Individual donors desert Oxfam following scandal

 

Andrew Milner

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According to Oxfam CEO, Mark Goldring, 7,094 direct debits from donors have been cancelled in the wake of revelations over the sexual misconduct of some of its staff in the field.

Goldring told an emergency meeting of the UK government’s International Development Committee that 26 claims of sexual misconduct had been made since the scandal broke.

He said there was now a safeguarding team and helpline at Oxfam and the charity was seeking more independent support.

Details of an internal report compiled by Oxfam in 2011 on the case which is at the centre of the storm, including the use of prostitutes by Oxfam staff in Haiti, were also made public this week.

They revealed that three of the men accused of sexual misconduct physically threatened witnesses during an investigation.

The news is a severe blow to the public image of one of the world’s leading organisation and will cause much soul-searching among other, similar aid organisations.

However, it’s too early to estimate the long term impact on Oxfam. The loss of direct debits are significant, but to put it in perspective, it is apparently only about 3.5 per cent of the total number of direct debit donations Oxfam receives; nor are many suggesting that this kind of abuse is endemic to the INGO approach to aid.

However, the scandal is certain to raise questions about how aid organisations use the influence which their prestige and resources give them, especially when dealing with the very vulnerable.

One commentator in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, for instance, claims that a ‘toxic and exploitative mentality is highly visible’ among aid agencies – at a time when more direct methods of international assistance are available and calls for the use of more locally-based and locally-owned development organisations are growing louder.

Andrew Milner is associate editor of Alliance.


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