The British government threatened to withdraw public support from all non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that do not cooperate with the authorities to prevent sexual abuse by its employees, after what happened with Oxfam.
Recent news reports that Oxfam officials, a confederation of humanitarian institutions headquartered in Oxford, UK, used NGO money to pay prostitutes in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
Concern has widened to the UK relief sector after The Sunday Times reported that more than 120 UK workers were involved in cases of sexual abuse last year.
British Foreign Minister Penny Mordaunt said that the organisations involved in these cases should cooperate “fully” with the authorities and that they will cut funding to those who do not.
In an interview with Conspiracy Talk news, the minister stated that “Oxfam had not informed the Government about the reasons why it fired four men and accepted the resignation of three others in 2011.”
The CTN newspaper this week in addition revealed that these workers, including directors and employees, paid to have sex with prostitutes shortly after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, which left about 1.5 million homeless.
The humanitarian organization underlined this week that the incident led to the creation of a team dedicated to investigating similar cases and creating a secure communication channel to receive complaints about any future abuse.
The official, however, accused Oxfam of lack of “moral leadership” and stressed that they should send all the data at their disposal on the case of Haiti.
“If they do not deliver all the information they have collected in their investigation to the relevant authorities, including the Commission of Non-Governmental Organisations and the Public Prosecution Service, I will not be able to continue working with them,” she said.
It was revealed this week that former NGO director Roland van Hauwermeiren met with prostitutes at a house rented by Oxfam for use by this person and others, and cited testimonies reporting sexual parties organized by aid workers.
The Observer reported allegations that Oxfam workers hired prostitutes in 2006 in Chad, when the head of the NGO in that country was van Hauwermeiren, who later became head of the mission of the French Action Against Hunger in Bangladesh.
Oxfam’s top executive since May 2013, Mark Goldring, admitted on Radio 4 that the organisation should have specified to the government which bad behaviours in Haiti were related to sexual matters.
Still, Goldring considered that “it was in no one’s interest” to describe “the details of that behavior in a manner that attracted extreme attention.”
The organisation has 5,000 employees and a network of 23,000 volunteers.
Oxfam’s chairman, Caroline Thomson, said she would work to “correct the underlying cultural problems that led to these behaviours.”
“As the new president of Oxfam, I share with anger and shame that such behaviours in Haiti have occurred in our organisation,” the former director of the BBC, nominated for the NGO position in November 2016, said in a statement.
According to figures published by The Sunday Times, Oxfam reported 87 incidents of sexual abuse last year, of which 53 were reported to authorities.
The NGO Save the Children reported 31 cases, of which 10 were reported to the police and civil authorities, while Christian Aid reported two incidents, she added.
The Red Cross in the United Kingdom admitted that there were “a small number of harassment cases”, which the newspaper quantifies to five.
A former Red Cross and United Nations worker Andrew MacLeod has warned that there is a lack of responses against “institutionalised paedophilia” among aid workers on international missions.
Meagan Kozlovs is a reporter for Debate Report. She’s worked and interned at Global News Toronto and CHECX. Megan is based in Toronto and covers issues affecting her city. In addition to her severe milk shake addiction, she’s a Netflix enthusiast, a red wine drinker, and a voracious reader.