Oxfam New Zealand supports the response of our colleagues in Oxfam Great Britain to the UK Parliament’s International Development Select Committee’s report on the UK Aid Sector – Sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector.
Caroline Thomson, Oxfam Great Britain Chair of Trustees, in reflecting on the report’s recommendations for all international NGOs in the UK, said:
“Today’s report makes for incredibly painful reading for me, for everyone at Oxfam and for the aid sector as a whole. Oxfam exists to help improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people; we know we failed to protect vulnerable women in Haiti, and we accept we should have reported more clearly at the time – for that we are truly sorry. We have made improvements since 2011 but recognise we have further to go.
“The Committee is right to challenge all of us in the sector to do better – we need to give the same sustained priority to preventing and tackling sexual abuse as we do to saving lives during humanitarian emergencies. Victims and survivors must be at the heart of our approach and the report’s recommendations demand serious attention.
“Oxfam is committed to the safety and dignity of everyone who interacts with us. We are determined to strengthen women’s rights within Oxfam and in the communities in which we work. Since February, as part of our comprehensive action plan, we have tripled funding for safeguarding, established an independent whistleblowing helpline and committed to publish details of safeguarding cases twice a year.”
On 16 February 2018, Oxfam announced a ten-point action plan to improve its safeguarding policies and practices. A summary of the plan is available here: https://www.oxfam.org/en/oxfams-commitment-stamping-out-sexual-harassment-and-abuse-progress-our-ten-point-plan
Progress toward the action plan was published last week and we will update regularly on further progress: https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2018-07-26/oxfam-training-119-staff-become-investigators-and-invests-over
On 16 March 2018, Oxfam appointed an Independent Commission to review its culture and safeguarding systems. The Commission is co-chaired by Zainab Bangura, a former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, and Katherine Sierra, a former Vice-President of the World Bank. They lead an independent group of international experts from the realms of business, government and civil society.
Oxfam New Zealand contributed to the global Oxfam ten-point action plan and has committed to working together with others in the international development community in New Zealand to strengthen safeguarding across the sector – including improving reference checking processes, reviewing safeguarding policies for staff working overseas, and, building on our organisational values, working to ensure we have a culture that recognises and challenges the abuse of power, whether that is within our organisations, the sectors we work in or the societies where we live.