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Sexually scandalous, Oxfam unveils plan of action

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Andy Buchanan – | Oxfam has been in turmoil since revelations that NGO officials deployed to Haiti after the deadly earthquake in 2010 have hired prostitutes in the country.

Oxfam unveiled Friday its plan of action to tackle sexual harassment, in the wake of a scandal involving prostitutes, described by the global director of the organization as a “stain” that will “shame him for years”.

The organization has announced the creation of a commission that will “operate remotely from Oxfam” and will have access to the records of the NGO and its employees, with whom interviews will be conducted to identify abuses.

Oxfam will also triple the funding of protection programs, which will reach more than $ 1 million, while doubling the number of staff dedicated to these programs, and increasing investment in training on gender issues.

The new plan comes one week after charges of sexually exploiting prostitutes targeting NGO workers deployed for humanitarian operations in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

“What happened in Haiti is a blot on Oxfam, which will shame us for years, and rightly so,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Mandel Ngan – | Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, April 17, 2016 in Washington

“From the bottom of my heart, I implore forgiveness,” she added.

The NGO denied lack of transparency in its handling of the Haitian scandal, which drove away its support in numbers, and pushed the British government to threaten to suspend subsidies to organizations that conceal sex scandals.

Oxfam conducted an internal investigation in 2011, leading to the dismissal of four employees, three of whom were allowed to resign, including Director for Haiti Roland van Hauwermeiren. Van Hauwermeiren on Thursday rejected part of the charges against him.

Allegations of the use of prostitutes had not been forwarded to the Haitian authorities at the time of the investigation, but Oxfam said Friday that the names of those involved had been released since.

Ⓒ AFP – – | The scandal around Oxfam

This internal investigation will be made public – with the names of the witnesses who have been redacted – as well as the reports of the newly created commission.

“We need to make sure that anyone guilty of such bad behavior does not move from one humanitarian organization to another, exposing even more vulnerable people to other risks,” said Winnie Byanyima.

Another man involved in the scandal in Haiti, had been hired by the organization CAFOD, which returned Wednesday. According to the Catholic Humanitarian Organization, he was provided with a letter of recommendation from a person claiming to be his former supervisor at Oxfam, and sent from a personal email address.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Andy Buchanan – | Several employees of Oxfam are also accused of rape during humanitarian missions in South Sudan and sexual abuse in Liberia.

Oxfam has planned to create a global database of accredited referees, which would track down dummy or unreliable or dummy recommendations believed to come from past and present employers.

The NGO also revealed “being in the process of verifying how” Gurpreet Singh, dismissed as a result of the scandal in Haiti, could have been employed again a few months later as a consultant for an Oxfam mission to Ethiopia, October to December 2011.

Target of several accusations, the Belgian Roland van Hauwermeiren, former country director in Chad and Haiti, had been the subject of a complaint of sexual abuse in 2004 when he was working in Liberia for the British NGO Merlin.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Rodger Bosch – | Nobel Peace Laureate, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, here in Cape Town on October 7, 2016, resigned from Oxfam’s role as ambassador,

After Oxfam, he had joined the French NGO Action contre la faim in Bangladesh, the latter deploring not having been warned.

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