Oxfam produces action plan after revelation of prostitution scandal on Haiti

Monday, February 19, 2018

On Friday, international charity organization Oxfam unveiled an action plan to improve its safeguarding systems and whole internal culture. This follows a news article on February 9 in The Times, describing sexual misbehaviour by some Oxfam members on a Haiti mission following the big earthquake in 2010.

The plan includes establishment of a special independent "High-Level Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change", as well as other measures such as an immediate injection of money.

The Times reported some members of Oxfam GB hired prostitutes during sexual parties, during the mission on Haiti, which was set up after the earthquake in January 2010. Moreover, witnesses alleged that during a mission in the African country Chad in 2006, prostitutes frequented the team house.

Executive Director Winnie Byanyima promised to build up a new organizational culture which will no longer tolerate such behaviour. Executive director of Oxfam GB Mark Goldring said: "People put their trust in Oxfam and we betrayed that trust. What happened was a disgrace and we are absolutely committed to rooting out abuse across the organisation. [...] These problems cannot all be solved by Oxfam alone, and we will work with the government, the Charity Commission, women’s rights organisations and others in the sector to implement urgent reforms."

The new research commission would consist of international senior female experts in the field of women's rights. It would have power to investigate the organization's internal culture, policy and practices, as well as possible cases of sexual misbehaviour by both current and previous Oxfam members. Some cases judged in the past could be re-evaluated. The commission members would have full access to the Oxfam case records. Interviews would be held with staff members as well as with Oxfam-supported partners and communities worldwide. Commission members would hear claims and feedback regarding, especially, abuse of power and sexual misconduct.

Moreover, a global database of accredited referees was to be created, in order to end false or dishonest staff references. The Oxfam International Board and the Independent Chair would establish more precisely the scope of the commission's inquiry.

In reaction to this controversy, about 1700 donors of the Dutch affiliate, Oxfam Novib, stopped donating within only a few days last week. Deputy chief executive Penny Lawrence resigned due to the scandal on her watch.