Sexual Abuse, Harassment and Exploitation Policy and Code of Conduct

 

A. Policy Statement

 

Youth Challenge International (YCI) commit to a zero-tolerance policy towards Sexual Abuse, Harassment and Exploitation (SAHE) and consider any such acts a gross misconduct and grounds for dismissal. All those who contribute, participate and benefit from the work of YCI fall under the duty of care of the organizations and are entitled to an environment free of Sexual Abuse, Harassment and Exploitation.

 

This policy applies to all employees, volunteers and other related personnel of Youth Challenge International. This policy also affirms YCI’s commitment to the welfare of its employees, volunteers and other related personnel, and program beneficiaries; protection from all forms of SAHE, whether physical, verbal, emotional or psychological; and to a Survivor-Based-Approach.

 

Any complaints related to SAHE will be treated with the utmost confidentiality within the power of the organizations. Settling of the complaint will lean toward removing the alleged aggressor rather than the survivor. The survivor’s informed consent will be secured before commencing each and every new step of the response procedures to the submitted SAHE incident. The survivor may withdraw the complaint or decide to halt further actions at any time, provided it is still within YCI’s power to comply and the matter has not yet been referred to police.

 

All complaints of Sexual Abuse, Harassment and Exploitation will be investigated and disciplinary sanctions up to and including termination of employment/contract will be applied, as per Section III of the Multi-component Intervention Strategy of this Policy and Code of Conduct. Any proven false accusations of SAHE will be deemed to constitute a violation of this Policy and Code of Conduct and disciplinary sanctions will be applied, as appropriate.

 

This Sexual Abuse, Harassment and Exploitation Policy (May 2019) replaces all and any previous YCI policies on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment.

This SAHE Policy and the pertinent Code of Conduct are based on:

        1. Canada Occupational Health and Safety Act.
        2. Ontario Code of Practice to address workplace harassment.
        3. The Statement of Commitment on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN and Non-UN Personnel, August 2008.
        4. The IASC Six Core Principles Relating to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, June 2002.

 

During the course of our various projects and activities, YCI frequently gathers and uses personal information. Anyone from whom we collect such information should expect that it will be carefully protected and that any use of or other dealing with this information is subject to consent.

 

B. Scope of Application

 

This SAHE Policy and Code of Conduct apply to all Youth Challenge International employees, volunteers and other related personnel. For the purpose of this Policy, the term “Employees, Volunteers and other related Personnel” (EVP) includes: all employees of YCI at headquarter offices and country offices; Directors and Officers; national and international staff; national and international volunteers; national and international interns; and national and international consultants, in addition to individual and corporate contractors of these entities and their related personnel. The term also includes all YCI affiliated entities and their employees and individuals who have entered into partnership, sub-grant or sub-recipient agreements, and operating under the umbrella of YCI’s national and international programs.

 

Harassment incidents taking place among program beneficiaries are not within the scope of application of this Policy nor its Code of Conduct. For such incidents, YCI may assist the beneficiary by referring him/her to pre-identified local service providers. The SAHE focal point will not accompany the beneficiary nor conduct a case documentation, incident report or investigation.

 

Youth Challenge International (YCI) commit to a zero-tolerance policy towards Sexual Abuse, Harassment and Exploitation (SAHE) and consider any such acts a gross misconduct and grounds for dismissal. All those who contribute, participate and benefit from the work of YCI fall under the duty of care of the organizations and are entitled to an environment free of Sexual Abuse, Harassment and Exploitation.

 

C. Code of Conduct[1]
  • Youth Challenge International implement a zero-tolerance towards Sexual Abuse, Harassment and Exploitation. Engaging in any such activities by YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel as well as their respective affiliated entities, will be considered an act of gross misconduct and constitutes grounds for disciplinary sanctions up to and including termination of the employment or collaboration agreement.
  • Sexual activities with children (persons under the age of 18) or vulnerable adults[2] are strictly prohibited regardless of the local age of consent or local recognition of the status of a vulnerable adult[3]. Ignorance or mistaken belief in the age of the child or the status of the vulnerable adult is not a defence.
  • Exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex, including sexual favours or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behaviour is prohibited. This includes the exchange for services to which program participants are entitled.
  • Sexual relationships of YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel and their respective affiliated entities with program beneficiaries or their respective community members are prohibited since they are based on inherently unequal power dynamics. Such relationships undermine the credibility and integrity of YCI operations and genuine development program efforts.
  • In regard to non-exploitative sexual activities, consent of both/all involved parties must be obtained at all times. Consent can be withdrawn at any time. As such, sexual activities with the absence of consent will be considered an act of sexual harassment and/or abuse and shall be grounds for disciplinary sanctions up to and including termination of employment/contract.
  • If any of YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel or their respective affiliated entities have concerns or suspicions regarding a possibility of SAHE by another employee, volunteer or other related personnel, s/he must report such concerns via YCI established reporting channels or a whistleblower.
  • YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel and their respective affiliated entities are obliged to make every reasonable effort to ensure and maintain an environment free of SAHE and promote the implementation of this Policy.
  • YCI managers at all levels have particular responsibilities to support and develop systems that sustain such an environment.

[1] The code of conduct is based on the six Core Principles of the UN Secretary-General’s Bulletin (ST/SGB/2003/13). They have been modified by YCI to meet institutional needs and include sexual harassment as per the Ontario Code of practice to address workplace harassment.

[2] Vulnerable adults are defined as: those aged over 18 years and who identify themselves as unable to take care of themselves/protect themselves from harm or exploitation; or who, due to their gender, mental or physical health, disability, ethnicity, religious identity, sexual orientation, economic or social status, are deemed to be at risk.

[3] Local and national laws of the country where YCI programs are implemented.

 

D. Youth Challenge International Management Commitments

Youth Challenge International are dedicated to enforcing and observing this SAHE Policy by way of following commitments to:

  • Foster a positive work environment in which sexual harassment or abuse by individuals or groups does not occur; and to lead by example.
  • Develop country level organization-specific strategies to prevent and respond to SAHE.
  • Incorporate the SAHE Policy and Code of Conduct in onboarding materials and training courses for all YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel, as well as in other relevant organizational Codes of Conduct.
  • Incorporate appropriate job responsibilities in designated SAHE Focal Points’ terms of reference to support and ensure effective implementation of organizational strategies to the SAHE Policy.
  • Ensure that all individual contracts of YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel are annexed with this Policy, Code of Conduct and Commitments.
  • In compliance with applicable laws, make reasonable effort to prevent perpetrators of SAHE from being rehired or redeployed. Managers and Human Resource teams must ensure robust recruitment screening processes according to best practices for all YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel, particularly for those who will have any direct or indirect contact with children and/or vulnerable adults[1].
  • Establish and safeguard accessible complaint mechanisms for reporting SAHE by YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel and YCI program beneficiaries.
  • Provide training for SAHE Focal Points who receive complaints to ensure they understand how to handle and refer such cases.
  • Make available a whistleblower channel for YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel that guarantees protection from retaliation, and for those who wish to report anonymously.
  • To the best of YCI’s ability, take appropriate action to protect SAHE survivors from retaliation when allegations of SAHE are made.
  • Investigate allegations of SAHE involving YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel in a timely and professional manner.
  • Treat all incidents of SAHE with the utmost confidentiality and share related information only on a Need-To-Know basis.
  • Take swift and appropriate actions against YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel who are alleged to have committed acts of SAHE.
  • To the best of YCI’s ability, provide basic services to SAHE survivors such as medical support, psycho-social support, and/or legal services, as needed.
  • Create and sustain mechanisms to systematically inform YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel and program beneficiaries on measures taken to prevent and respond to SAHE.
  • Integrate SAHE prevention and response mechanisms as outlined in the Multi-component Intervention Strategy into country operation plans and allocate a budget towards those activities.
  • Assess all YCI affiliated entities’ SAHE policy and code of conduct. If not already in existence, or not according to appropriate standards, encourage them and provide support to adopt and adhere to this SAHE Policy and Code of Conduct, indicating that failure to respond to reported SAHE incidents may constitute grounds for administrative actions up to and including termination of the agreement/contract.
  • Encourage YCI affiliated entities to develop and institutionalize minimum operating standards for SAHE prevention within their respective organisation and to mainstream it across their work.

