Oxfam is well placed to expand upon the improvements it is making to its safeguarding systems and working culture, says new International Associate Director of Safeguarding, Victoria McDonough. Oxfam publishes the fifth quarterly report of its Feb 2018 Ten-Point Plan in response to the Haiti sexual misconduct scandal.
“Oxfam has made solid improvements over the past 18 months. We’ve laid the groundwork to create an environment that is much safer and more empowering for all our staff and stakeholders, guided now by the blueprint that the Independent Commission helpfully gave us in June,” Ms McDonough said.
Oxfam has accepted all the recommendations from both the Independent Commission and the UK Charity Commission, which also published their findings in June. Oxfam is now reforming its own Ten-Point Plan as a result of these reports. The Charity Commission, meanwhile, has approved Oxfam Great Britain’s action plan.
- In June, Oxfam passed the Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative (HQAI) Certification Process after an independent audit, including interviews with 225 people, into its humanitarian programs in Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Uganda;
- Oxfam has begun piloting new ways to encourage witnesses and survivors of abuse to come forward in trust and safety, including via mobile phones and tablets. It is doing fresh research in three countries to uncover more about what helps or hinders survivors of abuse to report it;
- Oxfam has shared with other agencies its well-regarded ‘Sani Tweaks’ communications tool, which will help humanitarian workers promote safety for women and girls by building more secure latrines that have been co-designed by Oxfam experts with local women;
- Oxfam is working on safeguarding improvements across the sector, including with InterAction in the US, the Australian Council for International Development, the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, in Holland with the Dutch Red Cross, in NGO networks in Germany (VENRO), Spain (CONGDE), Denmark (Global Fokus), Mexico, the UK, and in most of its country programs including as reported now in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Mozambique, DRC, Uganda and throughout Latin America and Asia.
Ms McDonough notes that the hard work Oxfam has already accomplished under its Ten-Point Plan since Feb 2018 will stand it in good stead to deliver against the Commission’s most significant findings. For instance, immediately following the Independent Commission’s report, Oxfam announced a new Global Integrity Fund to help strengthen safeguarding in local civil society organisations and since then has hired a new role of International Culture Lead.
The Independent Commission said that Oxfam should standardise its safeguarding work because its different affiliates were working in ways that were inconsistent with one another.
“We can show here that we’ve put in a lot of work into achieving common standards,” Ms McDonough said.
“Oxfam now has a Global Safeguarding Network that has standard policies for case reporting, protection against sexual exploitation and abuse, child safeguarding, safe recruitments and performance management. We’re finalising two other common policies now, on survivor support and case management.”
In addition, all of Oxfam’s humanitarian programs are now being uniformly re-assessed to identify and mitigate areas of risk specifically around gender-based violence.
The Independent Commission also said Oxfam had more to do to make sure feminist principles were inherent in all its work.
“Again, this was an incredibly helpful critique and we’re focusing hard on this,” Ms McDonough said.
“Oxfam’s entire new Strategic Plan will be guided by feminist leadership and we’re investing in long-term development programs that are focused on women’s security, safety, justice and economic empowerment, most of them in partnership with local women’s rights organisations around the world.
“The Independent Commission said Oxfam had the potential to be a voice of leadership in the sector. We are determined to realise this promise and, in order to do that, we need to work hard on all of its recommendations. I am reminding everyone here ‘it’s a long journey’ and that, perhaps, we’re now at the end of the beginning of our rebuilding – but there’s much more hard work to do.”
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