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World UK halts Oxfam funding over new misconduct claims

00:46  08 april  2021
00:46  08 april  2021 Source:   bbc.com

Oxfam suspends DR Congo staff over sexual misconduct claims

  Oxfam suspends DR Congo staff over sexual misconduct claims The British charity says two staff members suspended as part of an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct.Oxfam, which works in 67 countries, sent a statement to the AFP news agency saying it had suspended two staff members “as part of an ongoing external investigation, which we set up last November”.

The UK has suspended aid funding for Oxfam again after fresh allegations of sexual exploitation and bullying were made against staff. Two Oxfam workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were suspended last week following the latest claims . The charity had only been allowed to start reapplying for aid funds in March. It had served a three-year ban after a cover-up of sexual exploitation by staff in Haiti came to light in 2018. The Foreign and Development Office said Oxfam would not be able to make any applications for UK aid money until the new allegations were resolved.

It said this was over the “allegations of abuses of power, including bullying and sexual misconduct ”. The charity said it had reported this to the Charity Commission, a government department that regulates charities. The Times newspaper ran a front-page story on Friday headlined: “ Oxfam rocked by new sex claims against aid Oxfam had received some 30 million pounds (m) in state aid funds per year. Sarah Champion, chairwoman of the Commons international development committee, told The Times that the latest scandal shows “the existing safeguarding and oversight mechanisms simply don’t work”.

The UK has suspended aid funding for Oxfam again after fresh allegations of sexual exploitation and bullying were made against staff.

a group of people standing next to a child: Oxfam projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo include water and sanitation works © Getty Images Oxfam projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo include water and sanitation works

Two Oxfam workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were suspended last week following the latest claims.

The charity had only been allowed to start reapplying for aid funds in March.

It had served a three-year ban after a cover-up of sexual exploitation by staff in Haiti came to light in 2018.

The Foreign and Development Office said Oxfam would not be able to make any applications for UK aid money until the new allegations were resolved.

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British aid charity Oxfam has said it suspended two staff members in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as part of an investigation launched last year into alleged sexual misconduct and bullying. Oxfam , which works in 67 countries, sent a statement to the AFP news agency saying it had suspended It said it saw a letter about the situation in the DRC, signed by current and former Oxfam staff and sent to the charity heads in February, claiming “power abuses” and “threats to their lives” and making allegations against 11 people. It said whistle-blowers had been raising concerns about alleged

Oxfam , one of the UK 's biggest charities, has dominated the headlines in recent weeks following allegations its staff hired prostitutes while working overseas. Since then, the story has continued to develop, with the Charity Commission launching a statutory inquiry - the most serious action it can take. Among the male staff accused of sexual misconduct is Oxfam 's then-director of operations in Haiti, Roland Van Hauwermeiren. He is alleged to have used prostitutes at a villa rented for him by the charity. In a statement, Oxfam denies claims of a cover-up.

"All organisations bidding for UK aid must meet the high standards of safeguarding required to keep the people they work with safe," a spokesman said.

The recent reports "call into question" Oxfam's ability to meet those standards, he added.

Oxfam said its suspensions of the two members of staff showed "our commitment to tackle abuses of power".

'Another blow for Oxfam's reputation'

  UK halts Oxfam funding over new misconduct claims © BBC

The allegations of sexual exploitation by Oxfam staff in Haiti in 2018 lifted the lid on the dark underbelly of international aid charities.

The scandal and the reforms that followed were supposed to put an end to that.

But the latest allegations emerging from the Democratic Republic of Congo pose new questions about whether there has been enough change.

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Oxfam has agreed not to bid for any new funding from Britain's government until London is satisfied the charity meets sufficient ethical standards, development minister Penny Mordaunt said on Friday. The Times newspaper reported last week that some Oxfam staff had paid for sex with prostitutes in Haiti after the country's 2010 earthquake. Oxfam , one of the world's biggest disaster relief charities, said an internal investigation in 2011 confirmed sexual misconduct occurred, and has apologised.

It said this was over "allegations of abuses of power, including bullying and sexual misconduct ”. The allegations were made public weeks after the UK government said the charity was allowed to apply for public funds again after another scandal. The suspensions came after The Times ran a front-page story on Friday headlined: " Oxfam rocked by new sex claims against aid workers". It said it saw a letter about the situation in the DRC, signed by current and former Oxfam staff and sent to the charity heads in February, claiming "power abuses" and "threats to their lives" and making allegations against 11

Certainly, the Foreign Office does not think Oxfam yet meets the highest standards of safeguarding.

After three years in the cold, just a month after it was finally able to resume applications for UK aid, Oxfam is once again shunned by Whitehall.

Even if this is only a temporary pause in funding, the charity's reputation has suffered another blow.

A spokesman for the charity said it was keeping the Foreign Office and the Charity Commission informed about its investigation in the DRC and it was seeking further information about the ban.

Last week the charity revealed it had suspended the two workers in the DRC as part of an investigation set up in November. But the Times - which revealed the original scandal in 2018 - said whistleblowers were "frustrated" at the speed of the inquiry.

  • Oxfam suspends two staff in DRC amid abuse claims
  • How the Oxfam scandal unfolded
  • Oxfam criticised over Haiti sex claims

Current and former Oxfam staff made allegations of sexual exploitation, bullying, fraud and nepotism against 11 people in a letter send to the charity's leadership in February, the paper said.

Some of these complaints dated back to 2015.

After claims that staff sexually exploited survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake were revealed in 2018, the Charity Commission concluded Oxfam had a "culture of poor behaviour" and was issued with a warning over its "mismanagement".

With thousands of people cancelling their regular donations and the government suspending its funding of the charity, Oxfam had to make £16m of cuts.

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This is interesting!