Oxfam was too focused on what it does at the expense of how it does it, according to an interim report published yesterday by the Independent Commission.
The charity said it was committed to raising its standards. Oxfam convened the commission last spring as part of a range or measures in the wake of revelations about sexual exploitation by Oxfam GB relief workers.
In its interim report, Listening to people – Rebuilding trust, the commission highlighted four areas for improvement
- Model Oxfam’s values, good behaviour, and commitment to safeguarding policies.
- Empower and enable staff, communities, and partners to act through stronger systems when they see sexual misconduct.
- Create space for staff to challenge bullying and negative power dynamic, and create positive space for better accountability.
- Invest in personal and team reflections on how to improve Oxfam’s culture and behaviour for personal and collective accountability.
It is separate from the Charity Commission’s ongoing statutory inquiry.
‘Crucial time for us’
Oxfam said it would act on the recommendations in the report.
Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International executive director, said: “We set up the Commission to ask the hard questions of our culture and practice. This is an important piece of work at a crucial time for us. We will use its emerging recommendations to bolster our ongoing improvements so that we truly have ‘zero tolerance’ to anyone who would abuse their power over others.”
“It is painfully clear that Oxfam is not immune from sexual and other forms of abuse that stem from the abuse of power. To those who have experiences such unacceptable behaviour: we are sorry, I am sorry, and we will follow up on any cases passed to us by the Commission as a matter of urgency,” she said.
“As a global organisation that campaigns to improve the lives of women around the world, we are determined to be accountable to ourselves and to others for the highest standards. The vast majority of our work is done with respect and in safety and delivered with great impact for people living in poverty, but we know we still need to do much more to improve ourselves.”
In its response to the release of the interim report Oxfam gave examples of how it been working towards completing these action points in its latest quarterly report.
These include the fact that Oxfam has increased the number of staff safeguarding experts across its confederation, committing to triple the amount it spends on its gender justice programming from 5.3 per cent of its budget to 15 per cent and a new ‘Safe Programming’ guide to “ensure all Oxfam’s humanitarian responses are run in a way that minimizes the likelihood of safeguarding incidents happening”.
Regarding the latest progress report Byanyima said: “This [latest report] contains much about the added investments we are making in new collective safeguarding policies, in training, in new staff and stronger procedures, and in honest examination of our culture.
“I think that Oxfam must continue to be open about our own failings and determined to change our own culture and practices, and if by doing that we can help others along the way, the difficult changes we are making of ourselves will be doubly worth it.”
In the interim report by the Commission it states that they will continue to build the evidence base to support and finalise its recommendations, releasing the final report in May 2019.