead at programme level in every country and that these focal points / leads are trained by specialist safeguarding experts, including conducting investigations, and that this is a mandatory element of them holding that position. These focal points / leads will then share expertise so that we continually learn and implement best practice from around the Federation. The focal points / leads will work with partners to ensure that policies are being implemented, and that we can support our partners (some of whom might be too small to have specific safeguarding expertise within their organisation).

We will ask them to work with us and all members of the Federation to implement minimum standards around our standard operating procedures that are relevant to all countries, which are then added to for a specific local context. We will ask that they ensure, through the annual attestation process, that no country is able to have policies and procedures that fall below these.

The Global Secretariat will bring a revision of the global child protection policy (to include vulnerable adults) to the Federation’s upcoming March Board meeting. We will support the Global Secretariat to embed this policy and encourage them to ensure that this policy, along with the anti-sexual harassment and whistleblowing policies, within the Federation focus on confidentiality and safety for those disclosing incidents, as well as a clear, consistent, and simple method of reporting.

We will support the GS to develop and resource a global safeguarding training programme to be rolled out to all staff and programme partners to ensure consistency, and the learning and replication of best practice that exists within the Federation.

The Secretariat is proposing a code of conduct for all staff to our Board and member’s General Assembly in June 2018. They are preparing a motion to the Assembly requiring that all country directors and Heads of HR undergo an orientation that focuses on the code of conduct and our values as a Federation, and that this code of conduct form part of the induction of any new employee moving forward.

We will further propose to the Assembly that any policy and procedure that is introduced within the Federation is translated by each member country, not just in terms of language but in terms of being relatable and relevant so that they can be used at community level. This will include the specific referral process for each country. This could then also be used for all overseas visitors so that everyone is aware of what they need to do if they see or experience anything that contravenes the policy / makes them feel uncomfortable.

We will ask that they explore the adoption of confidential and independent whistleblowing mechanisms that survivors would feel confident using to further strengthen our global whistleblowing policy and procedures, and to encourage individuals to report.

We will explore with members of the Federation an approach around restitution to survivors, how this might be funded and resourced.

As members of a Federation, we remain deeply committed to developing an organisational culture that promotes highest standards of accountability, responsibility, integrity and conduct, always being cognisant of how we use our power, privilege and position within any situation.


Top image: Josephine Charo helps run a helpline for survivors of violence in Kilifi county, Kenya, with support from ActionAid. Sheldon Moultrie/ActionAid

Page updated 27 September 2022