Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW) is a global development organisation that focuses on the needs and potential of the largest youth generation in history. We are committed to creating demand for and access to health information, services, supplies and economic empowerment for youth. We achieve this by engaging in advocacy, capacity development, and reproductive health initiatives, so that young people are empowered to lead healthy and self-determined lives. With our headquarters in Hannover, Germany, DSW operates two liaison offices in Berlin and Brussels, as well as maintaining a strong presence in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

This code of conduct contains essential principles and rules that reflect the behaviours and standards that DSW expects from all staff, partners, service providers & stakeholders in their interactions with DSW work, staff and young people and assists in understanding their obligations and responsibilities. These behaviours underpin DSW’s youth empowerment approach, which puts special focus on addressing sexual reproductive health and rights, socio economic opportunities and youth participation. Each employee shall do his/her/their best to strengthen DSW’s portfolio and under no circumstances put DSW projects, programmes, finances and reputation at risk. An employee may not engage in any action that is prejudicial to the interest of DSW, whether on the national or the international level.

DSW creates a supportive environment for youth and gender equality in order to strengthen women and girls’ ability to make informed choices about their lives, bodies and future, build their assets (social, economic, political and personal) and empower them to make their voices heard.

Everyone working with or for DSW has a commitment to prevent sexual exploitation and harassment, fraud, bribery, corruption and abuse of power. This also applies to board members, contractual partners and temporary personnel such as consultants, interns or volunteers. DSW management on all levels has the responsibility to ensure that all employees are aware of this Code of Conduct and that they understand how it applies to their work context.

DSW’s Code of Conduct serves as a guideline and framework for our work, as well does it serve as a framework from which, beside the whistle blowing policy, the following standard operating procedures with regard to safeguarding mechanisms will be derived: programme implementation procedures, detection mechanisms and case management, recruitment and on boarding, capacity building. This general code of conduct is in place throughout DSW. Country offices might add additional aspects related to their specific working context. This is then made explicit and highlighted accordingly and does not have any influence on the general principles expressed in DSWs Code of Conduct.

As well will DSW’s employees receive regular bi–annual training on this code of conduct, its content and what it means for our procedures as well as for our interactions with partners and beneficiaries. Materials to be self- studied will be developed.

DSW respects national constitutions, laws and regulations. Reference might be made to these laws and regulations if necessary.

The Code of Conduct is regarded as part of the employment contract and as such all employees are expected to sign this document. This Code of Conduct will be part of all service and consultancy contracts, as well as agreements with partner organisations and shall be subject to a disclaimer in every contract with 3rd parties.

All stakeholders should feel protected by DSW’s commitment to providing a safe environment in which to voice a concern, without fear of reprisal or unfair treatment.

Therefore, DSW employees:

  • respect and promote fundamental human rights without any kind of discrimination;
  • treat all stakeholders with whom we work fairly and with respect, courtesy, dignity;
  • promote the implementation of the Code of Conduct by contributing towards the creation and maintenance of an environment that prevents sexual exploitation and harassment, fraud, bribery, corruption and abuse of power;
  • Report immediately any knowledge, concerns or suspicions of breaches of the Code to their/her/his line manager, the HR manager, Executive Director (ED)/Country Director (CD) or through the following general email address: complaints@dsw.org (or anonymously via this link). These are monitored by the ED directly or forwarded to the vice executive director in his absence. After reporting, prompt action is to be taken by the person receiving the report. See as well section 8 on whistle blowing for further information.
  • be aware that failure to disclose or knowingly withholding information about any reports, concerns or substantial suspicions of breaches of this Code of Conduct constitutes grounds for disciplinary measures and might result in legal prosecution;
  • uphold the highest standards of accountability, efficiency, competence, integrity and transparency in the execution of their job. • cooperate when requested with any investigation into alleged breaches related to this Code.


1. Conflict of Interest

The employee has to notify DSW upon employment and any occasion occurring during employment about any possibility of a conflict of interest.
A conflict of interest situation arises when the “private interests” of the DSW employee compete or conflict with the interests of the organisation. “Private interests” means both the financial and personal interests of the staff or those of their connections including: family and other relations; personal friends; the clubs, communities and societies to which they belong; and any person to whom they owe a favour or are obligated in any way.

DSW employees should avoid using their official position or any information made available to them in the course of their duties to benefit themselves, their relations or any other persons with whom they have personal or social ties. Failure to avoid or declare any conflict of interest may give rise to criticism of favouritism, abuse of authority or even allegations of corruption.

