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

Last update: 4 July 2018.

There are now more than 120 resources featured in this bibliography!

For the time being, my bibliography will not be updated regularly anymore, but the July update includes new sources that are diretly linked to the financial fall-out from the original scandal.

The debate has branched out in so many different directions since the original scandal broke that I want to keep this thread more narrowly about the Oxfam scandal and how media the aid industry responded to it.


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). 

NGO crimes go far beyond Oxfam
The latest revelations of sexual abuse by major charities (Report, 13 February), are but one facet of NGO corruption. The people of Haiti were the first to free themselves from slavery, but the colonial “masters” they defeated – France, Britain and the US – have continued to plunder and exploit, including through imported NGOs. Haiti has more NGOs per square mile than any other country and it remains the poorest in the western hemisphere. Corruption begins and ends with neo-colonial powers.
While celebrated for “doing good”, NGO professionals do well for themselves. They move between NGOs, academia and political appointments, enjoying a culture of impunity while they exercise power over the poorest. The Lancet described NGOs in Haiti as “polluted by unsavoury characteristics seen in many big corporations” and “obsessed with raising money”.
Letters (13 February, 17:40 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).


Shaista Aziz (16 February, 09:20 GMT).


Oxfam chief accuses critics of 'gunning' for charity over Haiti sex scandal claims
Goldring said that attempts to explain decisions taken over the departure of Roland van Hauwermeiren, Oxfam’s former country chief in Haiti, following allegations that he paid for intercourse and was involved in sex parties in the country, had been “branded as an excuse”.
“Anything we say is being manipulated,” said Goldring. “I said on TV: ‘Yes, we could have done some things faster’, and all of a sudden we’ve got two former ministers calling for my resignation. What I felt really clearly is many people haven’t wanted to listen to explanations.”
Among those Goldring accuses of a lack of balance is Oxfam’s former head of global safeguarding, Helen Evans, who has been widely quoted criticising Oxfam’s failings.
Saying that she should not have gone public with her concerns, Goldring added: “I think [her criticism] was very unbalanced, and ironically didn’t give enough credit to the very work that she promoted. I don’t think she gives either herself or Oxfam enough credit for what was actually steady improvement.”
Decca Aitkenhead and Peter Beaumont (16 February, 15:10 GMT).

The Oxfam scandal does not justify demonising the entire aid sector

Humanitarian action is now more necessary than ever. We are facing a worldwide refugee crisis , growing and protracted conflicts. Genocide beckons in Myanmar, and the besiegement of Yemen is driving increasingly desperate needs. The vast majority of humanitarians work to alleviate these circumstances, in the small yet meaningful ways we can. It is a small minority that contributes to the issues under discussion here. Ensuring the safe operation of humanitarian organisations is imperative for the future of our world. We need more assistance for such organisations, to ensure that they can deliver the highest quality programming, in the safest manner, to the world’s most vulnerable people.
Megan Norbert (17 February, 09:00 GMT). 

Public trust is more fluid than we allow, and Oxfam must win it back

The exposure of scandal can bring future benefit if it acts as a catalyst for change. The police have become better behaved and more accountable – not perfect, but improved – since they were made subject to independent regulation. That old saw with which I began this column may not be entirely accurate. Trust does not necessarily take “forever to repair”. It takes a long time, but it doesn’t have to be an eternity. If Oxfam starts to sort itself out with the necessary remedial measures, which include transparency, accountability and robust reform, the charity may slowly claw back public respect.
That is its duty. Our responsibility is to not let outrage cloud perspective. The great majority of those who work in the charitable sector are decent people dedicated to trying to help others. Many more lives have been saved than have been harmed. This scandal has cast a dark shadow over decades of valuable work. We can be appalled by the shadow without losing sight of the work.
Andrew Rawnsley (18 February, 00:02 GMT). 

If paying for sex is wrong in Haiti, why do we still tolerate it in the UK?

Did attitudes change between Amnesty’s pimps’ charter, Vaz and Corbyn’s sex-trade normalising and Oxfam’s resounding sex-buyer shaming? Supposing an eagerness to attack Oxfam, or aid-giving in general, does not entirely account for the near universal condemnation, it could be, in the context of #MeToo, that prostitution is, indeed, the latest, if most extreme, example of women’s objectification to come up for reappraisal. It could even, reversing a UK drift towards a free market, be newly open to legislative review.
Catherine Bennett (18 February, 00:03 GMT). 

Mordaunt accuses Oxfam of 'complete betrayal of trust' over Haiti scandal – Politics live

More than half of people who donate to charities like Oxfam less likely to after Haiti scandal, poll suggests
DfID chief says Oxfam scandal has undermined public support for aid spending
Oxfam's evidence about the Haiti sex scandal - Summary
Andrew Sparrow (20 February).

