Oxfam publishes second progress report for “ten-point action plan” to improve safeguarding
October 23, 2018
- Policies and procedures to guide expectations of people’s behaviour and how safeguarding is prevented and managed. It will be how people act, behave and treat each other – our culture – which will ensure the people who work with us and for us ensure unacceptable behaviours are called out, that people feel safe to report their concerns and trust that Oxfam will support them.
- More staff now trained in safeguarding investigation and in implementing stronger practices, as part of $4.5 million investment.
- Independent Commission set up by Oxfam forms “Survivor Reference Group”, launches website and plans community outreach in 10 countries, along with initial public report due November.
- Every Oxfam country program now has at least one trained staff member as a “Focal Safeguarding Point” for grievances, advice, and to promote awareness and prevention; 119 new investigators have received training and are ready to gain more experience alongside more experienced investigators.
- Oxfam discloses confederation-wide safeguarding data for six months, from 1 April 2018 until today, from a newly-established central database.
- Further improvements to ways that people can report concerns, including whistle-blowing hot-lines and a new single central system for all staff references.
Oxfam is finalizing and will soon be rolling out improved, uniform safeguarding systems and policies and new safeguarding staff across its global confederation, detailed in its second progress report published today.
Oxfam is introducing new policies across its confederation – including policies on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Child Safeguarding and Survivor Support. We are finalizing a single standard operating procedure for reporting on cases, including reporting to authorities and donors.
Oxfam continues to invest its increased $4.5 million safeguarding budget in more staff, including investigators and new ‘Safeguarding Focal Points’ roles in all Oxfam country offices who are being trained as the first point-of-contact to receive staff grievances. They offer advice and support to staff and help to raise awareness of and prevent sexual misconduct.
Oxfam International has contracted independent external investigators to review a number of past cases and make recommendations on improvements to Oxfam’s systems and processes that will feed into the Independent Commission’s final report.
Oxfam has sent a questionnaire to hundreds of local NGO partners via 67 Oxfam country teams on their understanding and capacity to manage misconduct, including questions on safeguarding. This will help us to assess our partners’ own safeguarding systems and begin to help strengthen them to meet the standards survivors will need as well as those required by donors and relevant authorities. Various Oxfam affiliates have set up ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct including through counselling, psychosocial support and health care.
All Oxfam affiliates, including their chief executives, are now active in many initiatives to improve safeguarding, working will colleagues across the sector. These are all part of further improvements described in more detail in Oxfam’s latest Progress Report.
“In February this year, Oxfam promised to improve its safeguarding systems and – day-by-day – we are doing so, but we realize we are on a long road to get where we need to be,” said Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International’s Executive Director. “We will continue to build upon our improvements and to keep accepting critical advice, openly and humbly, to make Oxfam a safer place for all.”
In its first disclosure of Oxfam-wide safeguarding data, in the six months since April 1, 2018 Oxfam has closed seven safeguarding cases:
- There were no cases of sexual abuse.
- Of the seven cases, five occurred in the headquarters of Oxfam affiliates and two in country programs.
- One was a case of sexual exploitation within a country program that led to the dismissal of the perpetrator, a member of Oxfam staff. The survivor was a member of the local community.
- Two were cases of sexual harassment, which occurred in an Oxfam affiliate HQ. One, involving an Oxfam staff member, did not proceed on the complainant’s wishes. The second was upheld and we dismissed an external contractor.
- Four cases involved inappropriate conduct (such as bullying or inappropriate language). Three cases took place in HQs of Oxfam affiliates and involved volunteers – one of whom was dismissed, one given disciplinary action and the third was given non-disciplinary action (training). One occurred in a Country Team, involving volunteers that led to non-disciplinary action (training).
In addition, Oxfam continued to investigate 60 safeguarding cases in the period April 1, 2018 and September 20, 2018. Oxfam will disclose further information on these open cases in its next case data transparency report due in April 2019 after they have been closed and acted upon, including those cases which are closed due to the survivor not wanting to proceed or the case not being proven.
“Oxfam continues to appeal to people who have been hurt to come forward and it is positive that many have done so. This is reflected in the number of open cases we are still investigating. Our safeguarding teams are working hard to properly investigate and resolve them all – but we need to be faster in closing investigations, which is why we are increasing our safeguarding resources and improving our safeguarding processes,” Byanyima said.
In addition to Oxfam International's safeguarding policies rolled out worldwide, Oxfam Canada has been working internally and across the sector to continue to strengthen our safeguarding practices. The highlights of work done in the past eight months include:
- The creation of a safeguarding committee to assess the safeguarding abilities of Oxfam Canada.
- All staff participation in the Oxfam Code of Conduct training.
- Creation of a hotline and email for Misconduct by Oxfam Canada staff to confidentially be reported.
Furthermore, Oxfam Canada’s executive director, Julie Delahanty has been active across the sector and the Oxfam confederation to strengthen safeguarding practices. Her initiative includes:
- Sitting on Oxfam International’s global safeguarding Task Force committee.
- Acting as co-chair of the Steering Committee to Prevent and Address Sexual Misconduct, alongside 11 other NGO leaders in Canada. The committee was initiated by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) and in September issued a joint statement and leaders’ pledge.
- Working with CCIC and Global Affairs Canada staff to develop a half-day consultation/dialogue with Global Affairs Canada which took place at the end of September.
- Attending the International Summit on Safeguarding on behalf of Canadian civil society organizations at the invitation of the Canadian government.