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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Oxfam to withdraw from UK government funding bids, announces commission on sexual exploitation

The announcement came shortly after the charity announced a high-level independent investigation into the issue

Britain's International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has organised a summit to tackle sexual exploitation in the aid sector. Nick Ansell/ AP
Britain's International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has organised a summit to tackle sexual exploitation in the aid sector. Nick Ansell/ AP

Oxfam is to stop bidding for UK government funding, following a wave of allegations regarding sexual exploitation by charity staff.

In a statement, UK Minister for International Development Penny Mordaunt said "Oxfam has agreed to withdraw from bidding for any new UK Government funding until DFID [Department for International Development] is satisfied that they can meet the high standards we expect of our partners".

"My priority is to deliver for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, while keeping people safe from harm. We want to ensure that programmes we are already financially committed to are being delivered appropriately by Oxfam or any other DFID partner.

“We have asked for assurances from all our charitable partners regarding their safeguarding and reporting practices by 26 February, including Oxfam. At that stage we will make further decisions about continuing or amending how those programmes are delivered. Our primary guiding principle in this will be the welfare of the beneficiaries of UK aid.

“The UK Government reserves the right to take whatever decisions about present or future funding to Oxfam, and any other organisation, that we deem necessary. We have been very clear that we will not work with any organisation that does not live up to the high standards on safeguarding and protection that we require.

Last year, the charity received £31.7 million in funding from the Department for International Development, less than one quarter of a percent of the UK’s foreign aid budget.

The announcement came as the charity’s executive director promised justice for the victims of exploitation as she admitted she could not guarantee there were no further sexual offenders currently employed by the charity.

Speaking in an interview with the BBC, Winnie Byanyima said “My message to women who have suffered: I'm fighting this abuse. I'm with you. We are going to do justice.”

"Oxfam will be a standard bearer of safety and dignity for all who interact with us.

"There is no way this organisation can die. The world needs it.

"I have two priorities now," she said.

"One is to make sure that the work we do as Oxfam - of saving lives and reaching vulnerable people - continues, because it is vital.

"My second is to root out sexual misconduct from our organisation."

The charity also announced it was setting up an independent high-level commission to investigate the culture that allowed sexual exploitation to take place, and that they were tripling their safeguarding budget.

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Read more:

Oxfam scandal: Disgraced former Haiti director slams 'exaggerations and lies'

Charities have a duty to act with moral leadership

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Haiti's president said on Friday that sexual misconduct by Oxfam staff was only the tip of an "iceberg" and called for investigations into Doctors Without Borders and other aid organisations which came to the country after its 2010 earthquake.

"It is not only Oxfam, there are other NGOs in the same situation, but they hide the information internally," President Jovenel Moise told Reuters.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu announced he was resigning as an ambassador for the charity. The pillar of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement said he was “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 statement added.

Mr Tutu’s resignation followed that of actress Minnie Driver, who stepped down as an ambassador for the charity earlier this week.

Oxfam has been in crisis since a spate of allegations over its staff’s use of prostitutes in Haiti and Chad were unearthed last week.