Child Safeguarding at Human Rights Watch

January 2022

Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) has a “zero tolerance” policy against child abuse. When HRW responds to child welfare and protection issues, the child’s needs will be of paramount concern. All HRW employees, consultants, contractors, interns, volunteers, board members and partners (herein referred to collectively as “HRW staff and representatives”) are expected to commit to protecting children from harm or abuse; prohibited from interacting with children in a way that causes physical, sexual, or emotional harm; and instructed to report any such child safety concerns to HRW’s Designated Safeguarding Officer, its Chief People Officer, and when applicable, the appropriate child protection authorities.

Prohibited Conduct

HRW staff and representatives are prohibited from engaging in any activity or conduct that may constitute child abuse, exploitation, or neglect, or that places children at risk of any kind of physical, sexual, or emotional harm. HRW defines a “child” as anyone under the age of 18.

Prohibited conduct includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Hitting or otherwise physically assaulting or abusing a child;

  • Sexual contact or sexual activity of any form with a child. This is prohibited regardless of the age of majority or age of consent in the jurisdiction in which the abuse occurred;

  • The use of sexually explicit or sexually suggestive language towards a child;

  • The use of humiliating, degrading, or threatening language towards a child;

  • Sending to a child or soliciting from a child sexually explicit, sexually suggestive, or otherwise inappropriate written or electronic communication;

  • Behaving physically towards a child in a manner which is sexually inappropriate or sexually provocative;

  • Developing a relationship with a child that could be deemed exploitative or abusive;

  • Requesting or demanding payment or any other material benefit from a child;

  • Engaging child labor that is inappropriate given a child’s age or developmental stage or that violates the child labor laws of the country in question, assuming they are in accord with ILO convention 182;

  • Discriminating against a child based on, but not limited to, a child’s age, race, gender, national origin, color, religion, or sexual orientation;

  • Allowing concerns or allegations to go unreported.

HRW staff and representatives are also prohibited from aiding or facilitating another individual in connection to the abuse or exploitation of a child, including, but not limited to, the conduct listed above.

If a child is in danger or at imminent risk of harm, contact the appropriate child protection authorities.

If you have information that relates to HRW staff and representatives engaging in prohibited conduct, please make a child safeguarding report to its Chief People Officer at:

Any email to this address will also be automatically copied to the Office of the General Counsel of Human Rights Watch.

When making a report, please provide factual, accurate and detailed information, including details like:

  • Details of the child or children the reporter is concerned about, if known, including:

    • Gender

    • Age

    • Any specific needs (disability, language spoken, interpreter required)

    • Parent/guardian/caregiver name

    • Contact information

  • Details of the safeguarding allegation against HRW staff or representatives, including:

    • The nature of the incident(s) or disclosure(s) (using clear and exact language);

    • Where and what time the incident(s) or disclosure(s) took place;

    • The name(s), position(s), and contact details of the subject(s) of the allegation;

    • Whether there were witnesses to the incident, or on what basis a reasonable suspicion was formed; and

    • Any other relevant information.

  • Details of any action(s) taken to date, including:

    • Immediate action(s) taken by the reporter (if any);

    • Whether anyone else has been informed;

    • Whether the child’s parent/guardian/caregiver has been informed (where appropriate).

  • Contact information of the reporting person (reports can be made anonymously, though it may hinder the effectiveness of HRW’s initial response).

All child safeguarding reports or complaints made against HRW staff or representatives will be investigated and an appropriate response will be determined. HRW will treat the matter as urgent until resolved.

HRW will treat the matter as confidential, except to the extent that disclosure is required to adequately investigate the report.