Oxfam-Québec applauds measures taken to stamp out abuses

While Oxfam-Québec has already implemented procedures to act quickly on possible cases of sexual misconduct, sometimes before a complaint is even brought forward, the organization is in full support of the announcement that Oxfam International is adopting a set of proactive measures as well, including the establishment of an independent commission to investigate internal practices and culture.

 

« No organization is immune from the appalling behaviour of certain individuals, but we can confidently state that absolutely no efforts are being spared to keep such people from joining the ranks of Oxfam-Québec. We welcome the new measures implemented by Oxfam International, which will help ensure such abuses never happen within our organization, » says Oxfam-Quebec’s Executive Director, Denise Byrnes.

 

The plan was approved yesterday by Oxfam International’s Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, and the organization’s Executive Board, which is comprised of the Executive Directors of all 20 Oxfam affiliates. It includes the following measures:

 

  • A new independent High-Level Commission on Sexual misconduct, accountability and culture change, comprised of leading women’s rights experts, which will be able to access Oxfam records and interview staff, partners and communities it supports around the world;
  • The immediate creation of a new global database of accredited referees – designed to end the use of forged, dishonest or unreliable references by past or current Oxfam staff. Oxfam will not be issuing any references until this is in place;
  • An immediate increase in the resources available for Oxfam’s safeguarding processes, with the number of people working in safeguarding more than doubling over the coming weeks and the annual funding more than tripled;
  • A commitment to improve the culture within Oxfam to ensure that no one faces sexism, discrimination or abuse, that everyone, especially women, feels safe to speak out, and everyone is clear on what behaviour is acceptable or not.

Oxfam has also published its 2011 internal investigation into staff involved in sexual and other misconduct in Haiti as soon as possible, after taking the necessary steps to prevent victims and witnesses from being identified. The names of the men involved have already been shared with the authorities in Haiti.

 

« What happened in Haiti and afterwards is a stain on Oxfam that will shame us for years, and rightly so,” regrets Winnie Byanyima. “In my language: « Okuruga ahamutima gwangye, mutusaasire. » It means, « From the bottom of my heart I am asking for forgiveness. »

 

« Of course words are not enough. I’ve since agreed a plan of action with Oxfam’s board of international directors to double the number of people who work on safeguarding to make sure we are living up to our responsibility to protect staff, volunteers and the communities we support around the world. We will also be asking a group comprised of leading women’s rights experts to lead an independent commission which will review our entire operations in depth and tell us what we need to change about our internal culture and practices.”

 

The High-Level Commission will operate at arms-length from Oxfam and shape its own mandate. Oxfam will provide the resources it needs to do its job effectively, across the confederation, including full access to records, personnel and staff, as well as partners and communities supported by the organisation. As part of the Commission’s work, it will create an historical record about cases of sexual misconduct and abuse of power that is as complete as possible, which will be made publicly available.

 

“Right now I have two utmost priorities for Oxfam: continuing to provide support to the millions of vulnerable people we work with around the world, and learning vital lessons from our past mistakes to make sure such abuse and exploitation never happens again,” adds Winnie Byanyima.

 

« We are absolutely determined that justice be served for the sake of all victims and survivors of abuse, and to ensuring that everyone we work with, including our staff and volunteers, are protected from all forms of abuse and exploitation, now and in the future.”

 

« We know that these problems cannot all be solved by Oxfam alone, and we will work with governments, regulatory bodies, women’s rights organisations and others in the sector to implement urgent reforms. It’s vital that we act to prevent those individuals guilty of gross misconduct from simply moving onto another organisation and potentially harming other vulnerable people.”

 

 

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