Sexual misconduct ruins NGOs: Red Cross, Plan International after Oxfam

Sexual misconduct ruins NGOs: Red Cross, Plan International after Oxfam
26-02-2018 | By Karegeya Jean Baptiste | Hit 355 | Comment

Red Cross admits 21 staff paid for sexual services, while children’s aid charity Plan International confirms six cases of sex abuse and exploitation in wake of the Oxfam scandal. In one year period there were nine cases of sexual harassment by Plan International’s staff. In a while Justin Forsyth, a senior British Unicef official, resigned after admitting that the allegations of inappropriate behaviour against him when he ran Save the Children UK risked damaging aid for Unicef.

ICRC, ’This behaviour is a betrayal’

’This behaviour is a betrayal of the people and the communities we are there to serve. It is against human dignity and we should have been more vigilant in preventing this’, ICRC boss.

According to British media (The Telegraph, The London Times, Daily Mail, ect.), sexual scandals in NGOs become more aggressive. In the latest series of admissions following the Oxfam scandal a fortnight ago, more than 20 workers at the International Committee of the Red Cross were sacked or quit following cases of sexual misconduct, since 2015.

A further two staff workers suspected of sexual misconduct did not have their contracts renewed.

In a statement to staff, ICRC director-general Yves Daccord said: ’I have instructed my teams to scour the data we do have on sexual misconduct, and I can tell you that since 2015 we’ve identified 21 staff members who were either dismissed for paying for sexual services or resigned during an internal enquiry.
“I am committed to fostering an ICRC culture that encourages staff to prevent, detect and report misconduct. All allegations are investigated. People must feel safe and empowered to raise concerns, and we have encouraged staff to make use of a dedicated, confidential email address.

“It is so important that the silence that has surrounded this issue has been shattered. This is a watershed moment for the humanitarian sector as a whole. We owe it to the people we serve to behave with absolute integrity.”

’Another two staff members suspected of sexual misconduct did not have their contracts renewed. I am deeply saddened to report these numbers.

’This behaviour is a betrayal of the people and the communities we are there to serve. It is against human dignity and we should have been more vigilant in preventing this.

’The ICRC has more than 17,000 staff members worldwide. We are concerned that incidents that should be reported have not yet been reported, or were reported but not properly handled. We are taking action to address this.’

No organization is immune from abuses of power

Plan International said five of the cases were reported to authorities in the countries involved. The staff member was dismissed without a reference and contracts of associates were terminated.

’Five out of the total 6 cases were of a criminal nature in the local contexts and were reported to the local authorities. In all cases we linked victims and families with local support networks including but not limited to medical and psychosocial support.’

Seven staff members were fired dismissals while two others, whose misconducted amounted to the use of inappropriate language, were given a warning.

The charity said all incidents involved adults following the admission prompted by a Daily Telegraph report.

They said in a statement: ’Sadly no organisation, including Plan International, is immune from abuses of power.

The charity added that it would: ’Strengthen the safeguards we have in place and introduce new systems and procedures to weed out sexual abuse and exploitation.’

OXFAM suspended in Haiti, while losing 7000 partners

Plan International and Red Cross are the latest organisations to admit to misconduct among workers, following the outcry sparked by the Oxfam sex scandal.
The admission comes a day after it was announced Oxfam Great Britain has been suspended in Haiti pending investigation into how the charity handled the case of former staff paying for sex.

On Thursday, Oxfam GB said: ’The government of Haiti announced today that it will suspend Oxfam Great Britain’s operation in the country for two months, while it investigates how Oxfam GB handled the case of former staff having paid for sex during the agency’s humanitarian response in 2011.’

Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, told Reuters last Friday that Oxfam was just “the visible part of the iceberg” and that a much broader investigation into aid organizations in the country was needed.

Saying it was “shocked at the highest level,” the government of Haiti has suspended the aid group Oxfam Great Britain for two months while it investigates allegations of sexual misconduct by charity employees in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake.

The Haitian minister of planning and external cooperation, Aviol Fleurant, said officials were looking into the incidents and trying to determine whether any of the women were underage.

Mr. Fleurant told Reuters that if investigators establish a link between donations to Oxfam meant for Haiti and criminal activity, officials will “declare Oxfam Great Britain persona non grata, and they would have to leave the country without further delay.”

Oxfam’s reputation has suffered hugely after The Times newspaper alleged it had concealed findings from an inquiry into the behaviour of several staff members.

The two-month suspension comes after charity chiefs revealed Oxfam has received 26 allegations of misconduct since the Haiti sex scandal erupted two weeks ago.