Ensure high level oversight and information systems on SAHE reports received and actions taken in order to monitor effectiveness, report progress and improve efforts to prevent and respond to SAHE.

 

[1] This could include use of background and criminal reference/record checks, verbal referee checks, and interview plans that incorporate behavioural-based interview questions.

 

 

E. Commitments of Youth Challenge International Employees, Volunteers and other related Personnel

 

Since the relationship between development workers and beneficiaries of development programs is inherently unequal in terms of power relations and levels of authority, all YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel must be vigilant and rigorously avoid any action (suggested, implied or perceived) that would suggest or imply that a sexual act might be demanded as a condition for engaging in offered programs and services. Actions of such nature are at odds with the objectives of YCI, which is to support sustainable youth livelihoods. As such, violation of this Policy and Code of Conduct undermines the credibility and integrity of YCI.

 

All YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel must familiarize themselves with this Policy and Code of Conduct and are required to uphold it, put it into action, and understand that YCI has zero tolerance towards such gross misconduct.

 

All YCI Employees, Volunteers and other Related Personnel must adhere to the following expectations:

  • Committing to create and maintain an environment free from Sexual Abuse, Harassment and Exploitation at all times.
  • Refraining from requesting any sexual services or sexual favours from program beneficiaries of YCI nor their respective extended community members, in return for YCI services.
  • Refraining from engaging in any exploitative sexual relationships, including but not limited to sexual favours; exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex; or any other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behaviour.
  • Refraining from pursuing services from sex workers at all times while operating under the umbrella of YCI in the country offices including but not limited to, inside YCI premises and accommodations, regardless of the local and national laws of the country of mission.
  • Refraining from any form of sexual activities with YCI program beneficiaries because of the inherent conflict of interest and potential for abuse of power in such a relationship.
  • Refraining from any active or passive sexual activities with a person under the age of 18, nor a vulnerable adult – including voyeurism; consuming, producing or distributing child pornography; or child trafficking – regardless of the national and local laws of the country in which YCI is operating. Obliviousness or mistaken belief of the child’s age, or the status of the vulnerable adult is not a defense.
  • Reporting any concerns or suspicions regarding possible violations of this Policy and Code of Conduct via established YCI reporting channels or the whistleblower. This includes suspicions about any of YCI employees, volunteers or other related personnel or their respective affiliated entities’ employees and related personnel.
  • Treat any information related to incidents of Sexual Abuse, Harassment or Exploitation with utmost confidentiality and share related information only on a Need-To-Know basis, i.e. only with designated relevant parties.

 

F. Policy Accountability

 

Senior managers, supervisors and Human Resources managers bear added responsibility and have a key role to play:

  • Ensure that all YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel are informed of this Policy and Code of Conduct, understand it and adhere to it.
  • Ensure that all YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel sign this Policy, Code of Conduct and Commitments.
  • Human Resources managers are responsible for robust recruitment, onboarding and training in accordance with the Code of Conduct and Commitments.
  • Senior managers and supervisors are responsible for performance management to mitigate against the occurrence of Sexual Abuse, Harassment and Exploitation, including taking corrective action if and when needed.
  • Senior managers will review the implementation of the SAHE Policy on an annual basis. This includes time-bound, measurable indicators[1] to assess the appropriateness of the SAHE Policy, Code of Conduct and the related Multi-Component Intervention Strategy and Standard Operating Procedures.

[1] Quantitative indicators can include: number of reported SAHE incidents; number of investigated cases, number of survivor/s who received assistance, etc. Qualitative indicators could include: elements evoking an unsafe-work environment which resulted in a SAHE incident and recommendation for system improvements, reasons for forging a SAHE claim, etc.