Oxfam abuse scandal is built on the aid industry’s white saviour mentality

We have all been conditioned to believe that aid agencies and charities operate in an uncivilised vacuum. It’s hard to overstate how much influence large NGOs have over the information we receive. These days few newsrooms can afford the cost of sending correspondents into crisis zones without their help. As a result, the news we consume is filtered through the prism of humanitarian relief work, where the civilised help the uncivilised – and if the helpers become deviant, what can you expect in such a climate?
The revelations about sexual abuse and misconduct – long overdue – have prompted a depressing combination of tropical neurasthenia and faux moral outrage. I say faux because this is really all about money. Our interest in these organisations is based on the fact they have received millions from British taxpayers. It is this that has been the centre of our concern rather than the wellbeing of the victims themselves.
Afua Hirsch (20 February, 19:09 GMT). 

Oxfam loses 7,000 donors since sexual exploitation scandal

Goldring repeatedly apologised to the committee for his own comments that had appeared to play down the seriousness of the scandal. In an interview last week in the Guardian, Goldring said the charity was being attacked as if “we murdered babies in their cots” and said he had not slept for six days.
“I make no excuses, I make an apology for comparing what I was going through with the bigger picture,” he told MPs. “My first concern is the women of Haiti and anybody else who has been wronged as a result of Oxfam’s programme. I shouldn’t have put my own sleep, or lack of it, in the public domain.
“I have tried hard to balance work and sleep over the last two weeks. The results, I believe, are that I’m continuing to do my job and I’m continuing to make appropriate decisions. I hope I have led Oxfam competently, but that’s for others to decide.”
Goldring told the committee that at the time of the original investigation into events in Haiti, Oxfam issued a press release revealing its findings of “serious misconduct” involving bullying, intimidation and breaches of the charity’s code of conduct. It did not go into details at the time about the fact that sexual exploitation was involved. He admitted, with hindsight, the charity should have been more transparent.
Jessica Elgot and Karen McVeigh (20 February, 18:40 GMT).

May says UK will not cut aid in wake of Oxfam scandal

The UK’s aid budget will not be cut as a result of the sexual exploitation scandal affecting the sector, the prime minister has confirmed in a push back against the right wing of her party.
There have been calls for the government to scrap the commitment to spend at least 0.7% of gross national income on foreign aid, including from the MP some Tories have touted as Theresa May’s potential successor, Jacob Rees-Mogg.
May told the Commons on Wednesday that the development sector needed to get its house in order, but insisted the UK would maintain its overall aid budget.
Kevin Rawlinson (21 February, 15:42 GMT).

I’m going to keep giving to Oxfam, and so should you

I am sad and angry about what happened in Haiti and Chad, but I am also sad and angry that people in the UK who had no interest whatsoever in the welfare of those people are now occupying the moral high ground or, worse, using this crisis as a way of furthering their own campaign against overseas aid in general.
Taking money away from Oxfam is not an act without consequences. If you want to stop donating to the charity, make sure your money still gets to the people who need it. And whichever charity you choose, ask what they are doing to root out and prevent abuse. Because it will be happening and it will come to light. It has to come to light.
The only route out of this terrible mess is for every charity – for every organisation of any kind – to turn a harsh light on itself, to accept its failings and to change them. It will be a painful journey, but it is one they are all going to have to take. And the sooner they start, the better.
Mark Haddon (21 February, 16:54 GMT). 

'Aid staff would pay more': sex workers in Haiti speak out

Magdala, 25, has been working the streets for a year and spends almost everything she earns on feeding her one-year-old son. She lives with her parents in a neighbouring slum, who think she has found work in one of Pétion-Ville’s upscale bars.
“When a car pulls up, everyone is hoping it’s a foreigner because they pay so much more,” she says. “Sometimes we fight over who gets to the car window first.”
One night in December, a client pulled a gun on Magdala and stole her phone after having sex with her, leaving her stranded in an unknown part of the city. “It was terrifying, but I didn’t tell anybody,” she says, clenching a fist. “I mean who could I tell? It’s not like the police would do anything.”
All of the sex workers in Port-au-Prince who spoke to the Guardian fear reporting incidents to the police, worrying that they will be arrested themselves or dismissed as liars.
Joe Parkin Daniels (28 February, 07:00 GMT).

The Oxfam scandal has taught us there is no reward for honest charities

The understandable furore over sexual abuse in the sector has shown that individual and government donors claim to value NGOs that are accountable. If that is true, they will have to brace themselves to hear tales of abuse and mismanagement because disclosure is essential for transparency. The public needs to hear it has unreasonable expectations about what it takes to prioritise safeguarding.
NGOs must acknowledge they have inflated these expectations in the past by being too timid to acknowledge bad news stories. And governments should recognise their failures to ask searching questions about abuse – even when directly presented with the evidence. As a sector, we need a more mature debate about how to encourage a culture of transparency and learning – something that has been missing in the rush to vilify Oxfam.
Angela Crack (16 March, 07:07 GMT).

Oxfam 'kept aid worker on in Haiti despite sex harassment claims'

Oxfam has been accused of further failures in Haiti by keeping a senior aid worker in the earthquake-torn country for more than a year despite reported sexual harassment claims.
According to an internal report seen by The Times, the charity attempted to “contain” sexual harassment allegations involving Raphael Mutiku, an aid worker who led Oxfam’s installation of water supplies in Haiti after the earthquake.
The documents claim to show a final written warning was issued to Mutiku, a Kenyan engineer in his 40s, in June 2010, following allegations of sexual harassment from female colleagues.
Press Association (17 March, 00:52 GMT). 

