Preventing sexual abuse
The prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment—of and by Oxfam staff—is critically important for our organization.
Recent reports on sexual misconduct cases in Haiti have led Oxfam to take a hard look at our past mistakes. We are committed to building a culture that does not tolerate abuse.
What happened in Haiti
In 2011, Oxfam Great Britain staff in Haiti were accused of sexual exploitation and abuse. After an investigation by Oxfam later that year, four staff members were fired and three were allowed to resign, including the country director. As part of the investigation, Oxfam found that the country director had been involved in allegations of similar abuse in Chad in 2006. He took full responsibility for the misconduct that took place under his management.
The government of Haiti has suspended Oxfam Great Britain's operations while they conduct their own investigation. Oxfam has apologized to the Haitian government and people for the actions of our former staff.
Today, Oxfam has zero tolerance for abuse of people in any form and we offer our support to victims of these egregious violations of our principles and values.
We take full responsibility for what happened in Haiti. You can read about the details of these events in our full internal report from 2011.
What is Oxfam doing now?
Oxfam is taking significant steps to address the underlying problems that allowed the events in Haiti to happen. These include:
Established a high-level independent commission that is reviewing cases of sexual misconduct and abuse of power: Zainab Bangura, former United Nations under-secretary general, and Katherine Sierra, former World Bank vice-president serve as co-chairs. They lead a team of experts from the realms of business, government and civil society who are investigating any past or present cases of sexual abuse and harassment at Oxfam. The independent commission will share recommendations on what Oxfam and the wider aid sector can do to create a culture of zero tolerance for any kind of sexual harassment, abuse, or exploitation. The initial findings of that commission were published, along with a management response from the Oxfam confederation in January 2019 and a final report is expected later this year. The commission has set up a direct email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Put substantially more resources into keeping people safe: Oxfam is doubling the number of staff dedicated to preventing abuse and sexual misconduct and tripling the financial resources devoted to this work. This includes improvements to our system that allows people to report abuse that can be easily used by the communities we serve, and by staff and volunteers. In addition, every Oxfam country program now has at least one staff member as a “Safeguarding Focal Point” for grievances, advice, and to promote awareness and prevention; 119 staff members have received investigator training and are ready to gain more experience alongside more experienced investigators. Oxfam is creating a new global database of Oxfam staff officially authorized to provide references. This database is designed to end the use of forged, dishonest, or unreliable references by past or current Oxfam staff. Every six months, Oxfam publicly discloses anonymized data of closed safeguarding investigations in that period across all affiliates. This data is available here. Additionally Oxfam America has added a full-time senior position dedicated to safeguarding.
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 has launched an 18-month Gender Action Learning process to integrate and strengthen gender justice within the organization and in our work. Oxfam America has also hired a VP of People, Culture, and Global Human resources who, along with senior leadership, is responsible for the development of a workplace culture and practice that reinforces Oxfam’s values of inclusiveness, empowerment, and accountability.
Working with our peers across the sector to tackle physical, sexual and emotional abuse: We are in a moment of opportunity to work collaboratively with our colleagues to prevent sexual assault and harassment in the broader aid sector. Oxfam America President and CEO, Abby Maxman is co-champion and co-lead on the CEO Taskforce at InterAction. Abby, along with 118 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.