The allegations involved 54 victims, 30 women and 16 girls with the age of eighteen others unknown, including by the former Oxfam country director, the Belgian Roland Van Hauwermeiren.

He denies however a reception he hosted in Haiti amounted to a sex party, although Mikelange Gabo, a Haitian woman, confirmed she had sex with him, when she was 17.

Breaking his silence on the scandal for the first time, Mr van Hauwermeiren admitted certain details that had come to light were accurate.

He told Belgian newspaper De Standaard: "A lot of people, including in the international media, will be blushing with shame when they hear my version of the facts.
"It is not that I deny everything. There are things that are described correctly. But there are many lies and exaggerations.
"Parties every week? Fancy villas? Women paid with money from the organisation?"

He indicated the revelations had taken a personal toll, telling the paper: "It is especially bad that my family no longer want to see me."

Resignations of partners

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said the charity had agreed not to bid for more cash until it can meet the “high standards” she has set it.

The charity’s staff have been accused of using prostitutes after the Haiti earthquake in 2010, staging orgies in a rented complex known as the Pink House.

In Britain, the government has begun an investigation and halted funding to Oxfam, one of the country’s largest charities.

The group’s deputy chief executive stepped down after revelations that Oxfam workers in Chad had engaged in similar behavior in 2006, under the same Oxfam country director who was in charge in Haiti years later.

Ms Mordaunt has demanded that Oxfam makes clear how it will handle any further allegations. She also said it must report staff members involved to their national governments and co-operate fully with Haitian authorities.
Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima admitted bosses had no idea how many sex predators they employed. She said: “We have a problem, I have apologised and we are going to root it out.”

Desmund Tutu has quit his role as an ambassador for Oxfam after the charity was engulfed in a sex scandal, saying he is “deeply disappointed” in the organisation.

And Mr Tutu said he had decided to leave Oxfam after allegations of "immorality and possible criminality”.

A statement by his office said: "Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has supported Oxfam International’s good work for many years, most recently as one of its global ambassadors.

"The Archbishop is deeply disappointed by allegations of immorality and possible criminality involving humanitarian workers linked to the charity.

"He is also saddened by the impact of the allegations on the many thousands of good people who have supported Oxfam’s righteous work."

The high-profile resignation, which followed Minnie Driver also quitting the charity, comes as the former Oxfam chief at the heart of the scandal dismissed allegations that he threw parties with prostitutes as "lies and exaggerations".

Meanwhile Stephen Fry has also distanced himself from the charity and a spokesman foe the comedian said he is “waiting to see how they put their house in order after the terrible and disturbing scandal”.

Oxfam’s deputy chief executive Penny Lawrence resigned in the wake of the allegations, the non-profit announced on February 12.

Before parliament

Oxfam GB chief executive Mark Goldring revealed the figures as he was questioned by MPs on the International Development Select Committee. During a session that lasted almost two hours, Mr Goldring was one of three senior Oxfam bosses who repeatedly apologised to MPs for how the charity handled an internal investigation into the use of prostitutes by staff in Haiti.

Most recently in the developing scandal, Oxfam has lost 7,000 of its regular donors, The Guardianreports. Oxfam’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, confirmed this information in a speech to members of Parliament. "About 7,000 individuals have cancelled a regular donation in the last 10 days."

Goldring apologized, saying, "I am sorry, we are sorry, for the damage Oxfam has done both to the people of Haiti but also to wider efforts for aid and development by possibly undermining public support."

The scandal broke out earlier this month when London-based publication The Times reported on sex abuse allegations against employees and volunteers of major U.K. charities, including Oxfam.

The publication also noted that over 120 workers at major British charities (including Oxfam) were accused of sexual assault in 2017.

Oxfam officials reported that some of the employees implicated in the Haiti scandal had tried to intimidate witnesses into silence

Four staff were fired for gross misconduct and three others resigned, including then country director Roland Van Hauwermeiren.

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, told the committee: "Some hideous men came into our organisation and abused the trust of the British people, the supporters.

"But they were able to get away, to get a recommendation to leave. This was wrong."

Save The Children chief executive Kevin Watkins was also questioned by MPs and said the organisation had 193 "child safeguarding challenges" in 2016, the latest figures he had.

Stressing that the figures were "tentative", he said that 53 of those were taken to full investigation, 20 of those files were handed to police and 11 people were fired.

"The difficult thing to know in these circumstances is whether you’re catching the tip of the iceberg or the iceberg itself," he added.

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