 

 

Definitions

 

General Terms

 

Code of Conduct: A set of standards of behaviour that all employees, volunteers and other related personnel of Youth Challenge International (YCI) and its partners are obliged to adhere to.

 

Misconduct: Failure by employees, volunteers and other related personnel to comply with their obligations under the SAHE Policy and Code of Conduct.

 

Sexual Abuse: The actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions.

 

Sexual Abuse is a general definition which, for the purpose of this Policy, encompasses the continuum of sexual assault according to the Canadian criminal code[1]: Canada has a broad definition of sexual assault and includes all unwanted sexual activities such as unwanted sexual grabbing, kissing, fondling as well as non-consensual sex. Sexual activities are only legal when both parties consent.

 

Sexual Consent[2]: The voluntary agreement of all parties to engage in sexual activities. Conduct short of a voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activities does not constitute consent. Sexual touching is only lawful if the person affirmatively communicated their consent, whether through words or conduct. Silence or passivity does not equal consent. No consent is obtained when:

  • The agreement is expressed by the words or conduct of a person other than the complainant;
  • The complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity – referred to in this Policy as a member of a vulnerable group;
  • The accused induces the complainant to engage in the activity by abusing a position of trust, power or authority;
  • The complainant expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to engage in the activity;
  • The complainant, having consented to engage in sexual activity, expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to continue to engage in the activity.

Sexual Exploitation: Any actual or attempted abuse of position of vulnerability, differential power or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another. This includes acts such as transactional sex, solicitation of transactional sex, and exploitative relationships. All sexual activities with children (a person under 18 years of age) is considered to be of an exploitative nature.

 

Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA): Particular forms of gender-based violence that have been reported in international development and humanitarian assistance contexts, specifically alleged against development and humanitarian aid workers.

 

Sexual Harassment: Any improper, unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favour, verbal or physical conduct or gestures of a sexual nature, or any other behaviour of a sexual nature that might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another. Sexual harassment may occur when it interferes with work, is made a condition of employment or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. Sexual harassment may be deliberated, unsolicited and coercive. Both male and female colleagues can either be the victim or offender. Sexual harassment may also occur outside the workplace and/or outside working hours.

 

Sexual Exploitation and Abuse versus Sexual Harassment: Sexual Exploitation and Abuse constitutes sexual misconduct by YCI employees, volunteers and other related personnel perpetrated against a beneficiary of the YCI program. Sexual Harassment constitutes sexual misconduct between YCI employees and volunteers; and sexual misconduct perpetrated by other related personnel against YCI employees and volunteers. This involves any unwelcome sexual advance or unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

 

Individuals

 

Beneficiaries: All persons receiving services and/or assistance from Youth Challenge International, or through its funded programs. Persons under this category include members of targeted populations including vulnerable individuals, as well as members of the host communities. This definition precludes Employees, Volunteers and other Related Personnel.

 

Child: A person under the age of 18, regardless of the age of majority or age of consent locally.

 

Complainant: A person who reports an allegation of SAHE to YCI in accordance with established procedures. This person may be a SAHE survivor or another person who is aware of the wrongdoing. Both the survivor and the complainant, if different from the survivor, are protected from retaliation for reporting SAHE. Where there is any conflict of interest between the survivor and another interested party, the survivor’s wishes are at the centre of consideration when handling the case, particularly when there is a risk of additional physical and/or emotional harm.

 

Development Worker: All persons involved in providing services/assistance/activities to targeted populations under the umbrella of YCI’s international assistance programs. This includes all employees, volunteers and other related personnel (such as contractors, incentive workers, and anyone performing a task on behalf of YCI), regardless of the type or duration of their contract.

 

Employees, Volunteers and other Related Personnel: All employees of YCI at headquarter offices and country offices; Directors and Officers; national and international staff; national and international volunteers; national and international interns; and national and international consultants, in addition to individual and corporate contractors of these entities and their related personnel. The term also includes all YCI affiliated entities and their employees and individuals who have entered into partnership, sub-grant or sub-recipient agreements, and operating under the umbrella of YCI’s national and international programs.