Oxfam chief steps down after charity's sexual abuse scandal

Intense criticism over the abuse led to the resignation of Oxfam’s then deputy chief executive, Penny Lawrence. At that point, Goldring said he would not step down unless the charity’s board lost faith in his leadership.
Asked if the announcement of his resignation on Wednesday was related to how he dealt with the crisis, an Oxfam spokeswoman said: “No, it’s absolutely not to do with his handling at all.” Goldring is expected to remain in his post until his successor is found.
Kevin Rawlinson (16 May, 19:16 GMT). 

Oxfam sexual abuse scandal fallout was 'out of proportion', says Clare Short
Short told the committee’s inquiry into sexual exploitation and abuse, which was set up in the aftermath of the Oxfam scandal, that while no form of sexual abuse should be tolerated, it is not unique to the aid sector.
“I think the way the Times covered this allegation about one man in Haiti was completely distorted and out of all proportion. It doesn’t mean what he did was acceptable. I graduated in ‘68 – university lecturers used to come on to young students. When I was an official in the Home Office there was a senior official who tried it.
“I think if you went to the Times newspaper there would be people who misused their power. Certainly in my time in DfID there was an ambassador who was having affairs with lots of different people,” said Short, adding that the whole of government needed to have better codes of conduct.
Rebecca Radcliffe (5 June, 16:33 GMT).

Clare Short is wrong. No wonder sexual abuse is rife in the aid sector

This extraordinarily insensitive and crass response sums up exactly where we are, months after whistleblowers at Oxfam went public with accusations of sexual abuse and misconduct at the charity – triggering similar action from women at Save the Children, Médecins Sans Frontières and the UN; and the creation of the hashtags #AidToo and #UNToo, on the back of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
In reality, very little has really changed in the sector since the first Oxfam revelations. And little will change until those in the sector realise there is nothing exceptional about the aid industry – that sexual abuse is the result of structural patriarchy, abuse of power and inequality, just as it is elsewhere in society.
Shaista Aziz (8 June, 12:53 GMT).

Oxfam to axe jobs and aid programmes in £16m cuts after scandal

The charity needs to make substantial savings because of a £16m shortfall in its “unrestricted” budget – money raised from its shops and individuals to be spent on whatever it sees fit.
The document says £16m represents “around 10% of our relevant income”. With the charity still reeling from the Haiti scandal, the document says one of the charity’s guiding principles over the next two years is to “protect and reinforce women’s rights, gender justice and culture change”.
Nick Hopkins (15 June, 13:02).

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).  

Mary Beard posts tearful picture of herself after defence of Oxfam aid workers provokes backlash

However, if she had been hoping the post would turn the criticism into sympathy she was disappointed. The Netherlands-based writer and feminist Flavia Dzodan tweeted: “Mary Beard, a prominent woman with almost 200k followers posted a photo of herself crying her white feminist tears. I am amazed by the extent of sentimentality people will go through, debasing themselves if necessary in order to sustain their ignorance, bigotry or both.”
Roisin O'Connor (18 February).

Nicola Sturgeon warns Oxfam sex scandal should not be used as 'cover' for foreign aid cuts

"But we've also got to be clear that the aid sector does good work and it's important in condemning the revelations that we've heard that we're not allowing those - and let's be pretty frank about this - we know there are no shortage of people within the current UK Government who would want to see the international aid budget decimated or removed altogether.
“We must not allow this kind of situation, unacceptable though it is, to be used as cover for that broader political view point."
The comments came as the Prime Minister criticised staff at Oxfam describing their actions as “horrific”.
Shebab Khan (19 February).

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).

Ex-Oxfam aid worker tells of sex assaults by colleagues
Speaking anonymously to the BBC, the former junior aid worker said her colleague in Haiti "literally just pinned me up against the wall - he was groping me, grabbing me, kissing me - I was just trying to shove him off".
"I got him off eventually and he got mad and he threw his glass at me and it shattered on the floor," she said.
But the woman - who said it had been her dream to work for Oxfam - said the assault continued in a car later.
BBC News (16 February). 

Oxfam Haiti scandal: Suspects 'physically threatened' witnesses

So it is trying to start recovering some of its reputation by being as transparent as it can. Hence the publication of the internal report into what happened in Haiti in 2011.
In the short term this may produce more damaging revelations not only about the inappropriate behaviour of staff but also the mismanagement and lack of transparency by senior managers.
There are also likely to be more revelations when the Charity Commission and MPs begin their own investigations, as well as Oxfam's own internal inquiry.
So few would disagree with the Prime Minister's spokesman when he says Oxfam has a long way to go to restore public trust.
BBC News/James Landale (19 February). 



MPs question charity bosses

After three hours of questioning, the evidence session on sexual exploitation in the aid sector finishes.
The International Development Committee spent two hours questioning senior Oxfam officials, including chief executive Mark Goldring who apologised for the charity's handling of sexual misconduct in Haiti.
The committee also heard from Save the Children which has produced some proposals on safeguarding.
Aiden James, Esther Webber, Alex Partridge and Paul Seddon for BBC News (20 February).  

