What is safeguarding?

Safeguarding is defined as taking all reasonable means to prevent harm from occurring; to protect people, especially vulnerable adults and children, from that harm; and to respond appropriately when harm does occur. Everyone involved in the international development research chain, from research funders, planners and practitioners to local community members, has the right to be safe from harm.

In the context of international development research, safeguarding is defined as:

“preventing and addressing any sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment of research participants, communities and research staff, plus any broader forms of violence, exploitation and abuse relevant to research such as bullying, psychological abuse and/or physical violence.”

Why are we working on this?

The allegations of misconduct in 2018 shone a spotlight on sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector. To contribute to wider efforts being made to tackle this issue, we worked with UK funders of international development research to develop guidance on safeguarding in the specific context of international development research.

This work represents the start of a long-term ambition. We aim to support research funders and members of the international development research community to drive real change and to promote an organisational culture that condemns all forms of harm and abuse, and ensures the highest safeguarding standards across the sector.

Inclusive and thorough consultation with key stakeholders, including development research funders, universities, research institutes and other organisations involved in development research, is an essential aspect of this work.

Who are we working with

In 2018 we established a Safeguarding Funders Group, comprised of the Department for International Development (now the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office), the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Wellcome Trust.

We also convened a Safeguarding Expert Advisory Group to guide this work, which comprises individuals from academia and the NGO and private sectors with wide-ranging experience in safeguarding, protection, preventing sexual exploitation and abuse, and research ethics.

We are working alongside other actors engaged in international development and research, including the UK NGO community, private sector and other sectors who made commitments to raise safeguarding standards in the sector through involvement in the FCDO cross-sector steering group.