Oxfam appoints independent commission to review its safeguarding 

16 Mar 2018 News

Oxfam has announced two senior figures who will co-chair an independent review of the charity’s culture and safeguarding system. 

Zainab Bangura, a former under-secretary general of the United Nations, and Katherine Sierra, a former vice president of the World Bank, both have experience of safeguarding issues and will co-chair a commission that includes five other experts.

The charity said the commission would look at all aspects of culture, policy and practices relating to safeguarding and the findings will be made public within 12 months. 

It was one of a number of measures announced by Oxfam in the wake of revelations about its handling of safeguarding issues. 

Sierra said: “I have undertaken to help lead this independent commission because it is essential to understand what went wrong in the past, whether or not actions taken by Oxfam since 2011 have been effective in reducing the risk of such incidents, and what more they can do now to minimise the chance of such things happening again and to ensure that any incidents that do occur are responded to appropriately, including in terms of the support provided to victims and survivors. I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners to identify the challenging and crucial lessons, both for Oxfam and the wider humanitarian and development sectors.”

Full list of commissioners: 

  1. Zainab Bangura, former special representative of the UN secretary-general on sexual violence in conflict and former minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation for Sierra Leone
  2. Katherine Sierra, former vice president for human resources and sustainable development at the World Bank where she co-led the global task force to tackle gender-based violence
  3. Aya Chebbi, co-founder of the Voice of Women Initiative and founding chair of Afrika Youth Movement
  4. James Cottrell, former global chief ethics officer and chief sustainability and corporate responsibility officer at Deloitte US
  5. Musimbi Kanyoro, president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women
  6. Birgitta Ohlsson, MP and former minister for European Union affairs in Sweden
  7. Katharina Samara-Wickrama, director of the Issues Affecting Women Programme (IAWP) at the Oak Foundation

New standards 

Oxfam also announced today that it had introduced new standards for staff references to help prevent staff who have been found guilty of misconduct from finding work in the sector. 

This includes the introduction of accredited referees, so that former employees cannot falsify references by asking a friend to provide them, as well as an agreed standard format for references that will ensure that cases of gross misconduct are spelt out. 

Oxfam has also tripled its safeguarding budget to £720,000 and has launched a new independent whistleblowing helpline. 

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, said: "Preventing and tackling sexual abuse is as important to me as saving lives when disasters hit. We’ve got better at it since 2011, but we know there’s a lot more we can and must do – the commission will help us do that. 
 
“Today’s announcement is about turning words into actions and delivering on our commitment to protect staff, volunteers and the people we help around the world from those who do not share our values.
 
“From today, any employee found guilty of gross misconduct will find it much harder to hold a similar position in the future. The additional resources and external whistleblowing line will make it easier for allegations to be reported and acted upon swiftly.”

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