Oxfam GB banned from Haiti after sex scandal
Haiti's government said the decision was taken because of Oxfam's "violation of its laws and serious breach of the principle of human dignity".
Oxfam said it understood the decision, adding that the behaviour of some staff was "completely unacceptable".
Haiti's decision follows a temporary suspension announced in February.
The charity said it would continue to work in Haiti through affiliate members from Italy, Spain, and Quebec.
Oxfam has been in Haiti since 1978, and increased its presence after the earthquake. But there have been no Oxfam GB staff in the country since the suspension in February.
BBC News (13 June).

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). 

Oxfam admits 'serious mistake' over re-hiring man sacked over Haiti sexual misconduct allegations

An Oxfam worker who was sacked over sexual misconduct allegations in Haiti was later re-hired by the charity in Ethiopia.
The charity described the decision to employ Gurpreet Singh as a consultant in the African nation as a "serious error".
Several staff were sacked or resigned in 2011 over a string of lurid claims, including that they had used prostitutes while delivering aid to Haiti.
Oxfam said in a statement it had identified that hiring the man "even in an emergency as a short-term consultant" was a "serious error and should never have happened".
It continued: "We are still checking how this occurred but it further highlights that we need an organisation and sector-wide approach to the vetting and recruitment of both staff and consultants, especially in emergencies where there is pressure to fill posts quickly in order to help save lives."
The charity is now investigating whether there were "any issues" while the man was posted in Ethiopia.
ITV News (15 February, 02.28 AM).

Oxfam, #MeToo and the psychology of outrage

The first is that we should ask ourselves, is there anything that happens in my profession, industry or community that is taken for granted, but that the wider world might view with sudden outrage? The in-crowd may lure each other into viewing transgressions with a leniency-shifted forgiveness. When everyone else pays attention, the leniency shift may flip to a severity shift. The second is to beware tribalism. Outrage may be unpredictable, but once it has grown it is easy to manipulate for political ends, whether noble or reprehensible. Surrounded as we are with people who share our sense of outrage, it is easy to wonder why some other group just doesn’t seem to feel the same way. Righteous outrage is a powerful weapon, and one that has smashed many barriers of injustice. We should pull the trigger of that weapon with care, not with abandon.
Tim Harford for the Financial Times (16 February).

Breaking: Oxfam to withdraw from DFID bidding

“Following our discussions, Oxfam has agreed to withdraw from bidding for any new UK government funding until DFID is satisfied that they can meet the high standards we expect of our partners,” Mordaunt said.
Oxfam received just over 408 million pounds in total funding during the 2016-17 fiscal year, with U.K. government funding accounting for about 8 percent of the total, and a significant chunk of its funding from governments, according to Oxfam’s latest annual report.
Molly Anders for DevEx (16 February).

Oxfam unveils action plan after 'stain' of sex scandal

British charity Oxfam unveiled an action plan Friday to tackle sexual misconduct following the "stain" of a prostitution scandal but the man at the centre of the allegations denied organising orgies.
The aid group said it would create an independent commission which will have the power to access records and interview staff in a bid to stamp out abuse and impose stricter controls on employees.
"We are going to create a vetting system," Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, told the BBC.
"I'm really inviting anyone who has been a victim of abuse by anyone in our organisation to come forward."
AFP (16 February).

Oxfam asks women’s rights leaders to carry out urgent independent review

The package of measures includes:
A new independent High-Level Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change, comprised of leading women’s rights experts, which will be able to access Oxfam records and interview staff, partners and communities it supports around the world.
The immediate creation of a new global database of accredited referees – designed to end the use of forged, dishonest or unreliable references by past or current Oxfam staff. Oxfam will not be issuing any references until this is in place.
An immediate injection of money and resources into Oxfam’s safeguarding processes, with the number of people working in safeguarding more than doubling over the coming weeks and annual funding more than tripled to just over $1 million.
A commitment to improve the culture within Oxfam to ensure that no one faces sexism, discrimination or abuse, that everyone, especially women, feels safe to speak out, and everyone is clear on what behaviour is acceptable or not.
Oxfam International (16 February).

Irish aid workers on sex abuse: ‘Head office is a long way away’

“But NGOs need skilled staff, and unfortunately these people are protected by the institution. Not many people in their 40s want to go into managerial positions in places like South Sudan; it can be hard to get people for these jobs.
“They can be redeployed somewhere else, or if they deny the allegations they can resign and then they pop up somewhere else in the world. This conversation needs to be happening at senior level. Middle-aged men and women have to look each other in the eye and say, ‘I know what you did.’”
(...)
“We’re consistently under-resourced, whether it’s budget or staffing. You’re working in a state of crisis, and it’s exhausting. That’s why burnout is a big thing and why it can be so frustrating for people when they’re mistreated.”
Will Holden, managing director of emergency logistics for Human Appeal in Iraq, says the lack of adequate training for managerial staff working in the sector means people are not prepared to deal with claims of sexual harassment and abuse.
“The humanitarian world is years behind what would be considered the HR norm in the commercial world. People are ending up in management positions without training, so when they come across situations of bullying or harassment they’re completely unprepared.”
Sorcha Pollak for Irish Times (17 February, 05:50). 

