Policy on the Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA)
Last updated: May 2022
Airlink, Inc. (the “Company” or “Airlink”) is a rapid-response humanitarian relief organization that links pre-qualified nonprofits with airlines to help communities in crisis worldwide. Since its founding in 2010, the Company has transported thousands of aid workers and millions of pounds of cargo by air.
Airlink requires its directors, officers, employees, volunteers, and external partners to adhere to the highest standards of accountability and professionalism, which requires honest, ethical, respectful, and nonexploitative conduct.
This policy states Airlink’s expectations regarding the manner in which all persons working for and with the Company interact with beneficiaries, including express conduct that is prohibited. It also states the processes and procedures Airlink will maintain to ensure all parties uphold these standards and how misconduct is identified, reported, and addressed in an appropriate and timely manner.
Scope of Applicability
This policy applies to all persons working for Airlink, or on behalf of the Company in any capacity, including employees at all levels, directors, officers, seconded workers, volunteers, interns, and contractors (collectively “Team Members”), as well as vendors, NGO partners, and private sector partners (collectively “Partners”). It applies during and outside of working hours, every day of the year, at both the headquarters and project levels. Should this policy demand a higher standard than the local laws then this policy will prevail. All staff and representatives named above can raise a complaint via the procedures outlined in this policy.
In the context of Airlink’s work, it is necessary to consider that, as an NGO-to-NGO service provider, we seldom work directly or indirectly with communities affected by disasters. However, Airlink works with a wide range of actors who have both direct and indirect contact with vulnerable populations, and from time to time, Team Members may visit Partners onsite where they are running a program.
1. Definitions: What is Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
1.1. The UN Secretary General’s Bulletin on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (2003) defines sexual exploitation and abuse as:
1.1.1. Sexual exploitation: ‘Any actual or attempted abuse of a 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’
1.1.2. Sexual abuse: ‘The actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions’
1.2. The Company’s definition of sexual exploitation and abuse aligns with this but goes further to also prohibit the exchange of money, employment, goods, or services (including assistance that is due to beneficiaries) for sex, including sexual favors or other forms of humiliating, degrading, or exploitative behavior.
1.3. Alongside this, the Company affirms the primacy of Accountability to Affected Populations as an integral part of its humanitarian signature and upholds the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) specifically standard 3 “Communities and people affected by crisis are not negatively affected and are more prepared, resilient and less at-risk as a result of humanitarian action” and standard 5 “Communities and people affected by crisis have access to safe and responsive mechanisms to handle complaints”.
1.4. Airlink’s PSEA and safeguarding approach seeks to prevent and robustly respond to all forms of sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse and any other harms carried out by Team Members and Partners towards anyone we come into contact with through our work. We recognize the ways in which various forms of sexual violence and abuse of power intersect; our policies distinguish between abusive behaviors carried out between Team Members (addressed through our Anti-Harassment Policy), abusive behaviors carried out towards children (addressed through our Child Safeguarding Policy), and abusive behaviors carried out towards adult beneficiaries (addressed through this policy).
2. Confidentiality and Survivor-Centered Approach
2.1. The Code of Conduct states that it is the duty and the responsibility of all Team Members and Partners to report any suspicions or incidences of sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse. Failure to report to an appropriate person is a breach of the Company’s Code of Conduct and this policy, and could lead to disciplinary action being taken, up to and including termination. More details on reporting can be found in Section 4.
2.2. In line with our survivor-centered approach, individuals do not have to report about something that they have experienced.
2.3. The Company is committed to working with survivors/complainants and all others involved in an incident management process in a confidential and respectful manner. Breaches of confidentiality undermine confidence and trust in the Company’s PSEA and complaint management processes—and in the organization itself. Maintaining confidentiality around people’s personal data and information is particularly important when managing issues relating to sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse.
2.4. From the point of disclosure to the final outcome of any investigation, every effort will be made to maintain and promote confidentiality in order to protect the safety and privacy of everyone involved.
2.5. Information must be shared on a ‘Need to Know’ basis – that is, only those who need to be informed so they can support an investigation or because they hold overall accountability will be given information, and they will receive only as much information as they need in order to be effective.
2.6. If information is shared confidentially which relates to a child or suggests that someone’s life is in danger, then action will need to be taken outside of standard confidentiality procedures in order to ensure that everyone is safe. This will be managed on a case-by-case basis, and the safety and well-being of the beneficiary in question are always paramount. As noted above, only those who need to know will be informed so they can take effective action.
3. Policy Statements and Standards of Conduct
3.1. Consistent with the Company’s mission, Airlink expects all of its Team Members and Partners to treat all beneficiaries with respect and dignity and to always act in the best interests of their physical and emotional well-being, and never engage in conduct that could be perceived as abusive or exploitative.
