Oxfam, Haiti & the aid industry's #MeToo moment-a curated bibliography

Last update: 16 February 7:55 GMT; there are now close to 60 resources!

I find curated and annotated collections a useful way to share and save links, Tweets or videos on topics that produce a lot of food for thought and discussion on #globaldev issues.

There have been quite intensive discussions these past few days after The Times broke the initial story on Oxfam's handling of the Haiti affair.

I can't possibly claim that my curated overview is even anywhere near complete, but I have tried to compile quite a few news media articles and a first round of commentary from my networks. The Tweets are even more selective, but not random, and meant to illustrate different arguments that have shown up in my networks.

Debates are also taking place in many interesting semi-public spaces, including Facebook groups or E-Mail lists, however, I will only focus on publicly available material.

Because of their long history of divisive, inaccurate and unethical journalism media brands such as the Daily Mail or The Sun are not included in this overview

The Times's reporting (paywalled)
Minister orders Oxfam to hand over files on Haiti prostitute scandal

The government has ordered Oxfam to hand over files on charity staff who paid for sex in earthquake-torn Haiti. The demand follows an investigation by The Times that revealed Oxfam covered up the use of prostitutes by senior aid workers.
Matt Hancock, the culture secretary who is responsible for charity regulation, said: “These allegations are deeply shocking and Oxfam must now provide the Charity Commission with all the evidence they hold of events that happened in Haiti as a matter of urgency.
Sean O'Neil (9 February, 17:00; updated).

The Guardian's reporting

How aid agency failings end in exploitation

“CVs that would raise questions elsewhere because of the frequency of moves are part of the culture,” said the UN official.
“The system is so big, and needful of staff, it’s quite easy for people to disappear and pop up elsewhere. It’s not considered weird if people move on. That’s what happens often with emergencies.” The yawning gap in wealth and access to resources between aid workers and those they are paid to help adds to the potential for exploitation.
“The [senior aid officials on the ground] don’t even lead the life of the locals, they are small gods. It’s about entitlement – they are entitled to do whatever they want,” said one former senior Oxfam employee.
Emma Graham-Harrison (10 February, 21:19 GMT; Last modified on 12 February, 12:32 GMT).

Oxfam: fresh claims that staff used prostitutes in Chad

Former staff who worked for the charity in Chad alleged that women believed to be prostitutes were repeatedly invited to the Oxfam team house there, with one adding that a senior member of staff had been fired for his behaviour in 2006.
Rebecca Ratcliffe and Ben Quinn (11 February, 08:50 GMT).

The Oxfam row is no reason to cut foreign aid

But much else is at risk, too. In the era of Trump, Brexit and silken Rees-Moggery, the notion that prosperous nations have a moral and practical responsibility to the poorest is fading from fashion. The populist right is straining at the leash to take a wrecking ball to the Department for International Development; to caricature it as the paymaster of pimps and perverts. Those who believe in Britain’s enduring obligation to the desperate of the world face the fight of their lives.
Matthew d'Ancona (11 February, 16:36 GMT).

Oxfam faces losing funding as crisis grows over abuse claims

The former international development secretary Priti Patel said: “People knew in DfID. I raised this directly with my department at the time. I have UN reports... there are 120 cases involving something like over 300 people. That was just the tip of the iceberg.”
After Mordaunt’s warning that public funding was at risk, Thomson said she shared the “anger and shame” widely expressed over events in Haiti. “It is clear that such behaviour is completely outside our values and should never be tolerated,” she said. “We apologise unreservedly. We have made big improvements since 2011 and today I commit that we will improve further.”
Kevin Rawlinson and Robert Booth (11 February, 20:33 GMT).

As a former aid worker, I’m not shocked by the Oxfam revelations

A culture of bullying, harassment and racism is rife among agencies around the world. This is an industry in need of reform
(...)
Thanks to brave whistleblowers and those who have confronted Oxfam, many of whom are women, the floodgates are now open. It will be impossible to hold back all the information emerging from other aid organisations on the opaque and damaging cultures that have allowed potential criminal activity, sexual exploitation, harassment and other abhorrent behaviour to thrive, and indeed be rewarded through the promotion of those accused of wrongdoing. We have seen at least one resignation – there may be more.
Shaista Aziz (12 February, 16:09 GMT).

