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Policies and
Codes of

Oxfam Canada’s commitments include its adherence to a number of external standards, codes and charters, as well as key internal policies that frame our commitment to good governance, financial management, program delivery, fundraising, communications, volunteer engagement and human resources.

If you are aware of instances of Oxfam staff not abiding by our codes of conduct or policies, we encourage you to report misconduct here.

Internal Policies


This policy applies globally to all Oxfam Employees and Related Personnel, both during and outside normal working hours; including Oxfam International, Affiliate HQs, Regional platforms and Country programs. Except in countries where the following policy contravenes local legislation, in these cases, local legislation must be followed with guidance from the Affiliate Safeguarding Team and the Head of HR. Oxfam policy will apply in the event that it is more stringent than local legislation.

This policy sets out Oxfam’s approach to preventing and addressing sexual harassment and sexual exploitation and abuse. This includes:
-Our commitments to prevent SHEA and to ensure effective action is taken when problems occur;
-Principles upon which we will base our decision making and actions;
-Our expectations of all those who work on behalf of Oxfam.


Oxfam has a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. At Oxfam, we believe all people have a right to live their lives free from sexual violence and any abuse of power regardless of age, gender, sexuality, sexual orientation, disability, religion or ethnic origin. We recognize that there are unequal power dynamics across the organization and in relation to those we serve, and that we face risk of some people exploiting their position of power for personal gain. Oxfam will not tolerate its employees, volunteers, consultants, partners or any other representative associated with the delivery of its work carrying out any form of sexual harassment, sexual exploitation or sexual abuse. Oxfam commits to supporting survivors, improving safeguarding capacity, reporting, investigating, responding to, and preventing sexual harassment and sexual exploitation and abuse.

Affiliate Safeguarding (SG) Leads and Teams will use this Policy in conjunction with relevant employment/labour laws, duty of care and relevant criminal laws to make decisions about how to respond to any complaints and concerns raised. For further advice, please contact your affiliate’s SG Lead (see Annex 2 for Affiliate specific channels) or local SG Focal point.

Note: This policy is named in line with the internationally used and recognized term ‘PSEA’; however, it covers sexual harassment as well as sexual exploitation and abuse (SHEA). This policy does not form part of an employees' terms and conditions of employment and may be subject to change at the discretion of management. Other related policies include One Oxfam Code of Conduct (2017), One Oxfam Survivor Support Policy and One Oxfam Child Safeguarding Policy.


Oxfam is committed to achieving full, ongoing implementation of the Six Core Principles relating to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Working Group on Prevention and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.

3.1 Oxfam’s Core Principles on PSEA

  • Sexual exploitation and abuse by Oxfam Employees and Related Personnel constitute acts of gross misconduct and are, therefore, grounds for termination of employment or contract/agreement. Sexual harassment by Oxfam Employees and Related Personnel is grounds for disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.
  • Sexual activity with children (persons under the age of 18) is prohibited regardless of the age of the majority or age of consent locally. Mistaken belief in the age of the child is not a defense.
  • Exchange of money, employment, goods, or services for sex, including sexual favours or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behaviour by Oxfam Employees and Related Personnel is prohibited at all times.3 This includes buying sex or the exchange of assistance that is due to programme participants.
  • Sexual relationships between Oxfam Employees or Related Personnel and beneficiaries are forbidden. Given the contexts where Oxfam operates, such relationships may be based on inherently unequal power dynamics and may undermine the credibility and integrity of Oxfam’s relief and development work. Oxfam Employees and Related Personnel must declare any previously existing relationships with beneficiaries to their line managers or HR focal point.
  • Where an Oxfam Employee or Related Personnel develops concerns or suspicions regarding sexual abuse or exploitation or sexual harassment by a fellow worker, whether in Oxfam or not, he or she must immediately report such concerns via the established reporting mechanisms (see Section 5).
  • Oxfam Employees and Related Personnel are obliged to create and maintain an environment that prevents sexual exploitation and abuse and child abuse and promotes the implementation of this Policy. Oxfam Managers at all levels have particular responsibilities to support and develop systems, which maintain this environment.

3.2 Oxfam’s Commitments

Oxfam is dedicated to fulfilling the following commitments to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment as highlighted in the six Core Principles above.