Oxfam crisis: the poor must not be punished
More importantly, to do so would be morally wrong. The world is on the brink of eradicating polio, tuberculosis infections have fallen 25 per cent and four million fewer children die from diarrheal diseases each year than three decades ago. These are just some of the ways in which development aid is saving lives. The charitable sector should not be immune from scrutiny or censure. But cutting aid would not only punish the sector; it would cut off a lifeline for some of the planet’s most vulnerable people.
The Irish Times View (19 February, 00:10).

Oxfam and Weinstein effect among humanitarians

Bob was warning me. I needed to stay on his “good side” if I wanted to accomplish the work on gender discrimination and abuse I had been hired to do. Staying on the “good side” of patriarchy involves a gamut of behaviours from listening intently and saying things like “Aren’t you brave. Tell me more—you are so interesting” to feeling forced to provide “sexual favours” all the way to staying silent about brutal sexual assaults and other crimes men commit.
Most men have no idea how exhausting it is for women to constantly do the patriarchal-dance in addition to the real work we are hired to do. It is always double duty for which we are never paid extra and punished for if we attempt to avoid. The moment I met Bob, I was calculating the patriarchal spectrum of abuse and what I needed to do to avoid the worst of it.
(...)
Organisations should publicly terminate, by issuing a press statement, employees like Roland van Hauwermeiren. Agencies should praise, protect and promote whistle-blowers who enforce humanitarian norms by holding the abusers among us accountable. As frustrated humanitarians (and there are many of us) continue to leak more internal reports detailing sector-wide cover-ups, and media outlets report on these, humanitarian institutions may finally learn a painful lesson; protecting abusers does not protect organisational reputations. Protecting beneficiaries and #AidToo whistle-blowers does.
Lori Handrahan for Sunday Guardian Live (19 February).

The Oxfam scandal shows that, yes, nonprofits can behave badly. So why aren’t they overseen like for-profits?

As new nonprofit scandals emerge, it remains to be seen whether Oxfam will become the #MeToo moment for this sector. Many nonprofit organizations do useful work. The problem is that the presumption of virtue reduces institutional oversight and managerial abuses follow. And because the virtue claim raises stakeholders’ expectations, scandals in one nonprofit can deplete the moral capital of the entire sector.
Global bureaucratized nonprofit groups need structures and rules like those in place for global firms. Nonprofit funding models should be reexamined. A government-funded nongovernmental sector makes little sense. A community-supported nonprofit sector is the closer approximation to the Tocquevillian ideal of the civic sector.



For Haiti, the Oxfam scandal is just the latest in a string of insults

After the earthquake, Haiti was in no condition to monitor the thousands of NGOs that descended on the country, nor did it have an established mechanism to track the aid groups. A government starved of funds, even now, has little capacity to exercise oversight over hundreds of foreign organizations. The Haitian government has expressed a desire to prosecute the responsible Oxfam officials, but that is unlikely to happen. Foreign governments, no matter how contrite, are not likely to place their trust in — or subject their citizens to — Haiti’s barely functioning judicial system. The best Haiti and other poor countries can hope for is that the wave of indignation over the behavior of certain aid workers will translate into real reforms in the charities’ home countries and into stricter controls within these organizations.
Joel Dreyfuss for the Washington Post (19 February 3:01 PM). 

Don't Cancel Your Donation To Oxfam. Double It
I would go further. I would invite Oxfam’s CEO Mark Goldring to come out of the doghouse and lead the charge on this initiative together with the CEOs of all the UK’s major development charities. I’ve spent many years working on the inside of these organisations and am in no doubt that Goldring has both the capability and the moral authority to do this. He is widely regarded by peers and Oxfam’s own staff as being one of the best leaders in the business.
The alternative is to continue with the status quo - to destablise one of UK’s finest international charities and threaten the aid sector as a whole. The only people this will hurt are those who are most vulnerable whom we are seeking to protect.
So I ask you to keep donating to Oxfam, or start donating today. It may not make you popular. You may attract ridicule and abuse from those who are joining the stampede for the exit. But it’s the right thing to do.
Gib Bulloch for the Huffington Post UK (20 February, 11:29 GMT).

Oxfam Probing New Sexual Misconduct Claims as Scandal Engulfs Aid Sector

Several other charities including Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders are now investigating their own handling of abuse allegations. Many governments, including Haiti's, are urgently reviewing their relationships with aid organizations.
“There has been a working culture where this has been brushed underneath the carpet and victims of this kind of abuse have not had the opportunity to speak up. We’re already talking about an existing power imbalance that exists between the aid giver and the aid beneficiary. Now, if that’s abused, that sends out a really very, very negative message against the entire sector,” said Gemma Houldey of the University of Sussex, a former aid worker who now researches the working culture of the sector.
Voice of America News (21 February, 06:31 AM). 

'But what about the aid worker?'

As white women, we do tend to cultivate a dual subjectivity. With an easy sleight of the hand, we rationalise the violence enacted by men on racialised bodies. And when challenged, we are known for collapsing into distressed sobs, rather than listening and engaging with why our words and actions might be problematic. The location of trauma is shifted onto the weeping woman, and those engaging are recast outside of the bounds of "civility".
Lisa Tilly for Al-Jazeera (21 February). 

