Oxfam Sexual Misconduct in Haiti – Your Questions Answered

by Oxfam Canada | February 16, 2018
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** Trigger warning: violence against women, sexual misconduct and prostitution **

The full Haiti 2011 Investigation Report can be found here.

1. Were any Oxfam Canada staff or donor funds involved in the sexual misconduct case?  

Not to our knowledge. During the immediate 2010 earthquake relief efforts, Oxfam Canada delivered our programs and the bulk of our funds in Haiti through Oxfam Quebec - which led the Canadian response in Haiti with its own office, team, and long-standing local partners. Only one Oxfam Canada staff member – a woman – was deployed on long-term assignment to Haiti, from February to March 2010.

Later, in 2011, in addition to our work with Oxfam Quebec, Oxfam Canada sent some funds to three smaller projects that were managed by the Oxfam Great Britain office: a dairy project, a women’s economic empowerment project, and a gender-based violence project.

A forensic financial audit of the projects revealed two key pieces of information: (1) Canadian donor funds for the two latter projects were transferred after the disturbing events in 2011 had been investigated and Country Director had resigned, and; (2) that we sent $47,775 to the third project in June 2011, which was just before the investigation began and before the Country Director had left. The funds for this project came from a generous single private donor, whom I have personally spoken to. I have assured the donor that, given the timing and nature of the project, we are confident none of the funds were involved in this case.

2. After the events of 2011, what has Oxfam done to stop it from happening again?

After 2011, Oxfam introduced a range of measures to prevent sexual abuse and misconduct from happening in the first place and to improve how allegations are handled. We established a global safeguarding team, whistleblower hotline, and stronger policies to protect staff, volunteers, partners, and community members.

We are now taking even bolder action and remain committed to leading culture change in the aid sector. Oxfam is launching an independent, High-Level Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change to be led by leading women’s rights experts with the power to access records, interview anyone involved in past cases and help transform the organization. We are doubling the number of staff working on safeguarding and tripling the budget for this work. We are also establishing a database of accredited staff to provide references to ensure that people who have been investigated for sexual misconduct can’t freely move from Oxfam to other aid organizations.

3. Have any Oxfam Canada staff been involved in cases of sexual misconduct in recent years? 

We have records of two cases being reported and investigated. The first was reported through the whistleblowing process in 2010 and involved the misuse of Oxfam Canada equipment for personal financial gain. Through the investigation, it was discovered that the individual had stored pornographic materials on their Oxfam Canada computer. As the behavior was not in line with Oxfam Canada’s values, the employee was terminated.

The other incident took place in 2014 at an Ottawa nightclub following an Oxfam event. Several female volunteers reported inappropriate and unwanted touching and sexist and racist remarks by a male volunteer. Oxfam provided the impacted volunteers with the support and closure they requested, including confronting the instigator. He was removed from Oxfam’s volunteer program and the female volunteers told Oxfam they were satisfied with the support they received.

4. Why does Oxfam Canada have so many fewer cases than Oxfam Great Britain?

Oxfam Canada has under 100 staff, compared to many thousands of staff employed by Oxfam GB. The majority of Oxfam Canada’s staff are women (80% in Canada), with our entire humanitarian team comprised of women. The leadership is also largely female.  In addition, Oxfam Canada has an exclusive focus on gender equality and women’s rights and attracts staff, both male and female, that are more sensitive to and are rigorously vetted for these values.

Finally, the large number of reported cases in Oxfam Great Britain is thanks to the strong whistleblowing policies that Oxfam has in place which means that staff are encouraged to disclose. In other words,  the high number of cases indicates stronger controls, not weaker.

5. Why are we just hearing about this now?

The incident involving Oxfam Great Britain staff in Haiti was fully investigated in 2011 and resulted in four staff terminations and three staff resignations. The investigation results were shared with the press back in 2011 and were published by several papers in the UK. The UK Charity Commission was informed about the investigation – including that it related to inappropriate sexual behavior – and the actions taken against those involved. The Commission confirmed that Oxfam had taken appropriate action and that they had no regulatory concerns.

With hindsight, it is clear that it would have been more appropriate to make public more detail, including an explicit reference to sexual misconduct.

6. Can I still trust Oxfam with my time and/or money? 

Yes. We can’t let the actions of a few undermine our critical work on gender equality and women’s rights, and the lifesaving support we provide. Like you, our staff feel heartbroken, angry, and betrayed by these terrible events. The actions of these few go against our values and what Oxfam Canada stands for. We are now more determined than ever to champion cultural change in the global organization and the sector as a whole.

We understand that these issues are systemic in society and that we are not immune to them. We will work tirelessly to rebuild your trust and the trust of the people we work with.

If you have any further questions, please contact .

More on sexual misconduct in Haiti:

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