Wednesday

26th Sep 2018

Interview

Oxfam in 'culture change' after sex scandal, says chief

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

Earlier this year, the Times newspaper exposed a sex scandal involving Oxfam, one of the world's largest disaster relief charities, in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Reports Oxfam had covered up claims its aid workers paid for sex from the Haitians they were tasked to help, cost the agency major donor contracts and exposed similar cases of abuse in other NGOs.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

On Wednesday (6 June) at the European Development Days event in Brussels, the executive director of Oxfam International Winnie Byanyima told EUobserver the case in Haiti had created a sense of shame within the organisation.

"It put us in a deep crisis of our own identity and about questioning whether we truly believe our values," she said.

"There was deep hurt, deep pain, shame and then what do we do to really align ourselves with our values internally and rebuild the trust."

Around four months later and Byanyima says internal efforts are being made to detect and punish abusers and support victims.

The broader plan, she says, it to create a culture change in a charity that employs some 10,000 people. It means identifying and levelling out power imbalances within the organisation which she says, is among the root causes of sexual exploitation.

"We are asking every unit to do a deep power analysis, in our unit, who holds the power? Who makes the decisions on the budget, who does what, how do they exercise that, how much of this power is shared," she said.

It also means inviting in outside help to train staff on gender and women right issues, make it easier for whistleblowers to disclose abuse, punish violators, care for victims, and create tougher recruitment standards.

An independent commission on sexual misconduct was also set up in March to probe the issues within Oxfam and look into the conduct of staff in missions in Haiti and Chad. A report is expected in October.

An internal Oxfam investigation in 2011 found six staff guilty of breaching code conduct rules for buying sex. Byanyima said none of the girls in Haiti were minors.

"Before we finished the investigation, two went away and never returned. Three were fired and one was allowed to leave, he was the country director and he had helped the investigation so he was given a free pass," said Byanyima.

Another, who had been found guilty in Haiti, had also worked in Chad but Byanyima says there "are no reported cases from Chad that are part of this."

EU lifts Oxfam funding freeze

A separate inquiry from the UK regulator, the Charity Commission, is still ongoing with results expected before the end of the year.

The Charity Commission launched the probe in mid-February following the Times article and is demanding clarity from Oxfam.

Oxfam had in August 2011 given the Charity Commission a report about an ongoing internal investigation into allegations of misconduct by staff members involved in the Haiti programme.

According to the Charity Commission, the Oxfam report at the time had said "there had been no allegations or evidence of any abuse to beneficiaries".

The Charity Commission is expected to finalise its conclusions after August. The UK government will then decide, on the basis of the Charity Commission's report, on whether to renewing funding opportunities for Oxfam.

"I am optimistic that they are going to find that we are really much stronger than we were before and that our standards as good if not better than most in our sector," said Byanyima.

The European Commission already has. Earlier this week, it decided to start awarding Oxfam grants once again on a case-by-case basis.

A commission spokesperson, in an email, said Oxfam had "adequate mechanisms in place which should allow them to prevent, detect, and respond to cases of sexual misconduct."

He said the commission had visited the premises of Oxfam affiliates in the UK and the Netherlands as well as offices in the field, Lebanon and Uganda, as part of its review.

Oxfam UK had received some €1.7m in EU funds for the Haiti effort.

Oxfam accuses EU of hypocrisy

The European Union has rejected the British development charity Oxfam’s accusations that Europe’s sugar regime is undermining opportunities for people in the developing world to work their way out of poverty. Oxfam argues that huge EU sugar subsidies generate vast profits for big sugar processors and large farmers whereas farmers and agricultural labourers in poor countries suffer the consequences.

EU to propose scrapping summer time change

Based on the preliminary results of an online survey in which mostly Germans took part, the EU executive is proposing that the whole EU stops changing times in March and October.

Investigation

How to get around the EU posted workers directive

Some EU careworkers in Belgium receive around €400 a month - despite their carers paying €2,500 a month and paying for flights and accommodation. The answer lies in how firms can skirt the safeguards in the EU's posted workers directive.

Feature

Resetting the gender balance through football

Many sports, like football, have been so heavily male-dominated at every level that women and girls have battled against poor odds to be treated as equals in the game. FIFA aims to change that.

News in Brief

  1. UK opposition demand election if parliament rejects Brexit plan
  2. EU to have coordinated plan on AI by December
  3. No UK election before Brexit, says May
  4. Former French PM wants to be mayor of Barcelona
  5. Merkel's wingman in surprise defeat in internal party vote
  6. Orban sends thank-you letters to supportive MEPs
  7. UN chief: World suffering from 'trust deficit disorder'
  8. Stalemate in Sweden as parliament ousts prime minister

EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation

The EU Commission has received several million responses from citizens, businesses, and organisations on whether to end the daylight summertime savings. Any tangible change would take ... time.

Exclusive

Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs

Wegate.eu, which received €1.2m in EU money since its launch almost two years ago, has less than a thousand registered users - from a possible target audience of at least 10 million.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. EU to ban individuals on chemical weapons
  2. World upside down as EU and Russia unite against US
  3. EU court delivers transparency blow on MEP expenses
  4. Russian with Malta passport in money-laundering probe
  5. Cyprus: Russia's EU weak link?
  6. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  7. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  8. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us