The attack on overseas aid: Oxfam crisis
As one veteran aid worker put it: “Operational people in emergencies are very much ‘Cut the crap you snowflakes, we’ve got to get this done’. In disasters and conflicts you do sometimes need a more testosterone-loaded approach. You’re dealing with warlords, crises and corrupt officials.” But it can be tricky to bring in a former soldier who had been a logistics expert in the army and expect him to leave his soldiering culture behind. This is the brand of aid worker who behaved so badly in Haiti. Getting them to embrace the values of their colleagues who have been pioneers in the empowerment of women has been a key problem for Oxfam.
Paul Vallely for The Tablet (21 February).
Aid agencies can’t police themselves. It’s time for a change
The ombudsperson is not limited to the investigation of sexual abuse allegations such as those currently facing Oxfam and should set his/her agenda in response to complaints by affected populations served by humanitarian aid.
Abuse of power is an inherent risk in the unequal relations between aid providers and vulnerable populations. An independent ombudsperson can provide the necessary space for victims to speak out and seek justice. Internal procedures are not enough, it is time to bring accountability to the next level
Dorothea Hilhorst for IRIN (22 February). 

NGOs should not be allowed to operate above the law
There is a common thread that enables these abuses. The UN and international NGOs like Oxfam operate in Haiti as if the law did not apply to them. If charity workers were found to have sexually abused children in the UK, or the UN recklessly caused the death of thousands of people in New York, there would be court cases, jail time, damages awards. But in Haiti, these same behaviours are treated as internal disciplinary matters, or organisations respond with new policy standards, while skipping over accountability altogether.
Sienna Merope-Synge for Al-Jazeera (22 February). 

When Charity Workers Turn Predatory

There is no suggestion that humanitarian agencies have behaved anywhere near as foully as United Nations military peacekeepers, who have been accused for years of large-scale sexual abuse of populations they were sent to defend. Peacekeepers also brought cholera to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there.
The Editorial Board of the New York Times (23 February).

I Worked For Oxfam For Eight Years. Its Aid Is Vital But The Sector Must Change

Despite being a younger woman, often in male-dominated settings in the ‘field’, I never encountered sexual abuse. Throughout, my Oxfam experience was of working in a respectful, nurturing environment (where my bosses, women and men, supported me with the work-life juggle and to rise across two maternity leaves).
But just because I didn’t see any abuse doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening. I suspect that I was protected, at least partly, by my nationality, race, and, as the years went by, relative rank. I know that some of my colleagues in Oxfam, and probably even more so in the wider sector, had entirely different experiences.
Maya Mailer for the Huffington Post UK (23 February, 16:23 GMT). 

Sweden is the first donor to resume Oxfam funding


"Oxfam has been able to show that they have strong rules and routines that work in practice,” Eldhagen said. She added that the decision to resume funding is important for hundreds of thousands of people helped by the charity. “Fundamentally Oxfam is a good organization that does an impressive job. We know that they take these issues seriously."
Vince Chadwick for DevEx (14 March).

After Oxfam's Sex Scandal: Shocking Revelations, A Scramble For Solutions

"We're not fixing anything if someone who works for the U.N. goes to [a nongovernmental organization/aid group] and there's no communication between the U.N. and the NGO," Coates says.
Oxfam has developed a list of steps the organization plans to take in response to the "crisis." On Thursday, it announced the leaders of its new Independent Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change. Among other measures, Oxfam said it has "committed to work with others in the sector on a humanitarian passporting system that would stop offenders from moving from one organization to another."
That idea of a "passport" issued to all aid workers is still very much a work in progress. Basically, all employees would have a permanent record of infractions.
Courtney Columbus for NPR Goats & Soda (16 March, 16:27 ET).

Oxfam staff face redundancy as sexual misconduct scandal hits income

The statement said: "Sadly, this will mean that we will lose some great people in our international programmes and in the UK. We are still working through the effect this will have on redundancies, but our estimate at the start of the process was that it could affect in the region of 100 staff in the UK.
"We very much appreciate the overwhelming majority of donors of all types who continue to actively support our life-saving work. We look forward to resuming our partnerships with our other supporters as we reassure them that we can meet the high standards they expect of us and to which Oxfam adheres. "
Liam Kay for Third Sector (18 May). 

EU greenlights Oxfam but poised to suspend others over safeguarding concerns

In Oxfam’s case, the EU put the signing of new grant agreements with the charity on hold as it investigated the issue, but a Commission spokesperson told Devex that on June 4, the decision was lifted after checks of the charity’s safeguarding procedures, and visits to its offices in the U.K., Netherlands, Lebanon, and Uganda.
Vince Chadwick for DevEx (6 June).

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).

The trashing of Oxfam

In the 1990s, Oxfam began to soften its voice in return for a place at the establishment table. The prize – massive extra resources from aid budgets – seemed worthwhile. At the Millennium, there was an international drive, led by the UN, to devote official aid to addressing poverty directly, often through NGOs. Oxfam then enjoyed a golden era of universal favour, their radical championship of poverty reduction supported by establishment and public alike. Their reports on global disadvantage found a place in respectable think-tanks and the World Economic Forum. That is now changing. UK official aid is now primarily about investment in projects to produce returns for UK interests.
Maggie Black for the New Internationalist (15 February).

