A. Procedures and code of conduct

1. Standard operating procedures (SOPs)

The first thing that you need to familiarise yourself with is the document outlining the standard operating procedures of the organisation that you are working for. This document, which will be used to guide your everyday activities while on mission, usually consists of the following elements:

SOPs generally cover activities related to personnel management, financial management, vehicle management, assessments, curfews, checkpoints, communications, safety and security issues, etc. Some of these aspects will be highlighted in the following sections. However, since each mission and situation will determine the specific content and nature of an SOP, you should ensure that you are aware of and have a copy of the SOP related to your respective mission and organisation.

2. Respect the code of conduct and ethical principles

Representing your organisation, 24 hours a day

While on mission, you must remain aware that your conduct is subject to continuous scrutiny by both local and international observers. Since you will be representing your organisation and reflecting its image 24 hours a day, you will often feel overwhelmed by a multitude of expectations, most of which will be based on universally recognised international legal norms and disciplinary regulations that you might not have been familiar with before going on mission. Therefore, before you rush into action and end up tainting your reputation and that of your organisation, you should read, understand and abide by the staff code of conduct and ethical principles. Ethical principles include those of independence, impartiality, objectivity and loyalty.

Your organisation’s code of conduct is designed to guide you in upholding the highest standards of professionalism and morality when making decisions and must be adhered to at all times. The following are some of the elements that you are bound to encounter in a code of conduct:

Channels for complaint – the ombudsman

Over time, several mechanisms have been developed and used to probe and ensure that organisations and individuals act in an accountable manner. One of these mechanisms has been the use of an ombudsman.

Organisational ombudsmen are most often neutral personnel whose job is to mediate and resolve disputes or other work-related complications while providing confidential and independent support as well as advice to employees or other stakeholders. Ombudsmen are generally referred to as the ultimate ‘inside-outsiders’ and are known for handling employees’ complaints and grievances and guiding them in the right direction.

The European Ombudsman, for example, is an independent and impartial body that holds the EU administration to account. The EU Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. Only the Court of Justice of the European Union, acting in its judicial capacity, falls outside the EU Ombudsman’s mandate.

The UN General Assembly created the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services (UNOMS) with responsibilities for UN staff and peacekeeping missions, including ombudsmen attached to peace keeping missions with locations in Entebbe and Kinshasa.

The ombudsman may find maladministration if an institution fails to respect fundamental rights, legal rules or principles, or the principles of good administration. This covers administrative irregularities, unfairness, discrimination, abuse of power, failure to reply, refusal of information and unnecessary delay, for example.

Therefore, if you ever witness (or fall victim to) any organisational misconduct, you should not hesitate to contact the ombudsman for advice and seek guidance on how to proceed with the violation at hand.

Examples of complaint mechanisms in different organisations include:

3. Sexual abuse

The 2002 ‘Sex for Food’ scandal exposed the exploitation of women and children in refugee camps in West Africa by UN peacekeeping personnel and NGO workers who exchanged food and money in return for sexual services. In response to this, the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) adopted a Statement of Commitment on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in 2006, outlining six core principles through which UN agencies and NGOs committed to eliminating sexual exploitation and abuse by their staff.

No matter what organisation you are working with or what your role is, you should always keep in mind the following six core principles:

Perpetrating sexual abuse will get you fired and make you subject to criminal prosecution. Sexual exploitation and abuse by personnel constitute acts of gross misconduct and are therefore grounds for the termination of employment.

Zero tolerance for paedophilia. Sexual activity with children (persons under the age of 18) is prohibited regardless of the age of majority or age of consent locally. Mistaken belief regarding the age of a child is not a defence.

Do not turn sex into a commodity. Exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex, including sexual favours or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behaviour, is prohibited.

Avoid sexual relationships with local beneficiaries. These could often be based on inherently unequal power dynamics and might greatly undermine the credibility and integrity of a mission.

If you witness abuse, speak out. If you develop concerns or suspicions regarding sexual abuse or exploitation by a fellow worker, whether in the same organisation or not, you must report such concerns via established organisational reporting mechanisms.

Be part of an abuse-free environment. You are obliged to create and maintain an environment that prevents sexual exploitation and abuse and to promote the implementation of your code of conduct.

Managers at all levels have a special responsibility to support and develop systems that maintain an abuse-free environment and ensure that victims of sexual exploitation have access to a confidential mechanism that is appropriately staffed (e.g. women, especially national staff, who are victims of sexual abuse tend to prefer to report their experience to another woman rather than a man).

4. Corruption

Corruption has been a significant issue in nearly every major crisis and intervention by the international community in the last 20 years. Conflicts and revolutions may be prompted by the corruption and excesses of a regime and conflict may be perpetuated when corruption is deeply entrenched and warring parties benefit from the spoils of continued fighting. Fragile and conflict-affected states as well as countries emerging from conflict are often characterised by endemic corruption, low levels of state legitimacy and capacity, weak rule of law, wavering levels of political will and high levels of insecurity. Opportunities for corruption are abound in such contexts, through the combination of weak governmental institutions, low absorption capacity and donors’ pressure to disburse massive inflows of foreign aid.

Corruption is a complex issue that often manifests itself in subtle ways. The effects can be seen in bribery, the corrupt management of state assets and through technical issues such as contracting and illicit money flows. While a determined effort to address corruption may increase the complexity of the early stages of a mission, it will pay back high dividends in terms of institution building, stability and the overall success of the mission. A ‘clean’ environment allows better outcomes to be delivered at lower cost both to the host nation and to the international community as a whole. Above all, reducing corruption will improve the security and well-being of the civilian population. The consequences of corruption include the following:

Guidance on countering corruption in crisis management missions is largely absent. Anti-corruption should be mainstreamed as a priority within national and international policy arenas and the creation of specific training could assist crisis managers in tackling corruption within their daily work.

Robust guidance and internal systems are needed to address corruption risk. The key principles you must adhere to are as follows: