16 FEB 2018
Oxfam announces comprehensive action plan to stamp out abuse
An independent commission will be set up with immediate power to carry out a wide-ranging review of Oxfam’s practices and culture, including its handling of past cases of sexual misconduct. It comes as Oxfam announces a comprehensive plan of action to strengthen safeguarding systems across the organisation, and stamp out abuse.
The plan includes the following:
- A new independent High-Level Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change, which will be able to access Oxfam records and interview staff, partners and communities it supports around the world. The Commission will create an historical record about cases of sexual misconduct and abuse of power that is as complete as possible, which will be made publicly available.
- The immediate creation of a new global database of accredited referees – designed to end the use of forged, dishonest or unreliable references by past or current Oxfam staff. Oxfam will not be issuing any references until this is in place.
- An immediate injection of money and resources into Oxfam’s safeguarding processes and the increase in the number of people working in safeguarding.
- Reiterated commitment across Oxfam to collaborate with relevant authorities, including regulators and governments, to increase transparency and prevent instances of abuse.
- Cooperation with peers across the sector to tackle physical, sexual and emotional abuse
- Active engagement with partners and allies, especially women’s rights organisations, to seek their input on how Oxfam can learn and improve.
- A re-examination of past cases, and encouraging witnesses or survivors to come forward, to see whether or not cases were dealt with appropriately.
- A commitment to improve the culture within Oxfam to ensure that no one faces sexism, discrimination or abuse, that everyone, especially women, feels safe to speak out, and everyone is clear on what behaviour is acceptable or not.
- Actively listen to the public and ensure two-way communication.
- A recommitment to and a reinforcement of our commitment to putting women’s rights and gender justice at the centre of our work.
Oxfam is also committing to publish its 2011 internal investigation into staff involved in sexual and other misconduct in Haiti as soon as possible, after taking steps necessary to protect the identity of innocent witnesses. The names of the men involved have already been shared with the authorities in Haiti.
Trini Leung, Director General of Oxfam Hong Kong (OHK), said: ‘We deeply apologise to our supporters and the people we work with. Please know that Oxfam around the world, including OHK, will learn from these difficult challenges. The confidential whistleblowing mechanism will also become more sophisticated in preventing sexual abuse and misconduct, the vetting of staff will be strengthened, and our transparency will be increased to facilitate public scrutiny.’
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: ‘Right now I have two utmost priorities for Oxfam: continuing to provide support to the millions of vulnerable people we work with around the world, and learning vital lessons from our past mistakes to make sure such abuse and exploitation does not happen again.’
Byanyima reiterated that Oxfam is committed to ensuring justice for survivors of abuse, and making sure all those it works with, along with staff and volunteers, are protected from any such abuse now and in the future. She added that Oxfam recognised that it could not tackle the problem alone, so it will work with governments, regulators and others in the sector to address the problem.
For the past 42 years, the Council of OHK has played a governance role in monitoring the use of funds, and its high standard of financial accountability has been widely recognised. OHK will request Oxfam Great Britain to give it a stronger guarantee of monitoring measures for the use of the programme funds OHK provides.
Notes to editors
Last year (2016/17) Oxfam responded to 31 emergencies worldwide, making sure women, men and children have the essentials they need to survive. In total, Oxfam provided emergency support for 8.6 million people hit by conflict and natural disaster.
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