#MeToo strikes aid sector as sexual exploitation allegations proliferate

Senior figures in the humanitarian world have described the allegations of sexual exploitation that have embroiled Oxfam as the tip of the iceberg and the aid sector’s #MeToo moment.
In interviews with the Guardian, humanitarian officials with experience working across the globe have told largely similar stories of colleagues’ use of sex workers, suspicions of the exploitation of vulnerable women for sex – including minors – and a unwillingness of their organisations to properly tackle the issue.
Many said that despite repeated warnings – going back 15 years to a then controversial report by Save the Children on the prevalence of sexual abuse in west Africa that include aid worker abuse – the issue has long been ignored by managers.
Peter Beaumont and Rebecca Ratcliffe (12 February, 17:04 GMT).

The Oxfam scandal shows colonialism is alive and well

This is not just about a handful of charity workers tarnishing the work of living saints. There are many good people in NGOs who understand the complexities of being “in the field”. The best of them work with smaller local organisations. This is not an excuse to cancel aid budgets – but can we please stop talking about sex work as a lifestyle choice. We are beginning to know what Oxfam did not want us to know, but we already knew that the “price” of certain women is considered so low as not to count at all.
Suzanne Moore (12 February, 16:15 GMT).

Oxfam warned it could lose European funding over scandal

A former senior official at the charity also said she had repeatedly warned senior management of a culture of sexual abuse in some offices around the world, and asked for more resources to tackle the issue. Helen Evans, the head of global safeguarding at Oxfam from 2012 to 2015, told Channel 4 News that in a single day she received allegations about a woman being coerced to have sex in a humanitarian response by an aid worker, a woman being coerced in exchange for aid and another case where a staff member had been struck off for sexual abuse and hadn’t disclosed that.
She also claimed that volunteers as young as 14 in Oxfam shops in the UK had alleged abuse. In at least one case an adult volunteer had allegedly assaulted a child volunteer. In 2012-14 there were 12 allegations, she said.
The European commission, which provided almost as much funding as the UK government last year, said: “We are ready to review and if needed cease funding any partner who is not living up to the required high ethical standards.”
Robert Booth (12 February, 19:33 GMT).

The Oxfam sex story is horrific. So is the war on foreign aid

The Oxfam scandal has become a fresh front in a culture war: any aid that isn’t a geopolitical or trading instrument is hypocritical do-gooding. All officials are contaminated. It’s the politics of annihilation, to which the only response is to go back to first principles: should we stop the “madness” of foreign aid? Only if we want to descend into the madness of solipsistic isolation.
Zoe Williams (13 February, 6:00 GMT). 

Oxfam scandal must force aid sector to finally address its own power

What Oxfam and the wider sector have failed to do is to genuinely address their own power in international development. This is the systemic failing at play, not the sexual misconduct on its own.
Decisions and actions by the larger agencies often continue to be based on arrogance and a “we know what’s best” approach, rather than something that is accountable to those most in need and the communities in which they’re working. So it’s no surprise that their response to the Haiti situation was wanting. They tried to hold on to the power and control of the issue and were caught out.
Deborah Doane (13 February, 7:00 GMT).

The toxic effects of the Oxfam scandal have weakened us all in the aid sector

An epidemic has affected institutions across our society, from political parties and the House of Commons, to broadcasters, football teams and private companies – and it is global in reach. This epidemic is rooted in the unequal power relationships that enable powerful and predatory men to exploit women and children through bullying, sexual harassment and outright violence. The only antidote is a culture of zero tolerance, backed by rules, recruitment practices, and leadership.
Development agencies cannot get this wrong. We are dealing with some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Across our programmes, we come into contact with women and children who have lost everything. Our staff in Bangladesh are working with Rohingya refugees who have been impoverished, displaced, and traumatised by horrific acts of violence. They have a right to expect and demand the highest standards of protection.
Kevin Watkins (13 February, 13:39 GMT).