In particular, employees involved in procurement processes should declare conflict of interest if they are closely related to or have beneficial interest in any company, which is being considered for selection as the DSW supplier of goods or services.

When called upon to deal with matters of the organisation for which there is an actual or perceived conflict of interest, the employee should make a declaration in writing to their/her/his line manager. S/He/they should then abstain from dealing with the matter in question or follow the instruction of his/her/their line manager who may reassign the task to other employees.

Each employee is obliged to fill a conflict of interest form upon employment with DSW and update it on a yearly basis.

2. Fraud, bribery and corruption

DSW’s ethical and financial integrity and reputation is to be preserved by all means and as such DSW follows a zero tolerance approach regarding fraud, bribery and corruption. Fraud, bribery, corruption and other illegal acts such as theft, deception, manipulation of accounting entries will therefore be investigated and if confirmed might lead to disciplinary and/or legal consequences.

An employee of DSW who solicits or accepts an advantage in connection with her/his/their work without the permission of the employer may commit an offence. The term “advantage” refers to almost anything of value, except entertainment (see below), such as money, gift, commission, loan, fee, reward, office, employment, contract, service or in kind favours.

It is the policy of DSW to prohibit all employees from soliciting or accepting any personal advantage from any person having business dealings with the organisation (e.g. clients, suppliers, contractors).

In general, gifts offered voluntarily to the employee in their official capacity are regarded as gifts to the organisation and they should not be accepted without permission. This refers as well to invitations to conferences that include the coverage of hotel and travel costs. Employees should decline the offer if the acceptance could affect their objectivity in conducting the organisation’s business, or induce them to act against the interest of the organisation, or lead to complaints of bias or impropriety.

For gifts which are presented to employees in their official capacity and of nominal value (below 10 Euros or equivalent), the refusal of which could be seen as unsociable or impolite (e.g. a plaque presented to an employee during a seminar in which s/he is invited to be the guest speaker), materials received during the participation of a conference/seminar like some sweets, a t-shirt, a small bag, stationary the CD/ED has given a blanket permission for the employee to accept these gifts.

In other circumstances, the staff should request in writing to the respective CD/ED for permission to accept the gifts. The CD/ED or the person this is delegated to consider such requests should carefully consider each request. Proper records of these applications should be kept showing the name of the applicant, the occasion of the offer, the nature and estimated value of the gift, and whether permission has been granted for the applicant to retain the gift or other directions have been given to dispose of the gift.

DSW employees shall never take advantage of their position when working with beneficiaries, partners or other stakeholders and will uphold the highest standards of accountability and transparency in relation to their actions, finances, management and governance.

Entertainment refers to food or drink provided for immediate consumption on the occasion, and any other entertainment provided at the same time. Although entertainment is an acceptable form of business and social behaviour and is not an “advantage”, DSW employees must not accept lavish or frequent entertainment from persons with whom the organisation has official dealings (e.g. suppliers, partners, donors or contractors), so that they will not be placed in a position of obligation.

– Bribery: the offering, promising, giving, accepting or soliciting of money, gifts or other advantages as an inducement to do something that is illegal or a breach of trust in the course of carrying out an organisation’s activities.
– Corruption is defined as “the abuse of entrusted power for private and personal advantage”. This includes offering, giving, demanding or accepting gifts, loans or credits, rewards, commissions or any other benefit to or from a third party as an incentive to do something which is dishonest, illegal or a breach of trust within the framework of normal business operations.

3. Harassment, sexual exploitation and abuse

Any form of harassment and/or bullying, racial discrimination5or discrimination in relation to age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, religion or beliefs will not be tolerated and immediate actions (including disciplinary) will be taken by DSW’s management. DSW is committed to treating all employees and its stakeholders with respect, dignity and providing a safe environment free from discrimination, bullying and harassment of any kind, including sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. DSW is operating a zero tolerance policy for any form of discrimination, bullying and harassment in the workplace and towards its stakeholders, treats all incidents seriously and promptly investigates all allegations of discrimination, harassment, bullying, exploitation or abuse while maintaining confidentiality Any person found to have discriminated, bullied or harassed another will face disciplinary action. No one will be victimized for making such a complaint.

Harassment, bullying and discrimination
DSW does not tolerate any form of workplace violation such as harassment, bullying and discrimination, that is, any unwelcome comment or behavior that is offensive, demeaning, humiliating, derogatory, or any other inappropriate behavior that fails to respect the dignity of an individual.

