Keeping people safe at Oxfam - Safeguarding

Keeping people safe is a vital part of our work worldwide. In recent years, Oxfam has made substantial changes to the way that we approach safeguarding. But we recognize that there is so much more that we need to do, and we are committed to continually learning in order to make Oxfam a safer place for all.


Safeguarding in Oxfam is a set of procedures, measures, and practices to ensure that Oxfam upholds its commitment to prevent, respond to, and protect individuals from harm committed by staff and related personnel. In Oxfam, we focus on sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, sexual harassment (SEAH) and child abuse. We do this by:

  1. Listening to those who are affected;
  2. Responding sensitively and safely when harm or allegations of harm occur; and
  3. Learning from every case.


We continually strengthen our approach to safeguarding by increasing the number of safeguarding specialist staff. We now have dedicated safeguarding focal points in every country where Oxfam is present, who work with staff and communities. We have been adapting to COVID-19 too - creating online safeguarding training tools to ensure that staff, volunteers, and partners are provided with effective support and training during this period.

We believe that only by being open and transparent about risks can we then tackle them– no organization can ever say it is free from the risk of abuse and harassment, but we will continue to be accountable in how we manage these risks and respond swiftly if incidents do occur; striving to provide survivors with the right support at every stage.

We know that living our values is every bit as important as what we achieve, and we must not lose sight of that.



Creating a more survivor-centered approach

Ensuring survivors can report abuse in confidence and get the support they need is paramount. We want survivors, past and present, to continue to come forward and report allegations; we know this can be painful and traumatic. We’ve endeavored to make the process more accessible and to be survivor-centered in our approach and will continue to seek improvements.

Specialist safeguarding staff are also working on the ground where they are most needed. For example, Oxfam has safeguarding specialist humanitarian support personnel who are deployed into countries to provide additional safeguarding support. We also have at least two dedicated safeguarding focal points in place in every country where Oxfam works with support from Safeguarding Regional Advisors.

We have established clear procedures to ensure a more consistent, survivor-centered approach to respond to cases, demystifying the reporting process and building trust. These procedures also include doing all we can to protect the confidentiality and safety of survivors and whistle-blowers as well as providing medical, health, social, emotional and other forms of support for survivors.

Developing safer programs and working in partnership with communities

We have improved our understanding and management of the risks posed by our work to ensure that all those involved with our humanitarian and development programs can participate more safely. The approach, known as Safe Programming, includes training and toolkits for staff and partners as well as conducting research within communities so that we are more accountable.

Despite making progress, we have identified gaps in our understanding that we must continue to proactively address. In the past few years, Oxfam has conducted research in three countries (Ghana, Iraq, and Myanmar) to deepen our understanding of the common issues and barriers that prevent people from speaking out. This has helped us to understand how we can further improve our approach to keeping people safe.

Thinking globally and working with others

Oxfam has established a Global Safeguarding Shared Service with all Oxfam affiliates - networking safeguarding specialists from across the Oxfam confederation. Oxfam America’s Safeguarding Advisor is an active member of this shared service.

Oxfam has introduced a new electronic record-keeping system for all cases. This secure central database is used by all Oxfam affiliates to build information and evidence of potential crimes. We’re also working together to ensure everyone follows the same procedures.

Our policies in reporting potential crimes to police and local authorities are clearer and have been developed with guidance from survivors.

We are working with the wider aid sector to stop perpetrators from moving on unchecked to other roles and organizations. Oxfam is leading work with other agencies to better share information about offenders. Here at Oxfam America, we work within a referencing system that ensures only approved managers can provide job references for people leaving the organization.

Safer recruitment, changing our culture and living our values

We know that tackling abuse and exploitation in our organization and our activities is not enough. We must live our values throughout the organization by examining our own attitudes and behaviors and by changing power structures to prevent the abuse of power which is often at the heart of sexual exploitation and abuse cases.

As part of our commitment to improve our culture and ensure that all staff understands and shares our values, our recruitment processes and interviews now include mandatory questions on values, safeguarding, and feminist principles. We have also raised awareness and understanding among staff of how to challenge negative behaviors and misconduct, including concerns about bullying and harassment.

Safeguarding training is mandatory for Oxfam staff around the world, and all staff and volunteers sign a code of conduct when they start working with us.

We are committed to transparency and will continue to report regularly on our progress. A breakdown of completed Oxfam America’s safeguarding cases is provided every six months in a public report that covers all safeguarding cases across the Oxfam confederation.

We're committed to sharing information openly, ensuring public reputation is never put before the safety of the people we are responsible for.


