Safeguarding is a high priority among UK funders following allegations of misconduct in the aid sector. Our work demonstrates a strong commitment by research funders to play a leadership role in setting a clear tone and high expectations around safeguarding in international development research, and to ensure harmonisation of safeguarding practices across the sector.

What is safeguarding?

Safeguarding is defined as taking all reasonable means to prevent harm from occurring; to protect people, especially vulnerable adults and children, from that harm; and to respond appropriately when harm does occur.

The scope of our safeguarding activity covers any sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment of research participants, communities and research staff, plus any broader forms of violence, exploitation and abuse relevant to research such as bullying, psychological abuse and/or physical violence.

Why are we working on this?

The shocking allegations of misconduct made in February 2018 have shone a spotlight on sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector. To contribute to wider efforts being made to tackle this issue, UKCDR is supporting UK funders of ODA research to develop guidance on safeguarding in the specific context of international development research.

This work represents the start of a long-term ambition. We aim to support funders and members of the international development research community in going beyond policy and process to drive real change and to promote an organisational culture that condemns all forms of harm and abuse.

Inclusive and thorough consultation with key stakeholders, including development research funders, universities, research institutes and other organisations involved in development research, is an essential aspect of this work.

Who are we working with?

In 2018 we established a Safeguarding Funders Group, comprised of the Department for International Development (DFID), the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Wellcome Trust.

We also convened a Safeguarding Expert Advisory Group to guide this work, which comprises individuals from academia and the NGO and private sectors with wide-ranging experience in safeguarding, protection, preventing sexual exploitation and abuse, and research ethics.

We are working alongside other actors engaged in international development and research, including the UK NGO community and the private sector.

What have we achieved?

In October 2018, we aligned UK funders towards a joint commitment to the highest standards in organisational culture, systems and practice required to prevent and tackle all incidents of harm and abuse, with a joint Research Funders Safeguarding Statement of Commitment launched at the International Safeguarding Summit hosted by DFID.

This statement was the first joint effort of the UK research community to raise standards of behaviour across the sector, and stands as a key pledge alongside other sectoral commitments by donors, UK non-governmental organisations, UK private sector organisations, the United Nations and international financial institutions.

What are we doing now?

We have commissioned a team from the School of Education & Social Work and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex lead by Dr David Orr to conduct an evidence review.

This includes a literature review and consultations to: i) frame the nature and the scale of the problem; ii) identify existing guidance and experience of implementation; and iii) map safeguarding activities of UK international development research funders. We will publish a draft report in May 2019 and share it widely with our stakeholders for feedback.

If you want to get involved in our safeguarding work or have any further questions, get in touch via