Our staff put their heart and soul into giving help to those who need it. Unfortunately, unacceptable behaviour can still occur. We work continually to prevent, address and respond optimally to this kind of behaviour.
In addition to providing effective help for victims, we have a two-track approach to dealing with unacceptable behaviour:
- a culture change prevent unacceptable behaviour, and
- proper procedures to be able to effectively follow up on unacceptable behaviour
Unacceptable behaviour includes abuse of power, bullying, discrimination and nepotism. It also includes using the services of prostitutes.
We are working to achieve a culture change. We want to create an environment in we can prevent the occurrence of unacceptable behaviour, so that everyone feels safe, respected and appreciated.
Every member of staff must sign the Code of Conduct. The Responsible Behaviour Framework provides a detailed description and explanation of our code of conduct. We have tightened up our Code of Conduct by including a more specific definition of what is, and what is not, unacceptable behaviour.
Training and guidance
We pay a lot of attention to prevention in the training and guidance of our staff. We practice using conversational techniques in order to enable open discussion of complex issues in difficult working conditions. In this we stress, among other things, the role and responsibility of our field coordinators. We have added extra modules on unacceptable behaviour to our management training and to the training programme that all field staff must complete before they are sent on a mission.
What if something still goes wrong? We let all our staff and the people we work for know what the channels are for addressing possible unacceptable behaviour. We encourage them to report this. We investigate and deal with these reports confidentially. This issue has a permanent place on the agenda of every management meeting.
Responsible Behaviour Team
Since 2017 we have had a Responsible Behaviour Unit. Victims of and witnesses to intimidation, abuse or discrimination can report this to the team safely and in confidence. The Unit follows up on all reports. The Unit is also authorised to carry out investigations on its own initiative and to recommend to management that an external investigation be carried out if it feels this is necessary.
Support for victims
When we receive a report of unacceptable behaviour, our first concern is to ensure the safety and health of the potential victims. We offer immediate assistance; this may include providing psychological and medical care, but also securing legal support.
We are taking active measures to encourage an open culture in which people dare to speak out and report abuse. In addition to the above points, we have taken the following concrete steps:
- We are currently engaged in appointing confidential advisors in the field missions.
- In 2018 an external email address was distributed where all staff and former staff can report their experiences, concerns, feedback and ideas, and so support the needed change process. We want to use this to give us a better understanding of how our staff feel and how they felt in the past. In this way we want to offer people who, in the past, may not have felt there was sufficient opportunity to submit a complaint, the opportunity to do so after all.
- Staff meetings on this matter are held on a regular basis for coordinators in the field missions and at headquarters. These meetings have three aims: to create more awareness concerning responsible behaviour, to make it open for discussion and to make clear what you can do if you witness any misbehaviour. We are already seeing the effects of these meetings. Various employees have indicated that they felt encouraged to submit a report.
- Together with an external bureau we have developed a plan of action with specific steps for our two-tracked approach.
Reports received by MSF-Holland
In 2018 MSF-Holland received 69 complaints, compared to 7 in 2017. This increase in reports in 2018 compared to 2017 show that people now feel safer. They are not afraid to report unacceptable behaviour. These MSF-Holland numbers include staff who were sent out via our German and English offices in their collaboration with Operational Centre Amsterdam (MSF OCA). An overview of the relevant statistics from our international network Médecins Sans Frontières can be found here.
We were able to deal with 55 of the 69 reports received in 2018 in the same year. A number of these complaints concerned incidents that took place before 2018. Two of the 55 cases resulted in dismissal. In one case we offered our apologies to a victim of unacceptable behaviour. Two people were given a verbal reprimand and three received a written reprimand. In the remaining cases:
- there was insufficient evidence to support the accusations,
- the accusations were withdrawn,
- or the complaint concerned the functioning of the person in question and not an issue related to behaviour. These cases were dealt with by line management and the HR department.