Working with our peers across the sector to tackle physical, sexual, and emotional abuse: Oxfam America President & CEO, Abby Maxman, is a champion and co-lead on the CEO Taskforce at InterAction. Abby, along with 140 CEOs, have signed a pledge that includes taking steps to ensure perpetrators cannot be re-employed by other members of the international aid community. Oxfam America has also taken on a leadership and technical advisory role to support safeguarding work happening across the sector.

Building and institutionalizing a values-driven culture within Oxfam. Our goal is to ensure that no one faces sexism, discrimination, or abuse – that everyone feels safe speaking out and everyone is clear on what behavior is acceptable or not. This requires ensuring that Oxfam as an organization embraces gender equality, prevents abuses of power, and has zero tolerance of sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation. Oxfam America conducted an 18-month Gender Action Learning process and established a Gender Justice & Inclusion Hub to integrate and strengthen gender justice within the organization and in our work. The Gender Justice & Inclusion Hub now supports the organization to realize its strategic priorities, commitments, and stand-alone activities on gender justice, anti-racism, Feminist Principles, and intersectionality.

Supporting partners to develop their own safeguarding systems in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Recognizing the immense amount of work conducts with and to support our partners, Oxfam America teamed up with Oxfam in LAC to develop the first ever, Spanish language safeguarding guide developed by and for organizations in the region. This guide provides relevant information and resources to support the journeys of Oxfam’s more than 650 partner organizations in LAC to develop of their own safeguarding frameworks, especially for the prevention of Sexual Exploitation, Harassment, and Abuse (PSEAH) by their staff and related personnel. This document was built from a solidarity, feminist, localized spirit and contains tools ready to be used by organizations of various characteristics.

Deepening our accountability within communities where Oxfam works. Oxfam has worked for nearly a decade strengthening disaster risk reduction with communities within El Salvador’s Dry Corridor. To strengthen our commitment to accountability and developing contextually appropriate methods, Oxfam and its partners spent the last year working closely with 11 communities to create and pilot community-based complaint and response mechanisms to increase awareness of rights, establish effective and safe ways to report, and create community-based mechanisms to respond to misconduct.


Oxfam is committed to providing updates on our progress to improve Safeguarding in Oxfam. Follow the link to the Oxfam International website to find the latest report and previous reports.


If you have experienced, witnessed, or heard that misconduct has, or is about to occur, we encourage you to communicate suspicions without fear of reprisals and in the knowledge that you will be protected from retaliation and dismissal.

Safeguarding covers sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and any form of child abuse or exploitation. You can make a report using the following options:


More information

What is Oxfam America’s role in preventing sexual abuse?

Oxfam America is part of the Oxfam confederation, which is made up of more than 20 affiliate organizations. While Oxfam’s commitment to preventing sexual abuse is confederation-wide, Oxfam America President and CEO Abby Maxman is a leader in this work within Oxfam and the aid sector. She is the co-chair of Oxfam International’s Safeguarding Task Force, alongside Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International’s executive director. Abby is also co-leading the InterAction CEO Task Team on Sexual Harassment and Abuse, which convenes US-based aid organizations. Oxfam America has created three new roles: a Gender Advisor for our DC office, a Senior Safeguarding Specialist, and a Vice President of People, Culture, and Global Human Resources. Oxfam America has also launched an 18-month Gender Action Learning process to integrate and strengthen gender justice within the organization and in our work.

How do people safely report cases of misconduct?

Oxfam America’s safeguarding measures include a confidential whistleblowing mechanism, Clue. Oxfam America has had a whistleblowing system since 2010. This allows staff, volunteers, beneficiaries, donors, and others to confidentially report any cases of misconduct, financial embezzlement, violation of policy, or any other practice inconsistent with Oxfam values. People can make complaints online, via phone, or by mail in English, Spanish, or French. The information on how to access this service is publicly available on our website and posted in all country offices Oxfam America oversees.

Every complaint is promptly investigated by Oxfam America’s Human Resources department and other departments as needed. Depending on the nature of the case, we may hire independent external investigators.

Ethics Violation Reporting

What policies does Oxfam have in place to protect people from sexual harassment and abuse?

Since 2010, Oxfam America has instituted policies for harassment complaints, harassment prevention, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, and sexual harassment. These have since been updated annually. In 2011 we added a policy on child protection and prevention of bullying and harassment. These policies are to set the rules of behavior, and staff are obliged to abide by these policies. Oxfam America’s Human Resources department oversees its safeguarding measures. In 2018, Oxfam America reviewed all its policies to assure that they reflect recent changes in context and assure the safety, due process, and protection of our staff, our partners, our beneficiaries, and those who we exist to serve.

Oxfam International polices and codes of conduct.