The UK’s approach to safeguarding in the humanitarian sector

A review examining the UK’s approach to safeguarding in the humanitarian sector finds the government needs to do more to learn from people affected by humanitarian crises.

Score: Amber/Red
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 24 February 2022
  3. Type: Full review
  4. Subject: Democracy, governance and human rights, Humanitarian assistance, Peace, security and justice, Women and girls
  5. Assessment: Amber/Red
  6. Location: Bangladesh, Uganda, Yemen
  7. Lead commissioner: Sir Hugh Bayley
  8. SDGs covered:Reduced inequalities, Peace, justice and strong institutions, Gender equality

Read the approach paper

Our approach

This review focuses explicitly on the humanitarian aid sector and examines the extent to which the UK government’s safeguarding efforts have been effective in preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) of affected populations, perpetrated by aid workers operating in humanitarian aid contexts. A key focus of this review is how well protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) approaches work in practice.

This review builds on a number of related reviews and inquiries that have taken place, including the work of the International Development Committee (IDC). It also considers the impact of the merger of the Department for International Development (DFID) and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in September 2020, recent cuts in humanitarian aid funding and the COVID-19 pandemic on safeguarding efforts.

Review questions:

  1. How well has the UK government gone about building a relevant and credible portfolio of safeguarding programmes and influencing activities?
  2. How well does the UK work with other donors and multilateral partners to ensure a joined-up global approach to PSEA?
  3. How effective is the UK’s approach to PSEA at programme, delivery partner and sector-wide levels?

Call for evidence

As part of the evidence gathering process, ICAI launched a short survey to hear from individuals or organisations, particularly those with experience of the humanitarian aid sector.

This survey closed on Friday 23rd July 2021.




Published 2 July 2021

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 24 February 2022

Government response

Published 7 April 2022

Parliamentary scrutiny

IDC hearing 28 June 2022

Further scrutiny

Published 18 July 2023