Sexualised atmosphere among aid workers in Haiti disturbed me

And of course, sex in war and disaster zones isn’t surprising. I’ve seen a lot of it in other disasters since; there have been books written about it. There’s a basic psychology to it, something about a primal need for comfort and trauma bonding. But what I found disturbing in Haiti was the profound disconnect between the overtly sexualised atmosphere in the aid and journalistic community and the visceral horror of the catastrophe surrounding us.
I saw the international aid community do a lot of good in Haiti. It also brought cholera to an already devastated country. Now it appears that aid workers also took the opportunity to buy underage sex cheaply. Trauma bonding I can understand – callous exploitation I cannot.
Phoebe Greenwood (13 February, 22:37 GMT). 

Oxfam allegations are tip of iceberg': sexual harassment and aid workers – podcast

Rebecca Ratcliffe spent many months interviewing UN staff from around the world who have experienced sexual harassment and assault, but have been discouraged from complaining. She talks to Lucy Lamble about the culture of impunity, and of women being forced out of their jobs for daring to speak up. They discuss how the humanitarian sector as a whole can take action to stamp out such exploitation.
Podcast presented by Lucy Lamble with Rebecca Ratcliffe, produced by Gabriela Jones (14 February, 6:00 GMT).

French aid group MSF says it dealt with 24 abuse cases last year

International aid group Médecins Sans Frontières acted on 24 cases of sexual harassment or abuse last year and fired 19 employees, it has revealed, as the British charity Oxfam faces questions over its handling of a sexual misconduct scandal.
The Paris-based group, one of the world’s largest aid organisations, issued a statement saying it had received 146 complaints or alerts last year. “After an internal investigation, 40 cases were found to be allegations of harassment or abuse,” it said. “Of these, 24 were cases of harassment or sexual abuse.”
Angelique Chrisafis (14 February, 18:00 GMT).

The Independent's reporting 

Oxfam accused of failing to warn aid agencies that employed former staff who had hired prostitutes
But the French charity told The Independent that they “conducted references checks as per French labour law regulations and internal procedures before employing”, him.
It said: “During this process Action Against Hunger received no information regarding the inappropriate and unethical behaviours of Roland van Hauwermeiren when he was with Oxfam in Haiti nor any warning on the risks of employing him.”
Daniel Khalili-Tari (10 February).

When it comes to child sex abuse in aid work, the Oxfam revelations are just the tip of the iceberg

Oxfam is far from alone with sexual harassment, rape and child rape accusations. The problem is becoming more well known in the entire aid industry. The UK’s former National Criminal Intelligence Service, which registered and monitored the activities of paedophiles, warned as far back as 1999 that the scale of the problem of paedophiles in the aid world is on a level with sex tourism.
Andrew MacLeod (10 February).

We need to increase the foreign aid budget following the Oxfam Haiti scandal

You can almost feel the warmth radiating from the middle-class, middle-aged snug bars of the Home Counties, where the thought of a rich country sending 0.7 per cent of its GDP to needy foreigners curdles the tonic in the G&Ts. What a relief to find their intuitive distrust of altruism confirmed.
They always knew these charities, like foreign aid itself, were gigantic rackets propagated by morally superior liberal prigs and operated by crooks. Now they’ve been proved right.
(...)
It would be a tragedy and a source of national shame if the Government let this scandal be fashioned into the battering ram that finally broke its resistance to cutting that budget.
It should increase it by whatever is required to ensure that Oxfam and others have the funds for adequate background checks and effective policing of staff. What it cannot do, however intense the pressure from the reactionary right wing, is throw out the malnourished baby with the scummy bathwater of a few rancid individuals.
Matthew Norman (12 February).

The prostitution claims surrounding Oxfam don’t surprise me. I’ve seen it all before with charities across the world – and the UN

The sex trade is built on colonialism and racism, as well as misogyny. Whether it is the overrepresentation of African American girls and women in prostitution in the US, or the targeting of indigenous and native women and girls in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, it is clear that rich, powerful, white men consider it their “right” to use such women and girls as commodities.
Julie Bindel (12 February). 

British charities face government crackdown as Oxfam sexual exploitation scandal widens
A global register of development workers may be established, as the UK, alongside the the United Nations, increases its efforts to combat sexual exploitation and prepares to host a summit on the issue later this month.
Lizzie Dearden (13 February). 

