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NGOs gather to discuss critical incidents and sexual abuse in the aid sector

26 April 2018

NGOs play an important role in helping the most vulnerable in regions all around the world. They bring assistance and hope to those who desperately need both. While NGOs are laser-focused on the care and wellbeing of the people they serve, there’s also a growing need for NGOs to protect their own staff, many of whom are working in treacherous remote areas or dangerous conflict zones.

To further support NGOs, Cigna NGO Health Benefits is organising a series of Duty of Care Workshops, generously sponsored by the Cigna Foundation, to help these organisations better understand and address the issues around care for their staff.

On 17th April, 40 NGO leaders gathered in London, UK for the first workshop to discuss the important and current topic of critical incidents and sexual abuse in the aid sector. Key speakers from the field helped attendees learn how to address incidents, protect their staff and explore legal obligations and best practices.

Mary Engvall, Executive Director Cigna Foundation, opened the day with an overview of the Foundations involvement and collaboration with Cigna NGO Health Benefits. We heard from the media and gathered insights on how incidents are handled by the media. Other presenters explained the importance of vigorous recruitment processes for aid projects.

Open group discussions were held on gender power balance, focussing on four key points: leadership and governance, mechanics of process, measurement, and how to learn from what happens. One leading NGO spoke about safeguarding during the employment cycle and how they managed incidents with their sexual assault toolkit.

After the presentations, delegates could choose to join breakout sessions to find solutions to four key issues: preventing critical incidents and sexual abuse, recruitment vetting, whistleblowing, and response to incidents and support to survivors. After the breakout sessions, everyone gathered again and each breakout group presented their findings to the other delegates.

Arjan Toor, Cigna’s CEO for IPMI and International Organisations & Africa, closed the day by thanking the speakers and delegates on behalf of Cigna and the Cigna Foundation for their active participation. He also confirmed Cigna’s commitment to further support the sector by continuing the dialogue and sharing valuable insights.

A similar event in Nairobi, Kenya will take place in June, and the final event in 2018 will be held in Washington, D.C. in the fall.