Key Actions on Safeguarding

The long-term goal of safeguarding actions  is to create an environment where all volunteers, staff, and community members feel safe and respected.

Community members should always be able to access the protection and assistance they need without fear of any form of exploitation or abuse, and they should have a voice in decisions that affect them. To do this requires a shift in attitudes and behaviours which  takes time. We understand that there is no easy fix but also know that some preventative measures will be effective and can be put in place quickly.

Actions to Take

The following are basic activities to support the institutionalisation of safeguarding in your National Society. They are based on the guidelines laid out in the IFRC PSEA Manual.

Click each numbered heading for more details and resources specific to each step.

1. Organisational Assessment

It is essential to assess what organisational systems are in place and which are needed in order to ensure all volunteers, staff, and communities we interact with are safe and respectful. The IFRC has two tools to assist:

  1. PGI Organisational Assessment Tool, a detailed analysis of a National Society’s capacities and challenges around PGI, including safeguarding aspects.
  2. Safeguarding Self-assessment, which is specific to safeguarding issues.

The two assessment tools reinforce one another and IFRC delegations or National Societies can begin with either.

IFRC programmes of all sizes and durations are now required to complete a Child Safeguarding Risk Analysis. Read the Q&A document for more about this requirement.

To learn more, read Guideline 3 of the Manual, PSEA Assessment.

For examples from the Manual, see the sample Assessment Framework (Tool 1) and the Organisational Action Plan and Indicators for Success (Tool 2).

2. Designating Safeguarding Focal Points

The main objective of a safeguarding focal point is to help senior management actively prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse by strengthening safeguarding policies and supporting the development and delivery of a safeguarding action plan.

To learn more, read Guideline 4 of the Manual, Designating PSEA Focal Points.

For example job descriptions and terms of references, see below:

3. Safeguarding Policy Development

It is essential for PSEA and child safeguarding policies to be established. To learn more, read Guideline 5 of the Manual, Supporting Development of PSEA Policies.

For an overview of the considerations and challenges related to the development of a PSEA policy, see Tool 4 of the Manual, or use the IFRC Child Safeguarding Policy as a template for your own policy.

4. Recruitment and Screening

If someone poses a risk of perpetrating sexual exploitation or abuse, including sexual harassment or any other form of harm to the people we serve, staff or volunteers, they must not be involved in delivering any Red Cross and Red Crescent activities.

Taking steps to ensure that our personnel do not pose any risk to the people we serve, or to other personnel, is crucial. That’s why we have screening measures in place that start before someone is selected to work or volunteer with the Red Cross and Red Crescent and continue throughout their appointment. Screening personnel for PSEA applies to everyone in an organisation.

To learn more, read Guideline 6 of the Manual, Recruitment and induction procedures.

For examples of policies and codes of conduct processes, see the Anti-harassment Policy example (Tool 5) and the Statement of Conduct Template (Tool 6) from the Manual.

See also:

5. Safe Organisational Culture

Environments built on integrity and respect, where staff and volunteers feel able to voice concerns and everyone takes an active role in contributing to safety-related behaviours, help to prevent incidents of SEA. As well, if they do occur, they can be addressed and dealt with quickly.

To learn more, read Guideline 7 of the Manual, Safe Organisational Culture. Coming soon is a summary infographic to accompany it.

The IFRC Child Safeguarding Policy also comes with several tools to support organisations working specifically with children. See below for more information:

6. Funding Proposal Guidelines

As part of Red Cross and Red Crescent commitments to protect people, all proposals and projects should include action to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse and ensure Child Safeguarding. Global minimum standards clearly lay-out the need for safeguarding to be included in all projects and proposals.

Each project will be unique, and the actions required will vary based on the context. It is important therefore that PSEA and Child Safeguarding are built into programming from the outset. This should include an initial risk assessment, referrals mapping and complaints mechanism established for Safeguarding concerns. A joint approach to Safeguarding, Community Engagement and Accountability (CEA) and Protection, Gender and Inclusion (PGI) is reflected in the guidance.

To learn more, read Guideline 8 of the Manual, Funding Proposal Guidelines, as well as the Guidance on Integration of Child Safeguarding into Proposals.

For examples of outputs and activities, see Tool 7 of the Manual.