Oxfam scandal: Minnie Driver quits role as celebrity ambassador over Haiti prostitution allegations

Actress Minnie Driver has quit as an Oxfam ambassador after 20 years with the charity, becoming the first celebrity to step down following allegations that senior staff members paid for sex with locals in crisis zones.
The Good Will Hunting star said she was "nothing short of horrified” by the allegations against the charity.
Emily Shugerman (14 February). 

Unless charities like Oxfam rediscover their moral core, they won’t survive

But that was a completely different era, when public support had been effectively mobilised by efforts that culminated in the Make Poverty History campaign. There was more money to spend across the board – on schools, hospitals, the police, Sure Start centres and tax credits, not just international development. And back then, the development charities were seen as squeaky clean.
None of this holds now. The development charities have their loyal supporters, but there is no longer a mass movement putting pressure on the government. In 2005 a sustained funding boost for the NHS meant the papers were not full of stories about longer waiting lists and patients left for hours on trolleys in A&E. Finally, there is the reputational damage from the realisation that when it comes to powerful predatory men exploiting vulnerable women and children, development charities are not really any different from other walks of life.
Larry Elliot (14 February, 17:02 GMT). 



BBC   
BBC Radio 4 - World at One, 13 February
48:00 program on the topic.

Oxfam executive 'aware' of Asia staff abuse claims
A senior figure in Oxfam says she is aware of past claims of sexual abuse involving the charity's staff in Asia.
Lan Mercado told the BBC the cases took place in the Philippines, Bangladesh and Nepal before she started as regional director two years ago.
She said the scale of misconduct was "not comparable" to that in Haiti, where Oxfam faces claims staff paid vulnerable people for sex.
BBC News (14 February).

Oxfam: Former staff member dismissed by Cafod after abuse claims

A Catholic charity has sacked a worker after it emerged he had been accused of sexually exploiting vulnerable people in Haiti while working for Oxfam.
Cafod said it was "unaware" of the claims until contacted this week by the Times, which broke the Oxfam story.
Meanwhile, Sengalese singer Baaba Maal has told BBC Newsnight he is standing down from his role as a global ambassador to Oxfam after six years.
The star said he found the sex abuse claims "disgusting and heartbreaking".
Describing the allegations as "very sad", Maal said he was "disassociating" himself from Oxfam "immediately".
BBC News (14 February). 

Trinity Mirror CEO Simon Fox on buying the Express, Star and OK

Times deputy editor Emma Tucker on how it put together its Oxfam abuse scoop and how the newspaper's business model accommodates investigative journalism.
BBC Radio 4 The Media Show (14 February, 16:30 GMT).

Oxfam scandal: UN aid agencies fear backlash

Since the Oxfam scandal broke, Mr MacLeod has given numerous interviews, and provided an assessment to the tabloid newspaper The Sun which ran the headline "UN aid workers raped 60,000 people".
(...)
"Sensationalist and bombastic, zero creds," was the reaction of one female aid worker with years of experience in the field. "Not the experience of any aid agency I have ever worked with."
Imogen Foulkes for BBC News (15 February).

Oxfam scandal: Ex-Haiti director denies paying for sex

In an open letter to Belgian media (in Dutch), Mr Van Hauwermeiren said he had resigned for failing to control rumours about sex scandals involving Oxfam in Haiti and for "feeding the rumours" through his own relationship with a Haitian woman.
"In early 2011, I had to dismiss two internationals because of clear indications (no witnesses) of prostitutes who had been lured to their rooms...
"I was nicknamed 'the terminator' as I acted so severely in this case."
BBC News (15 February).

Additional media reporting

Oxfam International boss says Haiti scandal 'breaks my heart'

Winnie Byanyima, who became executive director of Oxfam International in 2013, said she was saddened by what took place in 2010 and that it could not happen under systems and rules put in place since.
“I feel deeply, deeply hurt. ... What happened in Haiti was a few privileged men abusing the very people they were supposed to protect - using the power they had from Oxfam to abuse powerless women. It breaks my heart,” Byanyima said in an interview with Reuters TV in New York.
“We want to restore trust. We want to build that trust. We are committing to be honest, to be transparent and to be accountable in addressing this issue of sexual misconduct. We are in a different place today,” she said.
Angela Moore for Reuters (12 February, 01:16 AM).