How reliant are big development NGOs on UK aid money?

UK development NGOs have been contemplating a future without aid for nearly 20 years and have considered many potential scenarios for their future. ACORD and Action Aid, for example, have already completely transformed their governance structures to devolve more power to the developing world. Elsewhere, a re-thinking of operational models is underway. Some are building their legitimacy in the UK by running domestic programmes with vulnerable communities. Oxfam has even started to consider how to respond to rising political populism.
Most significant, however, is the acknowledgment from some in the sector that NGOs must engage at a much deeper level with the public in the UK about the nature of development work. With such high proportions of NGO funding coming from public donations, this is where the sector’s vulnerability lies – and it’s here where they could face damage from scandals such as the one that has hit Oxfam.
Susannah Pickering-Saqqa for The Conversation (16 February, 05:42 AM EST).

When the fox guards the hen house

Since the resurgence of this scandal, I have been thinking about what could have been done differently especially in light of #AidToo. Could I have offered a deeper dive into the realities of the country context? However, I am not convinced that this would have been a useful exercise without the buy-in and commitment to face unpleasant truths. At the end of the day, I don’t believe that the international development and humanitarian community have, first, the vocabulary, and second, the willingness necessary to develop a substantive agenda on the intersection of race, power relations, gender, the role of expatriates versus local staff, and history of the particular country.
These discussions did not and could not happen in 2011 because there has been an automatic rejection of talks about race and equity in development. No one wants to speak out about how local people are marginalized, or about why they are not often in leadership in the country offices other than to trot out the tired old trope that they are not as qualified as their white counterparts coming from the donor countries.
Angela Bruce-Raeburn for How Matters (16 February).

The Oxfam scandal exposes an industry wide problem – what next?

We will need to resist the urge to shout: #notallaidworkers! Now is not the time to tell ourselves that we are different than the rest of the sector or to run individual PR campaigns to fix our image. Rather, it’s time to open up and examine our institutions and organizations and the wider ecosystem and its incentives so that we can make real change happen.
We have an opportunity – #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, and other movements have prepared the way. Will we dig in and do the work in an honest way, or will we hold our breath and hope it all goes away so we can go back to business as usual?
Linda Raftree for Wait...What? (16 February).

Oxfam

I have to say too that I find the moral certainty of so much of this debate a little scary. Those who never noticed Haiti when it was really struggling, when thousands were actually dying of cholera, notice it (probably fleetingly) now. Many of the comments on Twitter suggest that their writers think it would be easy to maintain moral standards anywhere and everywhere. It is true that some do. But not all. Please don’t imagine you would.
That is why I raised the issue of the Resistance in another Tweet. I once asked a group of my students what they would have done in occupied France? They all said that they would have joined the Resistance. The truth is (to judge by any statistics you can get) that most of them would have been collaborators or keeping their heads down.
It is too easy to imagine that we are better than those who do the work we would be too scared to do.
Mary Beard for the Times Literary Supplement (17 February). 

Response to Mary Beard

Your blogpost is not an adequate intellectual response to your, well, frankly outrageous tweet; it’s a series of postures of innocence and a continued refusal to analyse a problem in all its thorny difficulty. To those who felt violated and aggressed by the original tweet, your blogpost was a further slap in the face: a stubborn refusal to see what was so profoundly and deeply wrong with your claims in addition to bizarre, indeed cringe-making comparisons between the French resistance and aid workers. What is striking in both tweet and putatively exculpatory blogpost is your inability to see beyond Western agency: Western aid workers as resistance fighters, white aid workers as Mr Kurtz figures caving in the strain of ‘The horror, the horror.’ Black agency, Haitian agency figures nowhere in your vision, however much on the side of the anticolonial you might consider yourself to be.
Priyamvada Gopal (18 February).

What to read on Oxfam’s sexual misconduct crisis?

Some of you have asked me to comment, but I’m not sure I have that much to add to some excellent commentary by others. I’ve never worked on the humanitarian side; nor do I have any particular inside track – one of the joys of my role of ‘pointing outwards’ for Oxfam is that I spend my time reading, blogging, writing and talking to non-Oxfam people, rather than sitting in loads of internal meetings. As you can see from FP2P, I’ve been carrying on with that role (with some relief) over the last week.
But after a while the elephant in my study becomes too big to ignore, so here are the pieces that I have found most illuminating (rather than infuriating) on what Oxfam is now calling its ‘sexual misconduct crisis’.
Duncan Green for fp2p (19 February).

Life on humanitarian compounds is removed from reality – this can fuel the misconduct of aid workers

The policies and culture of aid agencies mean that close working relationships and immersion in the humanitarian mission often come at the expense of a normal private life. The ability to find, or maintain, a long-term relationship was a challenge acknowledged by several Kenyan and international aid workers I spoke to.
(...)
This working environment is a problem for two reasons. First, aid agency regulations against bringing a spouse or children to the field may well be justified, but currently there is a pervasive institutional culture that allows for casual intimacy elsewhere, without repercussions. Second, the structural separation that exists between aid workers and their beneficiaries entrenches a power imbalance that can be – and is on occasion – abused.
Gemma Houldey for The Conversation (19 February, 08:50 EST). 

