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Oxfam's deputy CEO resigns over sex crimes scandal

Category: Gender based violence 
2018-02-14

Oxfam's deputy chief executive has resigned amid a growing sex crimes scandal involving the organization's aid workers in Haiti and Chad.

 

Penny Lawrence is the first executive at the organization to quit after the scandal and allegations of a coverup emerged last week.

 

Oxfam announced the resignation after a meeting with UK government officials Monday, at which it had fought to keep millions of pounds in public funding.

 

Oxfam's leaders are accused of trying to cover up the behavior of some of its senior staff members deployed to Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed between 200,000 and 300,000 people.

The aid workers -- including the Oxfam country director at the time, Roland van Hauwermeiren -- were accused of turning a villa rented by the organization into a makeshift brothel, with prostitutes wearing only Oxfam T-shirts.


The Times newspaper in London made the allegations in an investigation published at the end of last week.

"It is now clear that these allegations -- involving the use of prostitutes and which related to behavior of both the Country Director and members of his team in Chad -- were raised before he moved to Haiti," Lawrence said, referring to van Hauwermeiren.

"As program director at the time, I am ashamed that this happened on my watch and I take full responsibility."

 

Haiti considers legal action

 

Oxfam is one of the UK's largest and most prominent aid organizations, operating development programs in more than 90 countries around the world. The agency also offers assistance to people after emergencies and disasters.

 

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt warned that Oxfam could lose millions of pounds in public funding because of the scandal. Oxfam received about £32 million (about $44 million) from the government last year, according to public records.

 

Mordaunt said on Monday that the organization made a "full and unqualified apology" to her and to the people of Britain and Haiti. In a statement, Mordaunt said that the charity apologized for "the appalling behavior of some of their staff in Haiti in 2011, and for the wider failings of their organization's response to it."


A Downing Street spokesman said Monday that the British government had taken action to enforce a "zero-tolerance approach" to allegations of "horrific behavior" by Oxfam staff. He gave no details on what the actions were.

Oxfam could also face legal action in Haiti. The country is considering pursuing criminal charges, the Haitian chief of mission to the UK, Bocchit Edmond, told CNN on Monday. Edmond said that Oxfam representatives in Haiti would be summoned by the Foreign Ministry.

"We will look at the issue, and hopefully there will be sharing of information, and then I believe there are some grounds for legal actions."

Mordaunt said that Oxfam told her that they are cooperating with authorities in Haiti and in any other country where abuse is exposed.

In a meeting on Monday with Oxfam Chief Executive Officer Mark Goldring and Chair of Trustees Caroline Thomson, Mordaunt said she told them they must demonstrate the moral leadership necessary to address the scandal and rebuild the trust of the British public, their staff and the people they aim to help.


"It is on the basis of their actions going forward -- rather than of their commitments in one meeting today -- that I and others will judge them. I was clear that part of an organization's moral leadership comes from individuals taking responsibility for their actions."

In an interview with the BBC, Goldring said that in his meeting with Mordaunt, he "recommitted to take still more steps because we know we have not done enough" to deal with the behavior.

He added, though, that the issue of sexual abuse by aid workers is not limited to Oxfam.

"This is a much bigger issue than Oxfam, who are among the leading agencies in trying to address it. Actually, it's an issue for the sector. Oxfam has failed -- let me be clear on that -- but it's a sector-wide concern."


Source 

Tags: Oxfam sex crimes scandal Haiti

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