Safeguarding is a high priority among UK funders of international development research. Our work demonstrates a strong commitment by research funders to play a leadership role in setting a clear tone and high expectations around safeguarding in international development research, and to support harmonisation of safeguarding practices across the sector.  

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 communityprivate sector and other sectors who made commitments to raise safeguarding standards in the sector through involvement in the FCDO cross-sector steering group. 

What have we achieved?

October 2018 – We aligned UK funders of international development research around a joint commitment to raise safeguarding standards across the sector

June 2019 – We published an evidence review to understand the specific issues pertaining to safeguarding in the research sector.

April 2020 – We published good practice guidance to raise safeguarding standards, and to anticipate, mitigate and address potential and actual harms in the process of international development research, along with a ‘companion piece’ on the practical application of this guidance during COVID-19.

What are we doing now?

UK research funders are now using the guidance to develop or adapt their own safeguarding policies and guidance and implement the commitments made to raise safeguarding standards across the sector. UKCDR continues to engage with relevant stakeholders to continue to disseminate the guidance across the sector.