When disaster strikes, put women in charge

Maybe they will consign the figure of the neo-colonial, testosterone-fuelled aid adventurer to the grim past where it belongs. Perhaps the agencies will have the sense to recruit women to posts and situations where female recipients of aid are most at risk. And that means pretty much any disaster situation, anywhere in the world. Haiti is not unique. In Bangladesh, in Congo, Thailand, Kenya there are reports of NGO staff, and people posing as aid workers, sexually exploiting girls and young women, often in exchange for food, relief, money or a tent. A woman during the Haiti disaster recalls a young girl who had lost her tent. She asked the girl why she did not get another one. ‘She told me that the man from the organization said she could have another tent if she slept with him.’
Vanessa Baird for the New Internationalist (19 February).

What’s it all about, Oxfam?

The more foreign NGOs see themselves as activist agents of specific, contextually relevant change (and not just as service deliverers), the more they’ll need to recruit leaders—preferably citizens of the country concerned—who see themselves as activists too, within the fabric of indigenous civil society and politics. But they should go further. Challenging the status quo implies an element of risk, so to increase their legitimacy foreign NGOs also need to be ready to take risks, including the risk they will be closed down by the authorities even if this disrupts their organisational interests.
Phil Vernon for Open Democracy (20 February). 

Is Oxfam the Worst or the Best?

Senior Oxfam staff have resigned and the organization as a whole is paying a high price for this failure. But while we rightly condemn the abuses themselves, and the shortcomings at the highest level, we need to learn the proper lessons from this. First, Oxfam has a clear policy against sexual exploitation and abuse, and one of the best industry practices for reporting. Ironically, it is precisely because of this, that the cases have come to light—and Oxfam’s Safeguarding teams should be commended for doing their job. Second, the problem is deeply embedded in an industry in which the familiar system of senior staff (usually male) have huge power and authority over junior staff (usually female), compounded by specific problems of international staff having even greater power over vulnerable local people.
Oxfam may momentarily appear the worst—but that’s partly because it has been the best in addressing the challenge of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Dyan Mazurana for the World Peace Foundation (20 February). 

Should We Punish Bad People Who Do Good?
I’m asking you now. How can we, on one hand, believe in #metoo and demand full accountability for sexual criminals, while simultaneously acknowledging and supporting the life-saving work of aid organizations?
Should we consider the cumulative good that an organization does for the vulnerable many when we punish the severe bad it has done for the vulnerable few? Or is this humanitarian moral bargaining—trading off the welfare of some for those of the many—a slippery, slippery slope?
April Zhu for Bright Magazine (21 February).

Edwidge Danticat: I Hope Oxfam Sex Scandal in Haiti Is a #MeToo Moment for Aid Organizations

For more, we speak with Edwidge Danticat, Haitian-American novelist, author of several books, including “The Farming of Bones,” which won an American Book Award. We also speak with Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, and Sean O’Neill, chief reporter at The Times newspaper in London, which broke the story of the scandal.
Democracy Now (21 February)


Oxfam: ‘Your Donation Will Help Us Protect Impoverished Girls From Our Employees’

“Our work in some of the world’s poorest, most harassed regions would not be possible without the generosity of people like you. Your donation can bring hope to girls suffering at the hands of our most debauched staff members.” Byanyima added that more than anything else, Oxfam was seeking committed, enthusiastic volunteers to help them combat further injustices.
The Onion (22 February, 15:04). 

After #oxfamscandal: Tough trade-offs ahead for the aid industry
But the aid industry is operating in the same mediatized and socio-political environment where other #MeToo moments and movements have been happening. This environment demands quick, visible and clear-cut changes-and anything that has to do with development usually works at a different speed. For substantial and longer-term changes building up structures will require generous and patient donors, a nuanced media coverage and a general public willing to engage with complicated processes of social change. That’s a lot to ask for. Paying for experts, paying for capacity development, paying for time to get things right and paying for scaling up organizational structures is not what donors are keen to fund and Silicone Valley-type disruptors keep promising.
Tobias Denskus for Aidnography (23 February).
 What now? Beyond the #OxfamScandal

As many of us continue to advocate for our country’s and community’s right to self-determination, we have experienced a range of emotion – from anger, rage, and frustration, to depression, grief, and deep sadness – elicited by the very real barriers to social change put in place by the status quo. In the larger scheme of things, the Oxfam scandal doesn’t matter. Really, it doesn’t.
But make no mistake. We are very clear about what the core issues are, i.e. a system of power imbalances – a do-gooder industry built on them – that too often abuses us and marginalizes our peoples at all levels.
Until these urgent injustices are honestly and earnestly addressed by Global North and Global South stakeholders, in Haiti and beyond, the UN troops, Red Cross, Oxfam, and other scandals will only continue to unfold.
Marie-Rose Romain Murphy for How Matters (26 February).

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