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Oxfam staff misconduct tarnishes aid workers
March 4, 2018, 1:11 pm

Fallout from alleged sexual misconduct by staff of British charity organization Oxfam that surfaced recently is continuing to sweep through the aid community. A survey conducted by Thomson Reuters Foundation of 21 leading global charities on sexual misconduct in 2017 by staff and any resulting job losses, revealed that over 120 aid workers from these charities were sacked or lost their jobs in the last year on account of sexual misconduct.

Among those reporting firing staff in 2017 were the Norwegian Refugee Council, which said it fired five employees over allegations of sexual abuse, harassment and exploitation last year. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) dismissed 12 people; CARE International said it sacked 11 staff and another four resigned, contracts were not renewed or left the company; and British relief agency Christian Aid said it dismissed a staff member and disciplined another for sexual misconduct. The US group International Medical Corps said it severed relations with five people over reports of sexual exploitation and abuse in 2017, and was investigating several other cases; and Bangladesh-based agency BRAC said it dismissed one person and terminated relations with 22 over reports of sexual harassment.

The disclosures came as charities in the aid sector pledged to overhaul their approach to dealing with accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment in the wake of the scandal surrounding Oxfam, one of the world’s biggest disaster relief charities. It was reported that some of Oxfam staff paid for sex during a relief mission following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010.

Over 7,000 individuals are reported to have cancelled their donations to Oxfam in the last 10 days following the scandal’s revelation and, both the British government and the European Union have said they were reviewing further funding for Oxfam. Last week, the British Secretary of State for International Development, Penelope Mordaunt, disclosed that Oxfam directors misled regulators after its former Haiti country director admitted to using prostitutes.

Paula Donovan, co-director of Code Blue, a campaign seeking accountability for abuses by UN personnel, said it was the hypocrisy of these organizations that irked people. "They're preaching the highest ideals, they have employed people with public monies to abolish and eradicate exactly what they're accused of committing," she said.

Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima appeared before the UK Parliament's International Development Committee, with Oxfam Great Britain’s Executive Director Mark Goldring and Chair of Trustees Caroline Thomson.

“Last week I announced a new global plan of action to change our culture and improve our safeguarding practices, including establishing an independent commission, increasing investment and resources into safeguarding teams, and strengthening our confidential whistle-blowing mechanisms,” said Ms. Byanyima while addressing the Committee

She went on to add, “We are saddened that Oxfam's great work around the world, including in Haiti where we have worked for 40 years, has been marred by the actions of a group of men who abused the power they held over vulnerable women, but also by our own failings at the time. I have two priorities today: first, to make sure we never make the same mistakes again; and second, that our work of saving lives around the world goes on." 

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