7. Programmatic Risk Assessment

It is important to carry out SEA risk assessments for all projects and services which are community-facing. This will help identify and minimize the risks of SEA caused by our people, operations, projects and services.

The assessment should be carried out with guidance from staff with expertise in PSEA, gender and/or protection.

See the SEA Programmatic Risk Assessment guidance tool to learn how to complete this important step, and use its accompanying risk register template to get started. For more, read Guideline 9 of the Manual, Carrying out a SEA risk assessment.

If the programme involves children, use the Child Safeguarding Risk Analysis Tool to help you identify and rate potential risks specific to minors.

8. Raising Awareness

We know that raising awareness is effective at reducing the risks of SEA. It also helps reinforce our accountability to communities by sharing information and building trust in the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

PSEA should be an integral part of community engagement and accountability (CEA). In order to prevent and respond to SEA in the right way, it is crucial that everyone in the organisation and affected communities understand the root causes of SEA.

To learn more, read Guideline 10  of the Manual, Raising awareness with volunteers, staff and communities.

See also the CEA Guide and the CEA Hub, where you will find many resources to help you plan and carry out community engagement activities.

9. Referral Mapping

When an allegation of sexual exploitation or abuse is made, the National Society is responsible for providing - as deemed necessary and appropriate on a case-by-case basis - assistance and support to anyone who has reported sexual exploitation and abuse by Red Cross and Red Crescent personnel.

Once referral pathways have been established, safe referrals should only be made by people who have professional experience in protection and have received training. Please reach out to the protection experts in your National Society for support with this step, in order to avoid potential harm.

To learn more, read Guideline 11 of the Manual, Referral pathways, as well as the guide to Referral Mapping for SEA Survivors and templates for mapping organisations by PGI focal points and volunteers.

See also the tools to assist with referral mapping in the PGI in Emergencies Toolkit, found under the Implementation chapter.

10. Establishing a Safe Complaints Mechanism

Many people who have experienced SEA do not report violations for a range of reasons, including a fear of reprisal or stigma against those who have experienced or reported SEA; lack of information about what type of concerns should be reported and how to safely report them; or absence of trusted law enforcement and/or professional assistance for healing, recovery and justice.

It is crucial that the process for reporting and responding to SEA concerns is community-based.

To learn more, read Guideline 12 of the Manual, Establishing a safe complaints mechanism

See also the IFRC CEA Feedback Starter Kit, for detailed guidance on how to establish a feedback mechanism. A new toolkit is in development, which will contain a module on handling sensitive feedback.

11. Reporting Safeguarding Concerns

It can be very difficult for individuals to report SEA concerns and we know that it can take years for an individual to come forward with an allegation of sexual exploitation or abuse, such as rape or sexual harassment. This is why trust is paramount as well ensuring that enough time is allowed for survivors to heal and recover.

As it is currently the case that many community members will not make a report, it is important to give volunteers and staff training and access to a safe reporting mechanism.

To learn more, read Guideline 13 of the Manual, Reporting SEA Concerns.

See also the Reporting Concerns page on the PGI Hub, or the page on the main IFRC website.

For examples of incident reporting forms, see Tool 8 of the Manual and the PGI in Emergencies Toolkit, under the Implementation chapter.

12. Investigating and Responding

How a report of SEA is handled can be a significant factor in the psychological impact on a survivor, as well as during their recovery. The organisation is accountable for the way in which it responds to SEA. All complaints should be managed in a timely, fair and appropriate manner, with the safety of all persons involved given priority at every stage.

Investigations should be carried out by qualified, objective investigators, who have professional training and experience in conducting SEA inquiries.

To learn more, read Guideline 14 of the Manual, Investigating and responding.

Read more about IFRC's Office for Internal Audits and Investigations (OIAI) responsibilities and procedures. This office oversees SEA investigations for the IFRC.

13. Providing Assistance to Survivors

When there is an allegation of SEA, it is essential to put the welfare of survivors and whistleblowers at the center of our response (and not just focus on the subject of the complaint). This approach helps avoid causing further harm.

The most senior representative of the National Society in the field is responsible for ensuring that assistance is provided.

To learn more, read Guideline 15 of the Manual, Providing assistance to survivors, as well as the IFRC's Whistleblower Protection Policy, which National Societies can adopt in lieu of their own policy.