There's no excuse for Oxfam's Haiti shame - and there's no reason to cut its funding either
Charities aren't the most deviant organisations on Earth. They're just the easiest ones to kick this week.
And in an increasingly tribal and divided world, it seems if you're Labour you kick the rich perverts of the President's Club and if you're Tory you say it was fine because they were making donations while groping young women.
And when the Tories kick Oxfam for groping young women while spending donations, the Reds say it's not so bad because charity. No-one, anywhere on the political spectrum, asks why sex abuse still happens in the 21st century, in so many walks of life, and what can be done to stop it.
None of us are any better for this. Haiti, meanwhile, has 40% unemployment, 58% poverty, and 2.5m people still in need of humanitarian aid.
Aid which, today, people are demanding they not be given because it suits a wider political ideology. The only thing more sickening than sex abuse are those people who use it to settle a score.
Fleet Street Fox for the Daily Mirror (12 February, 13:38) (yes, this is a tabloid media brand, but I thought I should include one piece for the sake of argument...).
 
Charity Commission opens statutory inquiry into Oxfam and sets out steps to improve safeguarding in the charity sector

The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, has today, 12 February, opened a statutory inquiry into the charity Oxfam (registered charity number 202918). It comes after the Commission examined documents sent today by Oxfam regarding allegations of misconduct by staff involved in its humanitarian response in Haiti. The Commission has concerns that Oxfam may not have fully and frankly disclosed material details about the allegations at the time in 2011, its handling of the incidents since, and the impact that these have both had on public trust and confidence.
Official statement of the UK's Charity Commission (12 February).

Oxfam whistleblower: Allegations of rape and sex in exchange for aid (12 February pm GMT)


 
EXCLUSIVE: Oxfam sexual exploiter in Haiti caught seven years earlier in Liberia
Four years later, Malik Miller was at her desk in the Swedish government’s aid department. A file landed on her desk: an application for funding from Oxfam in Chad. She opened it and was appalled to find van Hauwermeiren’s name listed as the country director.
Per Byman, then humanitarian director of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), confirmed to IRIN that he had been alerted in 2008 by Malik Miller to van Hauwermeiren's previous record at Merlin.
He told IRIN he had taken advice from SIDA's legal department on what to do about it, but couldn’t recall the outcome. He said he was "disgusted" at reading the recent news of van Hauwermeiren's behaviour..
Ben Parker for IRIN (13 February). 

Oxfam scandal is shaking up the entire international aid industry, rightfully

Nevertheless, in the #MeToo era, a new paradigm has just arrived for international co-operation agencies and humanitarian-aid organizations: We can no longer keep silent, we cannot hide, we can no longer hope that people forget. On the contrary, we must condemn this cover-up. We must blame those who hoped for silence. The aid industry must enter the #MeToo era and denounce every incident, use judicial tools to punish crimes and provide support and compensation to victims. This is an opportunity. All aid workers know it. There is a taboo that must be broken.
(...)
Are Canada and its international-aid agencies ready to do the same? One thing is certain: Aid agencies sorely need to get their houses in order. This is the only way to regain the public's trust.
Francois Audet for The Globe and Mail (13 February).

Oxfam abuse scandal must be a 'wake up call,' Mordaunt says

Mordaunt appeared to go off script at Wednesday’s conference in Sweden, which brought together ministers and aid agency representatives from more than 20 countries. Telling the audience she had been briefed to discuss DFID’s work on protecting children, as well as to announce 5 million pounds in new funding, she continued instead: “I think my time here is better spent delivering another message.”
The minister launched into a speech denouncing Oxfam’s behavior, but also framed the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse as a sector-wide problem, calling for united action to tackle it.
Sophie Edwards for DevEx (14 February).

Oxfam sexual abuse scandal: Are the aid sector's HR systems failing?

