Ethics & Policies

Mercy Corps' commitment to ethics, inclusion, diversity and safeguarding

Our organisational culture

Mercy Corps works to build a better world where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, free of exploitation, harassment and bias. Toward that end, we have made it a global priority to assess — and where necessary strengthen — our culture, policies and procedures related to gender, diversity and inclusion, as well as sexual misconduct in any form. We are committed to creating an inclusive, psychologically and physically safe and accountable work environment where every voice is respected and heard. Getting this right is critical to achieving our vision for transformational change.

Improving gender diversity and inclusion

At Mercy Corps, we believe we’re at our best when we bring the full diversity of our identities, experiences and perspectives together to tackle the world’s complex challenges. Achieving this takes hard work and determined effort. Our multi-year Gender, Diversity and Inclusion initiative ensures broad ownership across the organisation and in our programmes. We are committed to strengthening our culture and identifying steps to building an even more inclusive work environment.

Our safeguarding approach

It is our responsibility to ensure team members, operations and programmes do no harm to the people and communities we work with or put anyone, especially vulnerable populations, at risk of abuse or exploitation. We take this responsibility seriously and we continue to invest in and strengthen our approach to safeguarding. We are committed to putting survivors first, providing them with the support they need, ensuring transparency with donors and local communities, and taking corrective action.

Staff and training — We have developed a suite of educational and training tools, including plain language policy guidance and e-learning courses that have been translated into multiple languages and are mandatory for all team members.

To further ensure that our safeguarding efforts are mainstreamed globally, we are in the process of establishing a network of safeguarding focal points and trained co-investigators in every country where we operate. These positions will be in-country resources for safeguarding, working with team members to build trust and confidence in our reporting mechanisms. Training will include survivor-centred approaches to incident response, international safeguarding standards, community and team member reporting, and preventative safeguarding measures.

Reporting mechanisms — There are multiple methods for team members, partners, programme participants, and community members to report feedback, concerns or complaints at Mercy Corps. Our intention is to ensure individuals have access to make a report in a way that is safe, comfortable and convenient for them.

  • Integrity Hotline: The Integrity Hotline comprises two different reporting avenues. The first is an email address: integrityhotline@mercycorps.org. The second is our third-party reporting platform where individuals can anonymously report online at www.mercycorps.org/integrityhotline or by phone/text. 
  • The Ethics Team: Reports can be made directly to the ethics team which was formed in late 2015 and comprises investigators trained to respond to allegations of fraud, corruption, and sexual exploitation and abuse. In addition to the headquarters based ethics team, Mercy Corps has field Ethics and Assurance Officers in several countries including Iraq, Syria, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and will expand into more countries in the next year.
  • A trusted leader or supervisor: Individuals with feedback, concerns or complaints can make their reports to anyone in a leadership role at Mercy Corps who they trust. Those in leadership roles can elevate feedback or concerns by reaching out to higher levels of HR or directly to the Ethics Team — or they can make a report to the Integrity Hotline on an individual’s behalf.
  • Human resources team: Team members who are a part of Human Resources are trained and able to receive confidential reports or feedback and can assist individuals with making a report. If a report is made to someone in Human Resources, they will elevate the complaint through HR channels or to the Ethics Team.
  • Safeguarding Focal Points: Safeguarding Focal Points was launched in September 2019. In-country Focal Points will coordinate, support and advise on the implementation of Safeguarding in-country programme operations. Focal Points are trained and trusted team members available to receive feedback, concerns or complaints. They can also provide assistance in making a report through the Integrity Hotline.
  • Reporting avenues for partners, volunteers, and interns: Individuals who work with Mercy Corps but who are not formally employed can make reports however they are most comfortable; through a Mercy Corps leader, CARM systems, a Safeguarding Focal Point or the Integrity Hotline. Community Accountability and Reporting Mechanisms (CARM) are community-facing feedback methods and will be contextualised in each country. Community members and Mercy Corps team members can make their reports through locked suggestion boxes, toll-free hotlines, WhatsApp messages, and the Integrity Hotline.

What to expect after making a report — After making a report, individuals will be informed of the action that is being taken as quickly as possible. This will come as an email if the report was made through the Integrity Hotline, a trusted leader, HR or a Focal Point. If a report was made in-person, individuals should be told what sort of follow-up to expect at the time of their report. Individuals may also be contacted for clarification or additional information about their reported concerns unless their feedback was submitted anonymously. If at any point individuals are unsure if a report has gone through the proper channels and followed the established process, they can follow up directly with the Integrity Hotline or the Ethics Team. If they feel comfortable, they may also follow up with anyone who received their original report.

How we conduct investigations — Our first concern as we proceed through an investigation is the safety and security of all involved, especially any survivor. We prioritise survivor’s safety, health, and well-being and offer medical, legal or emotional support as appropriate. All reports are logged in a central, confidential register.

If we were to receive an allegation of sexual abuse, exploitation or assault about an employee today, we would suspend the individual immediately if needed and conduct a survivor-centered investigation. If an allegation of sexual abuse or harassment were to involve an Executive or a Board Member, we would report it to the board and take extra care to ensure the independence of the investigation and the objectivity of the conclusions, including hiring external expert investigators. All substantiated allegations of sexual abuse result in termination and ineligibility for re-hire.

Reporting and Whistleblower protection

Mercy Corps provides multiple avenues for team members, participants and community members to confidentially report concerns, including an Integrity Hotline email address (integrityhotline@mercycorp.org) and an independent, third party reporting platform. This platform allows for anonymous reporting and can be accessed online at http://mercycorps.org/integrityhotline or by phone in most countries where we operate. Our dedicated, independent Ethics Team, staffed by trained, professional investigators, manages these platforms and oversees investigations. We are committed to timely, thorough and impartial investigations.

In addition to the integrity hotlines, we are investing in improving and expanding our Community Accountability and Reporting Mechanisms (CARM) system globally to cover all of the countries where we work. As we continue to raise awareness of our ethical policies and reporting avenues, we are committed to ensuring we have the necessary resources to quickly and thoroughly follow up on all allegations.

We are committed to ensuring protection for whistleblowers and a safe, confidential, and survivor-centered reporting process.

Hiring and onboarding

We are committed to the continued strengthening of our application, interview, reference and onboarding processes. We have implemented processes and procedures for vetting new team members including safeguarding-screening questions for both candidates and references.

Team members who are terminated for engaging in sexual misconduct or exploitation are ineligible for rehire at Mercy Corps. We will inform any employer who seeks a reference or employment check from us that this is the case.

Mercy Corps’ ongoing commitment

We know that policies have to be more than words on paper. It's what we do with them that will determine whether they are effective. At Mercy Corps, we are committed to ensuring that safeguarding and our diversity and inclusion efforts receive the appropriate time, attention and dedicated resources to be effective.

We are also committed to collaborating with our diverse stakeholders, to advocate for reforms that address the systemic power imbalances that perpetuate violence and abuse, and to increasing trust and transparency within our sector.

Key policies