3.2. Airlink expects its Team Members and Partners to constantly look out for the best interests of people affected by emergencies, to identify and minimize the risk of harm, abuse, or exploitation by others, and to report and ensure follow-up any time a Team Member or Partner has reason to believe that a beneficiary is being harmed, abused, or exploited by an Airlink Team Member or Partner.
3.3. Consistent with these principles, Airlink has zero tolerance for and abhors conduct towards beneficiaries that is exploitative or abusive. This includes conduct or attempted conduct that is or could reasonably be perceived as sexually abusive, including all definitions described in this policy.
3.4. Airlink expects and requires that Team Members who are aware of specific facts that would lead them to suspect that another Airlink Team Member or Partner is engaged in sexual abuse or exploitation report such behavior.
3.5. The Company prohibits any of its Partners or Team Members from engaging in any form of sexual activity with beneficiaries. Relationships or any kind of sexual activity with community members who are not beneficiaries is not prohibited, however, Team Members must ensure the relationship is not and could not be perceived to be exploitative or abusive.
3.6. The Company prohibits any Partner or Team Member from buying sex. Airlink does not make judgments on people who sell sex, however, in recognition of the potential for sexual exploitation and abuse and in line with the IASC Core Principles on PSEA, the Company has banned this activity.
3.7. In addition to sexual exploitation and abuse of beneficiaries, the Company prohibits staff and other representatives from engaging in any kind of sexual activity with children (anyone under the age of 18 years, or older if the local law indicates this). See the Child Safeguarding Policy for more information.
3.8. Persons who make good faith reports of suspected abuse or exploitation of beneficiaries carried out by Airlink Team Members or Partners will not be retaliated against for their reporting even if later the allegations prove unfounded. Knowingly making false reports is, however, grounds for disciplinary action.
3.9. Violations of this Policy by Team Members can be grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including termination. For alleged abuse that may also constitute criminal conduct, the accused person may also be subject to criminal prosecution.
3.10. Team Members and Partners are obliged to create and maintain an environment that prevents sexual exploitation and abuse and promotes the implementation of this Policy. Managers at all levels have particular responsibilities to support and develop systems that maintain this environment.
3.11. Airlink provides a means for reports of sexual abuse and exploitation to be surfaced, including through anonymous reporting, and ensures that all reports of sexual abuse or exploitation by Airlink Team Members or Partners are independently reviewed and, if they appear potentially credible, fully investigated by trained professional investigators, and reported to donors in accordance with donor requirements.
3.11.1. Any individual who believes that a violation of this policy has occurred, whether by a supervisor, manager, coworker, subordinate, or another person, should immediately inform the Administrative Operations Manager, the CEO or Chair of the Board.
3.11.2. All reports will be referred to the CEO, the Chair of the Board, or, as appropriate, to the Company’s legal counsel, for investigation, review, or other appropriate action.
3.11.3. The Administrative Operations Manager or such other individual deemed appropriate by the CEO or Chair of the Board will conduct a prompt, thorough investigation of the report to determine what has happened. All facts concerning any report (including the identities of the complaining party, the person alleged to have violated this policy, and other witnesses) will be kept confidential from anyone who does not have a legitimate reason to know about them, subject to management’s need to investigate and take appropriate remedial measures.
3.11.4. If the Company concludes that its PSEA policy has been violated, it will take prompt corrective action reasonably designed to end the violation and to prevent any further violations from occurring. Such corrective action may include disciplinary action against anyone found to have violated this policy, up to and including immediate termination of employment.
3.11.5. All reports are confidentially, independently, and thoroughly investigated by a third-party investigator trained in how to conduct investigations into sexual abuse or exploitation and in a manner that ensures, to the extent possible, the protection of the beneficiary. All such activities will include the core principles/aspects of an investigation per IASC Draft Model Complaints and Investigation Procedures and Guidance Related to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse:
126.96.36.199. Thoroughness: investigations must be conducted in a diligent, complete, and focused manner.
188.8.131.52. Confidentiality: complainants, witnesses, and the subject of complaint have a right to confidentiality other than in certain, exceptional circumstances.
184.108.40.206. Safety: the safety and welfare needs of the victim and/or complainant are paramount.
220.127.116.11. Competent, responsible, independent investigators: people conducting investigations and preparing reports should be responsible, independent, and have received training.
18.104.22.168. Impartiality: investigations must be conducted in a fair and equitable way. Investigators must be free of any influence that could impair their judgment.
22.214.171.124. Objectivity: evidence to support and refute the allegation must be gathered and reported in an unbiased and independent manner.
126.96.36.199. Timelines: investigations must be conducted and reported in a timely way.
188.8.131.52. Accuracy and documentation: investigation reports and their conclusions must be supported by adequate documentation.
3.12. This policy is intended to ensure compliance with all laws, regulations, and donor requirements, including the international standards set forth by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Six Core Principles on PSEA. Should any law or donor requirement exceed the requirements in this policy, the donor or legal requirement will prevail.
4. Policy Administration
4.1. Airlink’s Administrative Operations Manager is responsible for ensuring that recruiting processes are in place to mitigate the risk of PSEA violations and that all Team Members undergo the code of conduct training and sign the certification.
4.2. Airlink’s Administrative Operations Manager and the Director of Humanitarian Programs are responsible for leading a review of this Policy every two years to ensure adherence to best practices in PSEA. Recommendations for revisions will be submitted to the Governance Committee for approval.
4.3. Airlink ensures compliance with this policy with regard to staffing through the following actions as implemented through appropriate processes and procedures.
4.3.1. All potential new Team Members undergo PSEA screening before they are hired.
4.3.2. All Team Members are informed and trained on what conduct this policy requires (via code of conduct training) and their responsibilities under this Policy, including what is sexual exploitation and abuse and how to report it, and all Team Members certify that they have understood this policy and agree to abide by it.
4.4. Airlink ensures its Partners are in compliance with this policy through the following actions.
4.4.1. Where appropriate and when in direct contact with beneficiaries, Partners are informed of the requirements of this Policy.
4.4.2. Contractual agreements or memoranda of understanding with Partners include obligations to adhere to this Policy and any additional donor-required provisions relating to PSEA, and Partners have the capacity to ensure their compliance with this policy, including, if necessary, training for Partners and additional monitoring.
4.5. Airlink ensures its communications materials and activities comply with this Policy through the following actions.
4.5.1. Images, interviews and videos of beneficiaries obtained by Airlink or its Partners are only taken after understanding their potential impact on the safety, dignity and well-being of people affected by emergencies, and in a manner that ensures respect for beneficiaries, including respect for their privacy, and in compliance with applicable laws.
4.5.2. Identifiable images and stories of people affected by emergencies are only obtained and used by Airlink or its Partners after receiving informed consent after they are informed of how their images or story will be used. Personal information communicated to Airlink will be stored in an appropriately secure manner.
4.6. Airlink computers, cameras, telephones, video recorders, or network systems may not be used to view or share sexually explicit images.
4.7. Team Members, Partners, beneficiaries, and communities can anonymously (if they choose) report all forms of sexual abuse or exploitation by Airlink Team Members or Partners, and all such reports will be promptly investigated by the Administrative Operations Manager and referred to others as described herein.
4.8. All reports will be disclosed to donors as and when the donor requires, to the extent permissible by law. Any reports that include allegations of criminal misconduct will be disclosed to law enforcement.
4.9. Any Team Member or Partner accused of sexual abuse or exploitation is, at a minimum, removed from access to communities affected by emergencies until the investigation determines that they do not pose a threat.
5. Care, Treatment, and Protection of Survivors
5.1. Upon receipt of a complaint and initiation of an investigation, the Company believes that the care and treatment of survivors is the highest priority. It is necessary to address the complainant’s, victim’s, and other beneficiaries’ potential need for immediate and ongoing assistance. This can include:
5.1.1. Medical care
5.1.2. Psychological care/trauma counseling
5.1.4. Economic assistance
5.1.5. Food and clothing
5.2. As the Company and its Partners may not have the capacity to provide all of the above services, they may contact other NGOs or UN agencies who are providing these services at the field site(s) to ensure they are appropriate and accessible.
6. NGO Partner Commitment
6.1. Airlink expects its Partners to follow the standards described in this Policy, including taking measures to prohibit their staff and representatives from engaging in any sexual harassment, exploitation, or abuse.
6.2. Partners must have a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse, and take all measures available to them to prevent and respond to actual, attempted, or threatened forms of sexual abuse and exploitation in the course of their own operations.
6.3. Partners must immediately report any suspicion of sexual harassment, exploitation, or abuse occurring within Airlink-supported programs. Failure to report will be treated as serious and may result in termination of any agreement with Airlink or discontinuation of support from Airlink.
EMPLOYEE RECEIPT AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF PSEA POLICY
I have read and understand the Airlink Inc. PSEA Policy. My signature below confirms my knowledge, acceptance, and agreement to comply with the policy.
Date Signed by Employee
TO BE PLACED IN EMPLOYEE’S PERSONNEL FILE