 

Implementing Partners: Entities or organizations that operate at local or national level, to provide services or deliver development assistance programs under the umbrella of YCI programs. All those employed by an implementing partner and involved in delivering activities under YCI programs are also considered development workers.

 

Investigator: A person who is authorized and responsible to conduct an investigation.

 

Perpetrator: A person (or group of persons) who commits an act of SAHE.

 

Subject of Complaint: Once a complaint has been filed, the alleged perpetrator of SAHE is referred to under this term.

 

Survivor: All employees and volunteers of YCI who have been subject to sexual abuse or sexual harassment or an attempt of sexual abuse or sexual harassment by employees, volunteers and other related personnel. Further, all beneficiaries of YCI programs who have been subject to sexual exploitation and abuse or an attempt of sexual exploitation and abuse by employees, volunteers and other related personnel.

 

Survivor-Based-Approach: YCI gives, to the extent possible and safe, the survivor control over the decision-making process; provides internal support and arranges support from relevant professional services as needed. Exceptions to the survivor-based approach will only be made if the survivor’s wishes could place her/him or others at risk.

 

Whistleblower: A person other than the survivor who reports SAHE concerns or suspicions of misconduct by colleagues. The whistleblower channel offers confidentiality and protection from retaliation for reporting a misconduct.

 

Witness: A person who observed, or has direct knowledge of, something under investigation.

 

Vulnerable Adults: All persons over 18 years of age who are unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves from harm or exploitation; or who, due to their gender, mental or physical health, disability, ethnicity, religious identity, sexual orientation, economic or social status, are deemed to be at risk.

 

Procedures

 

Assessment of a Complaint: A review of received information to determine if the information amounts to an allegation of misconduct that warrants referral for an investigation.

 

Case: A situation requiring the attention and possible action of a person who has become aware of it.

 

Complaint: Information provided, whether by a complainant or any other person (a whistleblower or the survivor), indicating conduct that may be in breach of the SAHE Code of Conduct but that has yet to be assessed.

 

Confidentiality: The disclosure of certain information is restricted and only shared on a need-to-know basis.

 

Evidence: Information which tends to establish or disprove a fact material to a case. It includes, but is not limited to, oral testimony of witnesses, including experts on technical matters, documents, electronic, audio, video records and photographs, and biological evidence, such as blood, hair and semen.

 

False complaint: Intentionally providing false or misleading information.

 

Incident report: Detailed Information reported (what/how/who/when/where), indicating a conduct that may be in breach of the SAHE Code of Conduct.

 

Informed Consent: Signifies the approval by the participant for the information to be used as explained. Consent is often given with limitations. It must therefore be specified whether all the data and information provided can be used, including the identity of the participant, or whether the information may be used on condition that the identity of the participants is kept confidential. The participant may deem some parts of their testimony to be confidential, and others not: this should also be clarified and recorded. Informed consent is voluntarily and freely given based upon a clear appreciation and understanding of the facts, implications, and future consequences of an action. In order to give informed consent, the individual concerned must have all relevant facts at the time consent is given and be able to evaluate and understand the consequences of an action. They also must be aware of, and have the power to exercise, their right to refuse to engage in an action and/or to not be coerced. Children’s informed consent should take into consideration their evolving capacities. In the case of a child, informed consent should be voluntary with the informed consent of the child and a parent or guardian. Persons with disabilities may need specific support based on the nature of their impairment whether it be physical, intellectual, or mental, to give consent. Even if informed consent is granted, the information collector has an obligation to assess the potential implications of the use of that information on the safety of the person providing it and on others involved; and to minimize any additional risk to the participants that may be incurred.

 

Interview: The questioning of a person for the purpose of gathering relevant information related to a SAHE matter.

 

Investigation: An analytical process designed to gather information in order to determine whether a sexual misconduct occurred and if so, to determine the responsible person or entities.

 

[1] Canada Criminal Code

[2] Canada’s Criminal Code in section 273.1(1) and subsection 273.1(2)