Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All
Public side event to WHA71 and MMI Assembly
May 26, 2018

#AidToo: Sexual exploitation in international cooperation. Prevent, respond adequately – and most of all: address the root causes

Photo: FAO (Haiti, 2010)
Photo: FAO (Haiti, 2010)

Geneva, 26 May 2018, 12.30-14.30 hrs. After the scandals of sexual abuse and exploitation by staff of organizations working in humanitarian aid and development cooperation reported and discussed in early 2018, assessments and answers about how to deal with such misbehaviour need to be found at all levels: By the individual, by the institution (what values, norms, and regulations can they refer to in order to prevent such cases and, if they occur, to deal with them in an adequate way?), and by the sector and society as a whole.

However, the development and humanitarian sector is not so much advanced in addressing misconduct of expatriate workers or local partners as for instance in dealing with frauds. We have lots of checks and balances, protocols, reporting criteria, etc. for fraud, but less for misconduct.

Currently, both at the international and the national level, main actors are coming together to develop joint responses and protocols. This is now work in progress, but moving forward with urgency

The event

Our public side event to the MMI Annual General Assembly will provide a space for asking critical questions and sharing assessments on what is to be done to prevent and properly respond to particular cases of sexual exploitation and misconduct. But the dialogue is intended to go beyond this: What is to be done to address the root causes? This leads to the following rough structure of the conversation:

  • Prevent sexual exploitation and abuse and respond adequately: A necessity and challenge

What needs to be done to operationalize a “survivor centred approach” in dealing with sexual harassment and abuse in humanitarian aid and development cooperation? Instruments proposed include active prevention, reporting and compliance, sensitivity training, and community based complaints mechanisms. However, such instruments, mainly as they are now being imposed by donors after the cases reported in early 2018, are a big institutional challenge for small organizations. So what can they do? How to operationalize a culture of integrity throughout the heterogonous sector?

  • Most of all: Address root causes of sexual exploitation and abuse

Sexual exploitation and abuse in the field of humanitarian aid and development cooperation is rooted in power imbalances related to sexism, racism, neo-colonial ideas, and global power structures. Unless these root causes are made central to the discussions, any solutions will remain reactive and superficial.


  • Cécile Pouilly, UNHCR
  • Clara Affun-Adegbulu, ITM Antwerp
  • Ignacio Packer, ICVA
  • Jan Kees den Bakker, Cordaid
  • Rewan Youssif, Women in Global Health

Moderator: Michaela Told, Graduate Institute


  • Initial input will be followed by a dialogue among panellists and with the broader audience.
  • We want to create a public, but protected space for an intensive dialogue on a sensitive matter. The meeting will therefore not be webcast. Participants are requested not to publish/tweet any quotes without explicit consent of the speaker.
  • The meeting is open to representatives of institutions working in the field of health cooperation, to delegates at the 71st World Health Assembly and to all others interested.
  • A simple lunch (sandwiches and salads) will be available before the meeting.



  • Graduate Institute, Maison de la Paix, Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2, Geneva

Register now



    MMI Network members as co-organizers:



  • Thomas Schwarz, Secretariat, Medicus Mundi International Network
    , phone +41 61 383 18 11, text +41 79 645 01 37

Announcement as PDF


MMI Geneva Workshops

Since 2014, The MMI health cooperation workshops in Geneva take place on the Saturday of the World Health Assembly week as side events to both the MMI Annual Assembly and to the World Health Assembly. The topics of the last years:

  • 2014: Working towards Health for All: What’s the count?
    What role for civil society action and networking?
  • 2015: A luta continua! Strengthening or weakening health systems?
  • 2016: Promoting access to health in fragile contexts: What role for international cooperation?
  • 2017: Health Cooperation beyond aid


Network events in Geneva, May 2017

Learn more about the Annual General Assembly of the MMI Network and our activities during the 71th World Health Assembly

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