Oxfam redoubling efforts to strengthen safeguarding and culture in face of COVID-19
Oxfam has continued its journey in changing its culture and improving its safeguarding of staff and the people with whom we work. In its latest report (Oct 2019-Mar 2020), Oxfam notes that the COVID-19 crisis risks diverting people’s attention away from these important issues, so it has re-doubled efforts to keep its improvement plan on track while adapting its entire operations to respond as safely as possible to the pandemic.
Lockdowns and social restrictions are creating extreme and fearful environments all around the world. The risk of sexual abuse has increased substantially while survivors are facing more difficulties now in reporting it. Oxfam has introduced new safeguarding tools for staff and partners including collaborating with other organizations to deliver best practice in these unique circumstances, all as part of its commitment to ‘zero tolerance to inaction’.
Oxfam has had to adapt quickly as it mounts its own planned $152.5 million (CAD) COVID-19 response that has so far reached more than four million people living in poverty, including by creating new online trainings that are specific to the pandemic, particularly on reporting, investigating and case management. It is also helping to author a sector-wide briefing to inform management and donors about how exactly the crisis is changing the way investigations need to be run.
In addition, Oxfam now has:
- 37 trainers and new tools for its ‘Safe Programming Strategy’ which is a holistic way that Oxfam is developing all its programs by the principle of ‘do no harm’.
- Published research from Myanmar, Iraq and Ghana that analyzed the barriers against people reporting sexual misconduct and revealed new designs of community-led feedback, specific to local contexts.
- New online ‘Care Conversations’ between staff supporting each other during the crisis, and a pilot program to help Oxfam managers to navigate culture change.
- New behavioural feedback to senior managers on issues critical to engender culture change across the confederation.
- 33 safeguarding experts that are shared across its global confederation and 182 staff who work as focal points throughout its program countries, all fully trained in 2019.
- Developed a single Global Case Management System that will give better analysis and oversight across its confederation. This will be in full operation by June 2020.
- Stronger new policies and guides on Protection of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, child/youth safeguarding, reporting, digital, minimum standards, case management.
- Some affiliates implementing other new policies including on survivor support, which will inform a single common policy for the confederation.
- More help in improving inter-agency coordination mechanisms around the world.
Oxfam is also committed to disclose its six, monthly safeguarding data in these reports. In the period from Oct 2019 to Mar 2020, Oxfam received 55 new allegations involving safeguarding complaints and had 66 cases open from the previous period. Of these 121 cases, it closed out 98 after investigation and action. Oxfam investigations upheld 52 of these cases, of which 25 resulted in dismissals. Where appropriate Oxfam reports cases to local authorities, donors and regulators and records findings on personnel files and in references. A breakdown of closed cases can be found here.
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