Speaking to Devex on condition of anonymity to preserve professional ties, a former Oxfam staffer in the Middle East region said the widespread use of short-term contracts by many humanitarian organizations — often as brief as three months — allows for flexibility on the ground, but also creates a culture of intimidation that keeps many national staff from reporting “problematic incidents” involving their superiors.
“The kind of contracts that we had at the country level, it was a three-month contract without any insurance of future employment, so then whenever there is a conflict of opinion with your manager, you feel vulnerable,” he told Devex.
“The justification for these short-term contracts is that the situation is fluid, but at the same time we were not protected, so I didn’t feel like I, or anyone else could speak up.”
Molly Anders for DevEx (14 February).

Oxfam should not be hung out to dry

Without inside knowledge, I can only observe that, after Haiti, Oxfam established a head of safeguarding position, created a whistleblowing hotline, sent safeguarding training teams to country programmes and voluntarily included a detailed summary of reported safeguarding incidents in its published trustees annual report every year, available for all to read on the Charity Commission register of charities.
Oxfam’s transparency about the safeguarding issues it was having to deal with was second to none. Of 87 reported incidents in 2016/17 some 70 per cent were in the UK. It seems likely that the fact Oxfam recorded more safeguarding incidents than other NGOs is because it tried so hard to create the climate in which people felt able to report incidents affecting them.
Andrew Hind for Civil Society Voices (14 February).
Sidas stöd till Oxfam stoppas tills vidare

Sida's support for Oxfam is discontinued for the duration of the investigation (from Google Translate from Swedish).
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (sida) (14 February).

The saints and sinners of Oxfam

As for the foreign-aid budget, the Oxfam affair has emboldened those on the Conservative right who want to end the commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid, which they consider extravagant at a time of austerity. But other Tories, such as Andrew Mitchell, a former DFID secretary, argue that development is one of the few areas in which Britain is a global leader, spending more than any country bar America and Germany. As the country retreats from the EU, it would be sad if that role, too, were relinquished.
The Economist (15 February).

Oxfam Admits It Rehired Worker Dismissed Over Haiti Sexual Misconduct
Oxfam has said that a man it dismissed over sexual misconduct allegations in Haiti in 2011 was subsequently hired by the charity as a consultant in Ethiopia later that year.
The charity called this decision “a serious error and should never have happened”.
Sara C. Nelson for Huffington Post UK (15 February).

Oxfam scandal highlights spectrum of abuse: local staff, recipients — aid workers, too

"Sexual exploitation in humanitarian workplaces is incredibly widespread," she said in an interview this week.
"This is a problem that we've been struggling with for a long time."
The humanitarian sector's #MeToo moment, much as in other industries, is rooted in abuse of power and longtime impunity.
But it is further singed by the fact that sexual predators operate best in the chaos of disaster at a time of great need, and that some of them prey on some of the world's most vulnerable people.
Nahlah Ayed for the CBC (15 February).

The Oxfam scandal: How to keep predators away from the most vulnerable

Oxfam denies a cover-up over the ouster of staff accused of sexual abuse first in Haiti and elsewhere. Could the charity have acted sooner?
Florent Geel, Cécile Andrzejewski, Tina Tinde & Gemma Houldey on France24 The Debate (15 February).

Why Sex Scandals Persist In The Humanitarian Aid World

In the past, when a scandal like this was exposed, "the world was horrified for a short period of time. Aid groups would say it's terrible, we're going to strengthen our systems and everybody is appeased," says Paula Donovan, head of Code Blue, a campaign to end impunity for sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. personnel. "Then it happens again."
Aid observers think that in this era of #MeToo — the movement against sexual assault in the workplace — momentum is finally building for a new commitment in the aid community to zero tolerance.
For this reason, Donovan thinks that the Oxfam incident could trigger real change in the sector. "There's a perfect storm now," she says.
Malaka Gharib for NPR Goats & Soda (15 February, 4:15 PM ET). Reactions from Twitter













Comments & reflections
What is Oxfam’s real crime?

Nothing can justify what the Oxfam staff in Haiti did. I make that clear. But I make it as clear that I believe that the attack on Oxfam is deeply cynical and entirely because it has upset those with wealth. On balance then Oxfam has faults, like everyone and every organisation. But what it does is overall immensely valuable. The balance is weighted heavily in Oxfam's favour. Unless of course you're very wealthy and deeply offended by those who suggest that may not be entirely due to your own efforts, as Oxfam do. And that is what this is all about. Oxfam's crime is to upset wealthy people. And on that issue, I agree, it is systemically responsible.
Richard Murphy for Tax Research UK (10 February).

