Thursday

4th Mar 2021

EU asks charities to explain anti-abuse measures

  • A 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010 (Photo: Colin Crowley)

The European Commission is demanding EU-funded charities to explain measures they are taking to prevent abuse.

Over 200 aid organisations and NGOs signed an agreement with the EU commission as a precondition for funding. On Thursday (15 February), the Brussels-based executive sent a letter to each, asking them for details.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The signed agreements include measures to "ensure 'zero tolerance' for sexual exploitation and abuse." The commission letter comes amid a scandal of alleged sexual abuse by some staff at the UK charity group Oxfam.

The issue has gripped headlines with threats of funding cuts, following a newspaper report in The Times last week that some Oxfam staff paid for sex with prostitutes during a 2011 post-earthquake relief mission in Haiti.

Oxfam then later rehired one of the workers who had been fired for sexual misconduct in Haiti.

Earlier this week, the EU commission announced that it wanted Oxfam to clarify the allegations. Oxfam UK had received some €1.7m in EU funds for the Haiti effort.

On Friday, the British charity announced the launch of an independent commission led by women's rights leaders to probe Oxfam's handling of sexual misconduct cases.

It also announced it would publish a 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."

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, said in a statement that they would also triple the amount of funding, to €1 million per year, to help safeguard vulnerable people, set up a global database of accredited referees to ensure sex offenders are never hired, and initiate a culture change to weed out all forms of abuse.

"What happened in Haiti and afterwards is a stain on Oxfam that will shame us for years, and rightly so," she said.

Some of its biggest supports, such as archbishop Desmond Tutu, have since resigned as Oxfam ambassadors. Oxfam is one of the world's largest disaster relief charities and employs around 10,000 people.

A similar but separate issue surfaced last year after Mercy Corps, another EU-funded NGO, publicly announced that it was investigating allegations of sexual misconduct by two of its staff on the Greek island of Lesbos.

In May, one of its beneficiaries had filed a complaint over its hotline. But a ten-week investigation into the single complaint did not substantiate the allegations, Mercy Corps said in an email.

"The EU did not withdraw our funding and we are thankful that they did not do so based on a single allegation we reported to them immediately," said a Mercy Corps spokesperson.

The NGO is, however, undergoing a probe by the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf.

Olaf confirmed to EUobserver that it had opened "an investigation into allegations of fraud and irregularities in relation to a project aimed at providing cash assistance to refugees hosted in Greece". But it declined to comment on whether the probe was aimed at Mercy Corps.

The probe is looking into an EU-funded project aimed at providing cash assistance to refugees hosted in Greece. The grant money for the project has since been suspended.

Magazine

EU 'solidarity' on migration focuses on Africa

EU states appear to have found common ground in trying to prevent people with no right to international protection from ever leaving for Europe. The EU is ready to use any means necessary to convince 'origin-and-transit' countries to cooperate.

Exclusive

EU has 26 documents on alleged NGO sex abuse in DRC

A joint investigation last year by Reuters and The New Humanitarian revealed alleged sexual abuse by people working for the World Health Organization and other leading NGOs. The European Commission has since collected over two dozen documents on the allegations.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

News in Brief

  1. EU regulator reviewing Russia's Covid-19 vaccine data
  2. Northern Irish paramilitaries pressure UK and EU on Brexit
  3. Man injures 8 people with axe in Sweden in possible terrorist act
  4. France bans far-right vigilante group
  5. EU dismayed as Lukashenko jails doctor over his diagnosis
  6. Brussels proposes EU-wide 'disabled status' card by 2023
  7. Czechs seek outside help to treat Covid-19 patients
  8. German intelligence to spy on far-right AfD party

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. Austrian ex-minister joins list of EU's pro-Kremlin lobbyists
  2. Internal Frontex probe to deliver final report this week
  3. Relief in EPP group, as Orbán's party finally leaves
  4. EU capitals water down MEPs' ambition in climate law
  5. The EU's perverse agenda in Bosnia
  6. US joins EU sanctions on Russia in show of unity
  7. EU needs to 'raise price' for attacking democracy, MEPs say
  8. EU Parliament to hold Frontex probe behind closed doors

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us