DSW employees and service providers shall:

– treat all colleagues and DSW’s stakeholders with whom we work fairly and with respect, courtesy, dignity.
– speak with civility and kindness, listen carefully, and consider other’s wellbeing.
– never commit any act or form of violence, discrimination, bullying and harassment as it causes physical, sexual, psychological or emotional harm or suffering to individuals, especially vulnerable groups. Violent, harassing or discriminatory behavior of any kind directed toward another person in the workplace or in the communities with whom DSW works is unacceptable and shall not be tolerated.
– never engage in any behavior, deliberate or otherwise, that makes the recipient feel persecuted, vulnerable and powerless. Special sensibility is needed in relationship to young beneficiaries of our work.
– understand what constitutes bullying, discrimination and harassment, recognize early signs, empower persons affected by it by offering support and take necessary actions for stopping it.
–  Abide with DSW child protection policy that is part of the HR Manual.

Examples for unacceptable behavior include (but are not limited to):
– Exclusion or social isolation, victimization
– Undermining decisions made or other misuse of power of position
– Work-related harassment (unrealistic deadlines, meaningless tasks)
– Sexual harassment e.g. unwelcome advances, touching, offensive or discriminating language or behavior, display of offensive materials, requesting for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which results in the individual feeling threatened, disadvantaged, or compromised in any way.
– Verbal or nonverbal demonstrations of hostility, abuse or personal attacks (such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults and epithets)
– Sabotage of a co-worker’s work product or undermining of an employee’s work performance

The reporting of acts of harassment, bullying or discrimination will be treated confidentially and will not have any effect on the employee’s performance assessments.

Sexual exploitation and abuse
All forms of sexual exploitation and abuse are prohibited, as are all forms of sexual contact with children under the age of 18 (minor) and young people. Sexual exploitation and abuse is considered as a form of gender-based violence.

DSW employees shall while on duty and off duty:
– understand that sexual exploitation and abuse are human rights violations and constitute acts of gross misconduct and are therefore grounds for termination of employment.
– never engage in any sexual activity with beneficiaries of DSW projects.
– all forms of sexual contact with minors (regardless of the age of majority or age of consent locally) is prohibited. Mistaken belief in the age of a minor is not a way to defend oneself.
– while on duty not accept, solicit or engage in the “buying” of or profiting from sexual services.
– never exploit the vulnerability of beneficiaries, especially young women and minors, or allow any person/s to be put into compromising situations.
– know that the exchange of money, employment, opportunities, goods or services for sex, including sexual favors or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behavior is prohibited. This includes exchange of assistance and information that is due to target groups and partners.
– never abuse a position to give preferential treatment in exchange for sexual favors or other advantages.
– never act in ways that may place minor aged persons at risk of abuse when working with minors and adolescents (see DSWs child protection policy).

Even though DSW views romantic/sexual relationships as a private matter, these kinds of relationships at the work place are discouraged due to favoritism, manipulation, abuse of power, conflict of interest, and challenges around confidentiality, professional distance and poor judgement as relates to discharge of duty. It is particularly discouraged between staff working in the same department or function, or in situations where there is a direct supervisor/supervisee relationship. In order to manage any potential conflict of interest, all such relationships shall be disclosed to the ED/CD including those between staff and individuals from DSW partner organizations (youth groups, vendors etc.). DSW considers non -consensual sexual overtures to be harassment and will be dealt with firmly in accordance with the DSW HR and harassment policy.

The reporting of acts of harassment, sexual exploitation and abuse, bullying or discrimination can be done through our grievance mechanisms, will be treated confidentially and will not have any effect on employee’s performance assessments.

Nomination of safeguarding focal point officer and their/his/her duties
Each office will nominate a focal point with regard to safeguarding. Apart from the respective HR Manager, a deputy focal point officer outside of the HR department shall be appointed. This person will support the implementation of regular induction and training to employees on safeguarding and related protection policies including safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults.

A regular risk assessment procedure will be developed which includes annual routine identification and management of risks relating to minors, young people, adolescents, female employees and employees belonging to a minority.

In addition, CDs and ET (including HR) will monitor reported cases of harassment, sexual exploitation and abuse, workplace bullying or discrimination and will conduct regular annual surveys amongst employees and beneficiaries.

– “Harassment is unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose of effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.”