A Digital Angle to Oxfam's #MeToo Moment?

Oxfam advocates participatory approaches, and what better way to do that then to empower project beneficiaries to directly give feedback on your operations whenever they need to and in real time? This could be achieved through a tool like UNICEF's U-Report. This mobile reporting tool for communities was first deployed in Uganda in 2011, the same year that the alleged abuses occurred in Haiti. It has since expanded to a number of other countries, and is helping to give a voice to people who often are not often consulted directly, in their own words, about how an NGO's intervention has actually affected them. Instead of relying solely on reports from staff who wish to keep their jobs and may not want to rock the boat, going directly to communities might be a great way to learn of abuses - and sooner.
Ronda Zelezny-Green for Panoply Digital (11 February).

Thousands of passionate people and a few ‘bad eggs’?
We don’t just get to sign up for an NGO Job and be a good person. We actually have to continually be addressing structural oppressions as they show up in us and that’s why the ‘thousands of passionate aid workers and a few bad eggs’ type of analysis warrants questioning.
Not from the destructive place of destroying any commitment to caring about making the world a better place, but out of a genuine commitment to showing up differently.
We are human and fallible. We make mistakes. We, as a sector, have done far too much trying to fix the problems ‘out there’ without addressing how social injustice shows up in us, in our own lives and the lives of our organisations.
Mary Ann Clements (13 February).

The Oxfam scandal: Let’s not forget the bigger picture

In addition, on a more formal level, there needs to be better training, preparation and post-deployment debriefing that seeks to support aid workers throughout the course of their work. This is particularly important in field offices, and even more so for national aid workers; because we should not forget that they are the ones who are most likely to be the victims of violence in the course of their work, and at the same time have less capacity – due to their professional status and the limited bargaining power they hold – to respond to or prevent such incidents from occurring.
Gemma Houldey for Life in Crisis (13 February).

Oxfam scandal: development work is built on inequality but that's no reason to cut foreign aid

Aid should be seen as a form of reparation for past wrongs. This would help reframe the conversation about its value – alongside broader arguments about global citizenship. It would also help to question the ways in which developing countries continue to be kept poor by international economic policies and how much of British development aid in fact makes its way back into the British economy.
Luisa Enria for The Conversation (12 February).

The Oxfam Scandal: Humanitarians and Sexual Exploitation

Oxfam ironically leads the way in reporting incidents and seeks to become a model of good practice. Whether that makes it most vulnerable to scandals is a moot point. NGOs have developed many tools of accountability over the past thirty years, and to an extent this current series of revelations reflects that fact – but there is some way to go yet. They must move on from a culture of compliance to good behaviour codes to a more profound change of system, and more importantly, culture. Tolerating exploitation must end. It is not a matter of prurience or puritanism, but one of political responsibility.
Bertrand Taithe and Róisín Read for Manchester University's Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (14 February).

Fighting abuse, exploitation and harassment in our work environment

MSF is acutely concerned about all possible barriers people might face in reporting abuses, and this remains one of our key challenges today. We are continuously stepping up efforts to increase awareness of reporting mechanisms across MSF and to improve these mechanisms.
The reasons for underreporting are probably similar to those found in society at large, including the fear of not being believed, prevailing stigma and possible reprisals. This is all the more acute in many crisis settings where MSF operates, such as conflict areas, where there is often a general lack of protection mechanisms for victims, a high level of generalized violence and impunity, and where populations may be highly dependent on external assistance. The size, turnover and diversity of our staff require a continued effort to inform and create awareness about MSF’s policies on harassment and abuse, as well as all mechanisms available for reporting any abuse or harassment.
Our key priority is to reinforce our reporting mechanisms and work to ensure that everyone — from headquarters visitors to community members and patients — is aware of these processes and how to access them, and to protect victims and whistle-blowers at all times.
MSF Canada (14 February). 

