Oxfam America's commitment to safeguarding against sexual harassment and abuse

By Oxfam
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At Oxfam we continue to have zero tolerance for abuse of people in any form and we offer our support to victims of these egregious violations of our principles, values, and what we hold dear and believe.

For sake of clarity, Oxfam America is part of the larger Oxfam confederation, which is made up of more than 20 affiliate organizations, each of which is its own legal entity and has its own board of directors. Regarding the incidents currently being reported, those were not programs or staff directly managed by Oxfam America.

What policies does Oxfam America 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 been updated annually since then. In addition, 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 HR department oversees its safeguarding measures.

How do people safely report cases of misconduct?

Oxfam America’s safeguarding measures include a confidential whistleblowing mechanism, which is mediated by a third-party service provider called Navex Global (known internally as EthicsPoint). This whistleblowing system has been in place with Oxfam America since at least 2010. This allows people—including staff, volunteers, beneficiaries, and donors—to confidentially report any cases of misconduct, financial embezzlement, or violation of policy or any other practice inconsistent with Oxfam values in three different languages. People can make complaints online, via phone, or 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 HR department and other departments as needed, and depending on the nature of the case we will hire independent external investigators.

What recent efforts has Oxfam made to help prevent abuse and misconduct from happening in the first place?

Oxfam America has trained all of its more than 300 US and global staff members on prevention of sexual harassment. This training is required of all staff and has taken place most recently in 2014, 2015, and 2017.

In 2017, Oxfam International created a global Safeguarding Task Force, led by Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International Executive Director and Abby Maxman, President and CEO of Oxfam America.  It is working in three main areas:

  • Prevention: This includes training, communications and information to prevent risk of harm and abuse, a revision of staff screening processes, risk assessment and an evaluation of staff capacity to perform the work.
  • Support and care:  Entails providing resources to support and care for who have experienced sexual harassment, abuse and/or violence.  It also includes ensuring that staff have access to specialized training and experience.
  • Response: This includes strengthening and harmonizing current policies and procedures, and ensuring that these are clear and accessible to all. It also means that we are cultivating a culture where information is shared and people are held accountable.

Recognizing the importance of this work across the humanitarian aid sector, Abby Maxman is also co-lead for the InterAction CEO Task Team on Sexual Harassment and Abuse. InterAction, an alliance organization that represents US nonprofits operating around the world to advance the lives of people living in the poorest and most marginalized conditions, recently issued a statement affirming its commitment to fight discrimination, sexual harassment, and abuse within the international nonprofit community.

 

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