(See: Bullying and harassment at work, p. 2, https://archive.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=794)
– “Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.” (See: Bullying and harassment at work, p. 1, https://archive.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=794)
– “The term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”(https://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CERD.aspx)
– Sexual exploitation means: “Any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another”. (https://hr.un.org/sites/hr.un.org/files/SEA%20Glossary%20%20%5BSecond%20Edition%20-%202017%5D%20-%20English_0.pdf)
– Sexual abuse means: “Actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions.” (https://hr.un.org/sites/hr.un.org/files/SEA%20Glossary%20%20%5BSecond%20Edition%20-%202017%5D%20-%20English_0.pdf)
– The term “child”, in accordance with the definition in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, designates any person under the age of 18.

4. Data protection and handling of classified or proprietary information

DSW employees are aware of the stipulations according to the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation of the EU) for dealing with personal data, photos etc. and adhere accordingly. See as well the information sheet on GDPR included in the HR Manual.

Employees are not allowed to disclose any classified or proprietary information to anybody without authorisation. Staff who have access to or are in control of such information should at all times provide adequate safeguards to prevent its abuse or misuse. Examples of misuse include disclosure of information in return for monetary rewards, or use of information for personal interest. It should also be noted that unauthorised disclosure of any personal data may result in a breach of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.

5. Protection of DSW’s resources and natural resources

DSW’s intellectual property is an important resource that needs to be protected by all staff members. As well does DSW respect the intellectual property of other stakeholders at all times.

DSW assets are not to be used for private gain.

DSW staff is encouraged to protect natural resources where possible and make sure that paper and energy saving measures are implemented and materials are recycled.

Beside economic efficiency, ecological and social criteria are to be taken into consideration as well when selecting service providers and supplies.

6. Alcohol, drugs and gambling

Smoking is only allowed in the designated areas outside the office buildings.

In general, it is not allowed to drink alcohol during office hours. Exemptions might be made for special occasions or for evening functions. In the latter employees are to make sure they consume alcohol in moderate quantities and in no occasion damage DSW’s reputation.

DSW employees are not allowed to invite beneficiaries to consume alcohol and/or other drugs on the account of socialising at any time during workshops or seminars.

Employees not fit for work due to the usage of alcohol or other addictive substances and as such not in a condition to fulfil their obligations, will be sent home and will face disciplinary action.

In case there is a justified suspicion of problematic alcohol/drug usage or of an existing addiction line, managers are obliged to address this to the staff member in a confidential talk, involve HR and/or the ED/CD and subsequently jointly seek solutions and/or external support.

Employees are prohibited to gamble with persons that have business dealings with the organisation as well as among colleagues, particularly with subordinates. Gambling in the organisation’s premises is strictly forbidden.

7. External communications, press contacts, social media

DSW future guidelines on external communications and press contacts are to be adhered to at all times. Do not relate with the press without prior consent of the ED/CD or any person officially designated by the ED/CD to give this consent.

See DSW’s guidelines on communications and social media for detailed information. Specific reference is made here with regard to the right to the image of employees and beneficiaries: Images may not be used without prior consent.

8. Whistle blowing

Anyone who has reason to believe that DSW employees, partners or service providers are not acting in line with this Code of Conduct is encouraged to report their/his/her observations of any improper practice or wrongful conduct.

Reports can be made through the following general email address: complaints@dsw.org, which will be monitored by the ED directly or forwarded to the vice executive director in his absence. In addition, DSW will nominate an external person of trust per country to which reports can be directed. Reports will be dealt with confidentially and followed-up immediately.

DSW will ensure confidentiality and protect those making such reports in good faith. Allegations made anonymously are much less powerful and may often be difficult to substantiate/prove. Therefore, whistle blowers are encouraged to put their name to an allegation wherever possible to allow for proper follow up during investigation. Any anonymous allegations will be considered at the discretion of the Executive Director/Country Director. See in addition the respective country office whistle blowing policies that are in place for further guidelines and procedures. These policies remain in place until the DSW overall whistle blowing policy is published.

9. Violation of the Code of Conduct

Violation of this Code of Conduct will not be tolerated and may, in accordance with relevant legislation, lead to internal disciplinary actions, dismissal or even criminal prosecution.

All DSW employees have a responsibility to handle and respond to any allegations of misconduct they receive. Breaches of the Code of Conduct should be reported immediately.

10. Review

This Code shall be reviewed on a bi-annual basis. Changes to the Code are to be agreed on by the Executive Director and communicated to all those who need to adhere to it.

Code of Conduct. Updated: December, 2020.