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To protect our staff and the people we work with, we’re further increasing investment in safeguarding and pushing harder than ever to change our culture
Oxfam made critical mistakes in the past where we failed to properly prevent and tackle sexual misconduct by our staff. We are sorry for these failures in care and proper processes: there is no excuse.
In February 2018 UK media reported on a case of sexual misconduct by Oxfam aid workers in Haiti who worked there following the 2011 earthquake. We did a lot to improve our safeguarding work after Haiti in 2011 however we should have done much more and done it much faster. Everyone in Oxfam is committed to putting that right now.
What have we achieved since February?
1. We are changing our culture. We are keenly aware how critical this is. We are growing awareness and understanding of how we work together and behave, and how this links to safeguarding and protection. We are continuing to debate these issues and are engaging with staff throughout Oxfam in activities to fundamentally shift how we workand behave. We have been establishing greater consistency across the whole of Oxfam in how we prevent and manage safeguarding cases when they occur.
2. We published our ‘Ten-Point Plan of Action’ in February this year. This lays out our commitments and details how we are strengthening the entirety of our safeguarding system and changing our culture to be a different, better organisation. We are on track and working hard on this around the world. We know that Oxfam can still do more to live up to our own values and to the high standards the public rightly expects of us.
3. We have tripled our safeguarding budget – now at approximately €3 million. In every country where Oxfam works we now have at least one safeguarding focal point who dedicates part of their time to preventing and supporting the understanding of safeguarding. We are rolling out a training program for these people, which has already been carried out in Africa (Horn and East Africa, and Southern Africa regions) and Latin America and Caribbean and will take place in West Africa, Asia and the Middle East/North Africa region by March 2019.
4. We’ve trained these staff members so they can receive complaints, give advice and support to colleagues, and help raise awareness of misconduct and prevent it. In addition, over 100 staff have received training in investigations and we are rolling out a safeguarding training program for all staff.
5. The Independent Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability & Culture Change which we set up is on-track to publish its interim report this November and final report in May next year. It has launched a website, engaged independent investigators to review past cases, and recently set up a “Survivor Reference Group,” to ensure its work is grounded in the realities of survivors of sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse The Independent Commission shared its reflections to date with the Oxfam Confederation Boards in October.
6. We have built a stronger internal referencing system and supported the development of a multi-agency approach to disclosing misconduct that makes it harder for people who have committed misconduct or abuse to find new jobs in the sector.
7. Today we publish our first Oxfam-wide update on the safeguarding cases reported to us over the past six months. Oxfam received more cases to investigate during 2018 because we have been appealing for survivors to come forward, in safety and with renewed confidence. We are very grateful to those who have. We are working through their cases thoroughly and professionally, prioritising the most serious, and taking action after investigation, including feeding back to and supporting the survivor, reporting to donors, authorities and regulators where appropriate.
So now Oxfam has a more in-depth understanding of safeguarding, more capacity and expertise - meaning that we can respond quicker and more sensitively to the people reporting their concerns to us. We can deliver a higher quality of investigations and support to survivors.
My colleagues and I have been humbled by the bravery of those people who have come forward to report abuse and exploitation, and we are committed to support them and work with them to seek justice.
We know that Oxfam can do more still to live up to our own values and to the high standards the public rightly expect of us.
This entry posted on 23 October 2018, by Sue Turrell, Associate Director for Safeguarding and Culture, Oxfam International
Photo: Oxfam handwashing station, Tondikwindi Treatment Center, Ouallum, Niger. Oxfam trained two community health leaders (‘relays’) in each of the nearby villages. Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam