The International Standards on Child Safeguarding emphasise the key aspects of managing child safeguarding within an organisation. They describe the features, systems and processes that need to be in place to ensure that child safeguarding is fully and effectively embedded in organisations. This is particularly important for organisations that work in humanitarian crises and conflict and post-conflict situations where many children are likely to be in situations of extreme physical and emotional vulnerability. The extreme imbalance of power between humanitarian aid workers and peacekeeping personnel, on the one hand, and the people who they have been sent to protect, on the other, makes it essential that robust systems are in place.
An overall approach to safeguarding children is rooted in understanding the risks to children from the organisation, (its staff, programme and operations). This is a robust and comprehensive process that begins with developing or strengthening a child safeguarding policy that describes how the organisation is committed to promoting the rights, dignity and well-being of children, and preventing all forms of exploitation and abuse.
It then requires organisational development in the form of allocating staff time, ensuring staff are trained and coordinated, and that there is good communication on safeguarding children.
There also needs to be sound processes for planning, implementation, monitoring and review, to ensure clear and transparent lines of accountability right up to board level.
Any concerns the organisation has about children’s safety should be reported to the appropriate authorities, so that perpetrators can be brought to justice and children given follow up care and support. The fundamental principle for any intervention is that all actions should be taken in the best interests of the children concerned.
There are four standards:
Policy – The organisation sets clear policy that describes how it is committed to promoting the well-being of children, preventing abuse and creating a positive environment for children wherein their rights are upheld and they are treated with dignity and respect.
People – The organisation communicates clearly its commitments to keeping children safe and the responsibilities and expectations it places on staff, associates and partners – through relevant policies, procedures and guidance, and that staff and associates are supported in understanding and acting in line with these.
Procedures – The organisation implements a systematic process of planning and implementation of child safeguarding measures. Most importantly these measures should be accessible to and appropriate for all children.
Accountability – The organisation has in place measures and mechanisms for monitoring and review of safeguarding measures and to ensure both upward and downward accountability in relation to child safeguarding.
In order to implement the standards, every organisation wherever it works in the world, needs to address the following questions:
- Where, when and how the organisation affects children and what risks this presents
- what policies and procedures are needed to prevent harm and how to respond to concerns appropriately
- Who is the appropriate designated person/s to act as the focal point in an organisation to receive and manage any safeguarding concerns and subsequent inquiry/investigation
- What safeguarding induction and training is needed to ensure staff know what the organisation expects of them and what to do if they have a concern
- Is there a clear code of conduct so that all staff understand their professional boundaries when working with children and what is and is not acceptable behaviour
- How to recruit safely.
When they are fully implemented child safeguarding measures offer a set of practical tools for tackling a culture of impunity around child abuse. Children are safer because they require that every individual within in an organisation receives clear instructions on their obligation to act to prevent and report abuse and the sanctions they will face if they fail to comply. They act as a powerful deterrent to abusers before they even apply for a job and they ensure that those in positions of trust are held to account on their responsibility to protect the children they come into contact with.