Oxfam orders investigation into sexual misconduct claims, pledges 'justice'

Haiti was devastated by the quake in 2010 that killed more than 220,000 people
Haiti was devastated by the quake in 2010 that killed more than 220,000 peopleCHRISTIAN ALS PANOS

18 February, 2018

Oxfam will double the number of staff engaged in safeguarding and triple its funding in this area to more than $1 million (800,000 euros), while also increasing investment in gender training. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has resigned from his role as Oxfam ambassador, and Oxfam deputy chief executive Penny Lawrence resigned early this week.

"We are going to create a vetting system", Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, told the BBC.

She urged victims to come forward, saying she was "here for all the women who have been abused".

In a statement, the British-based aid group said, "We are committed to proving that we deserve the confidence of the United Kingdom public".

Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima said earlier that she is appointing an independent commission to investigate the allegations that staff members used prostitutes in Haiti after the country's 2010 natural disaster, and also in Chad.

Mr Van Hauwermeiren, who left Oxfam in 2011 amid a sexual misconduct inquiry, has denied hiring prostitutes but said he had "intimate relations" with a woman who was "not a prostitute".

She said ministers "reserve the right to take whatever decisions about present or future funding to Oxfam, and any other organisation, that we deem necessary".

"I think that these people should be considered persona non grata", she said of the charity, which spent $15 million on its operations in the country a year ago and employs 248 staff. "And I did not give her any money", he said, adding that he was however "deeply ashamed" of the liaison.

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Van Hauwermeiren was moved to Haiti in the wake of the 2010 natural disaster.

The British charity has faced criticism over the way it handled claims staff hired prostitutes in Haiti in 2011.

'That they report staff members involved in this incident to their respective national governments; and that they fully cooperate with the Haitian authorities, including handing over all evidence they hold.

The charity admitted Thursday it rehired one of those sacked in Haiti just months later and is now checking whether any complaints were subsequently made.

No staff employed by Oxfam Ireland were involved in the case, the Irish branch has confirmed.

Oxfam carried out its own internal investigation in 2011, which led to four employees being fired and three others being allowed to resign, including country chief Roland van Hauwermeiren.

"We need to make sure anyone guilty of such gross misconduct is not able to move between different organisations, exposing more vulnerable people to risk", said Byanyima.

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