About Oxfam and sexual abuse in humanitarian contexts

Aid workers love quantitative indicators. Or better, they hate them, but international donors seem to love them, so whatever needs to be reported, it is usually reported by means of quantitative indicators. (That oftentimes these indicators are inaccurate, irrelevant or simply misleading, is another issue that I will not deal with here). Now, try to quantify prevention of and response to SEA. Good luck with that. Solution? Talk about activities rather than results, like for example the number of trainings delivered. Lot of numbers. Great job. Any result? Who cares, you did your part, delivered a ton of trainings, tick the box, the donor is happy to see that its money has gone somewhere, people who attended the training are happy they have spent a day in a rather comfortable place drinking some tea for free, now let’s move on to more serious stuff. (Sure enough, there is a large debate on result-based management and its limits in humanitarian contexts, but we will not talk about it here). In other words, SEA prevention can surely be sold to donors, funds earmarked for them, and activities organized, but don’t expect that too much emphasis will be put on actual results. It is something that is better not to talk about too much and too in depth because might put the organization in a difficult situation.
Francesco Caberlin for LinkedIn (14 February).

Beware Bogus Stats From "Experts" About UN Sex Abuse

Mr. MacLeod claims that UN personnel have committed 60,000 rapes in the last decade. That is a fictitious number drawn from thin air and based on feckless extrapolations. Such irresponsible fearmongering discredits all of us engaged in honest, constructive critiques of the UN’s response to its sexual abuse crisis, and it endangers bona fide efforts aimed at reform. Code Blue joins other advocates and survivors in declaring our own zero tolerance—for bogus, media-amplified assertions that exploit the suffering and pain of women and children. We wish to dissociate our organization from any statements made by Mr. MacLeod, and we sincerely hope that others will recognize the risk and heed this warning.
Gill Mathurin for Code Blue (14 February).

Oxfam crisis - where next for them and for the international NGO sector?

In the UK, this crisis is unfolding under a Government that has already given charities the “gagging clause”, told us as a sector to “stick to our knitting”, and ended several hundred million pounds worth of structured annual funding support to the UK’s world-leading international civil society sector. It has placed overtly flawed individual politicians openly antagonistic to charities like Rob Wilson and Priti Patel into key Government roles. It has nominated into the Charity Commission individuals who share not just the political views but the political loyalties of the ruling Conservative party.
Toby Porter on LinkedIn (15 February).

What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2?

Only one head has rolled thus far in this fiasco, but would you or I have done any better under such enormous pressures? Speaking as an ex-Oxfam manager, I’m not sure I would. And in any case, isn’t it a bit gratuitous to use the pain and trauma of all those involved as a hook on which to hang a lecture about the politics of the international system, or to mount generalized attacks that are largely spurious?
(...)
Can its own #metoo moment help the aid industry to question and transform its role in this way? When you face an outside threat to your integrity, and even to your existence, it’s difficult to focus on anything except circling the wagons in order to survive. But the emotional experience of vulnerability—the enforced stripping away of arrogance and defensiveness and inertia—can also create a space for acceptance, an acceptance that things do now need to change. At the human level we should all feel for Oxfam’s staff in these times, just as we must feel for those who have endured abuse and exploitation at the hands of a very small minority of their number. As the global leader of the NGO community Oxfam has a special responsibility to make sure this opportunity isn’t wasted.
Michael Edwards for Open Democracy (15 February).

The World Is Shocked That Aid Workers Are Sexual Abusers. I’m Not.

When I started college outside Monrovia [Liberia’s capital], there were Bangladeshi peacekeepers stationed near campus. They would wave a dollar at us, saying they would give it to us if we had sex with them.
Sometimes they even brought food to the campus. Some of us were there on scholarships and a dollar was a lot of money. Imagine people in a vulnerable community having to make that decision?
(...)
There’s this perception that if you’re going out with (white aid workers), you’re privileged — that it’s a privilege for a man from Europe or America to have sex with you, so the way that you feel about it doesn’t matter.
The privilege of their color, the privilege of their position, the superficial power they have means that everybody forgets that this is abuse, that this is harassment.
In communities that are vulnerable, that don’t know anything about their rights, they’ll appreciate if a white aid worker even stops to speak with them. That’s the kind of superficial power they possess.
Naomi Tulay-Solanke for Bright Magazine (15 February).

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