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Oxfam appoints former UN official to head independent commission on sexual abuse and exploitation

Category: Gender based violence 
2018-03-16

Oxfam has appointed a former United Nations official to head an independent commission on sexual abuse and exploitation in the wake of a scandal over misconduct by its staff.

Zainab Bangura, a former under-secretary general of the UN and representative on sexual violence in conflict, will co-chair the body alongside former World Bank vice-president Katherine Sierra.

They are charged with reviewing Oxfam’s culture and the “safeguarding” systems in place to protect beneficiaries and staff.


Government funding for new Oxfam projects has been suspended and donors stopped more than 7,000 direct debits to the charity following revelations that staff used prostitutes in crisis-hit countries including Haiti and Chad.

The charity was heavily criticised after it was revealed that a 2008 Save the Children report warned of aid workers raping children and coercing them into sex in Haiti, and that the charity knew of abuse by its workers but did not report offences.


In 2011, the Charity Commission received a report from Oxfam detailing an internal investigation into misconduct, but it claimed that beneficiaries were not abused and made no mention of potential sex offences.

Mark Goldring, the embattled chief executive of Oxfam GB, said the new commission would help it prevent sexual abuse.

“Today’s announcement is about turning words into actions and delivering on our commitment to protect staff, volunteers and the people we help around the world from those who do not share our values,” he added.

“Any employee found guilty of gross misconduct will find it much harder to hold a similar position in the future. The additional resources and external whistleblowing line will make it easier for allegations to be reported and acted upon swiftly.”

Oxfam is introducing new standards for references to prevent former employees found guilty of gross misconduct from finding work elsewhere in the aid sector – as was the case with disgraced Chad country director Roland van Hauwermeiren.

 

 

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Tags: Oxfam commission sexual abuse exploitation scandal

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