The recent Oxfam scandal has brought the funding of charities to the forefront of the EU’s attention. Following the allegations of sexual abuse by some of its staff during the post-earthquake mission in Haiti back in 2011, the European Commission has warned that all charities that receive their funding will be required to detail the measures they’re taking to help prevent cases of abuse in the future. The reports that some of the staff employed by the charity paid for sex with prostitutes have been of high profile in the media.
And with further allegations that Oxfam failed to handle the cases properly and even rehired one of those accused of abuse, the commission believes much tougher measures are needed to ensure this case isn’t repeated. In addition to this, a new agreement has been made between the EU and over 200 different aid organisations. The EU will also be requesting further details from each of these organisations to see what measures they are taking to “ensure ‘zero tolerance’ for sexual exploitation and abuse.”
There have been threats of funding cuts to charities who fail to comply – and considering that the EU is a major donor to both Oxfam and other international charities, these steps seem reasonable to make sure the money is spent ethically. “We expect Oxfam to fully clarify the allegations with maximum transparency as a matter of urgency, and we’re ready to review and, if needed, cease funding to any partner who is not living up to the required high ethical standards,” said EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic. The EU provided Oxfam with over €25 million in funding in 2017 alone, and an estimated €1.7m during the Haiti effort. .
In response to the allegations, Oxfam has announced that it will publish an internal investigation into sexual abuse and other misconduct that took place in Haiti “as soon as possible, after taking steps necessary to protect the identity of innocent witnesses.” Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International said that the charity would be tripling the amount of funding its puts towards ensuring vulnerable members of society are protected, as well as taking steps to make sure sex offenders aren’t hired. “What happened in Haiti and afterwards is a stain on Oxfam that will shame us for years, and rightly so,” she said.
Oxfam’s Deputy Chief Executive Penny Lawrence has also resigned after taking “full responsibility” for the scandal. “Over the last few days we have become aware that concerns were raised about the behavior of staff in Chad as well as Haiti that we failed to adequately act upon. It is now clear that these allegations—involving the use of prostitutes and which related to behavior of both the country director and members of his team in Chad—were raised before he moved to Haiti”, she said.
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