  • Safe Organizational Culture: Oxfam will make every effort to create and maintain a safe organizational culture for all those who work for and with Oxfam, as well as those in the communities where Oxfam operates through robust prevention and response work, offering support to survivors, and holding those responsible for sexual harassment, exploitation or abuse to account.
  • Reporting SHEA:
    • Ensure that we have multiple channels for Oxfam Employees, Related Personnel, beneficiaries, and others to safely report sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment. These channels should be designed in consultation with local communities and staff to ensure that they are safe and accessible.
    • Ensure that everyone who works on behalf of Oxfam and those we serve have information about how to access these safe reporting channels. This should include posting reporting procedures in local languages and regularly explaining these channels.
    • Provide training and information to all Oxfam Employees and Related Personnel, particularly focal points for receiving complaints, to ensure they understand their obligations and how to discharge their duties should they receive a complaint. A particular emphasis should be made on confidentiality.
  • Responding to SHEA Reports: Oxfam will respond in a professional and timely manner to all concerns or allegations of sexual harassment, exploitation or abuse. All concerns or allegations will always be taken seriously, and investigated and acted upon where appropriate, in line with our safeguarding principles listed below.
    • Robust and accountable case management: All allegations of SHEA, and subsequent follow-up, will be documented in a secure and confidential database to ensure accountability. The report will be officially acknowledged within 24 hours, and a safeguarding team will convene a case conference to assess immediate risks and next steps within 72 hours.
    • Investigations: Oxfam will carry out independent, safe, and discreet investigations, through trained investigators working with Oxfam’s Safeguarding Teams, recognizing the rights of and duty of care to everyone involved, including the complainant and/or survivor, witnesses and the subject of complaint (SoC).
    • Accountable decision-making: Oxfam will take swift and appropriate action against Oxfam Employees and Related Personnel who are found to have committed SHEA. This may include administrative or disciplinary action, and/or referral to the relevant local authorities if appropriate and safe to do so. An independent and gender representative decision making panel will be assigned in every investigation to ensure impartiality, transparency, and accountability (e.g. for country cases the panel may include people from outside of country). The decision making process will be subject to scrutiny by relevant SG leads and/or advisors.
    • Survivor Support: Survivors of SHEA are entitled to specialised support services. Oxfam commits to refer survivors to competent support services as appropriate and available and according to the wants and the needs of the survivor. Support may include specialist psychosocial support such as counselling, medical assistance, legal counselling and access to Oxfam’s Employee Assistance Programmes (where available). Assistance will be made available regardless of whether a formal internal response is carried out (such as an internal investigation). For further details, please refer to One Oxfam Survivor Support Policy.
  • Embedding PSEA into Oxfam work
    • Safer Recruitment: In compliance with applicable laws, Oxfam is committed to prevent perpetrators of SHEA from being (re)hired or (re)deployed. Managers and Human Resource teams will ensure robust recruitment screening processes for all personnel, including employees, volunteers, consultants and other representatives. As part of this, all application forms, interviews and references must address Safeguarding and equality requirements and attitudes.
    • Partnership Agreements: Oxfam will ensure that, when engaging in partnerships, sub-grant or sub-recipient agreements, these agreements: (i) incorporate this Policy as an attachment; (ii) include the appropriate language requiring such contracting entities and individuals, and their employees and volunteers to abide by a Code of Conduct that is pursuant to the standards of this Policy; and (iii) expressly state that the failure of those entities or individuals, as appropriate, to take preventive measures against sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment, to investigate and report allegations thereof, or to take corrective actions when SHEA has occurred, shall constitute grounds for Oxfam to terminate such agreements.
    • Staff and partner training: Oxfam Employees and Related Personnel must receive as part of their induction trainings on PSEA and Safeguarding when they join Oxfam, including a briefing on Oxfam’s policies and values, the Code of Conduct, information about how to report concerns, and advice about where to seek further information about safeguarding and safer practices across the organization. Anyone working directly with beneficiaries on behalf of Oxfam must receive additional training on how to receive complaints and handle them in a safe and confidential manner.
    • Beneficiary Accountability: Oxfam commits to promoting accountability towards our beneficiaries and the communities where we work by: (i) being transparent about Oxfam programming, activities, and services beneficiaries are entitled to; (ii) raising awareness about Oxfam’s Code of Conduct, safeguarding policies, and reporting channels; (iii) actively seeking feedback from communities on Oxfam’s work, individual behaviours, and complaints; and (iv) presenting feedback to communities on what changes have been made resulting from community feedback – ideally by a senior Oxfam representative. The above steps should occur regularly throughout the lifecycle of the programme or activity.
    • Safe Programming: Oxfam Employees and Related Personnel are required to take proactive measures to avoid causing inadvertent harm to civilians, contribute to actively reduce existing threats and ensure programmes are conflict sensitive. This includes embedding good practice and SHEA prevention measures throughout the programme and project cycle, including project design, grant proposals, assessments, complaints and feedback mechanisms, and monitoring and evaluation.


  • All Oxfam Employees and Related-Personnel: Everyone who works on behalf of Oxfam is required to report any suspicions or incidences of SHEA of others (see section 5 below). Failure to report to a relevant person suspicion of SHEA relating to someone else is a breach of Oxfam’s policy, and could lead to disciplinary action being taken against employees and the termination of Oxfam’s relationship with non-employees. There is no obligation for an individual to report any incident that has happened to them.
  • Trustees and Directors: Oxfam Directors and Trustees, hold overall accountability for this policy and its implementation.
  • Oxfam Affiliate’s Executive Director: Each Oxfam Affiliate’s ED is responsible for the application of this policy within their own affiliate.
  • SG Focal Points: Provide support to prevent and respond to SHEA alongside their substantive roles. Raising awareness and promoting best practices by receiving concerns, supporting survivors and reporting concerns in a confidential manner within their Affiliate channel.
  • SG Leads/Advisors: Provide support to Focal Points, staff and programmes to prevent and respond to SHEA. Raising awareness, conducting training and promoting best practices, as well as receiving concerns, conducting referrals to specialized services and supporting investigations. SG Leads/SG Teams/Advisors and senior management should offer further support to help implement this policy.
  • Managers: Responsible for promoting awareness of this policy with people they manage and for supporting/developing systems that create and maintain a safe working environment. This also includes the responsibility for ensuring that all staff and Related Personnel receive regular PSEA trainings, with a particular emphasis on staff who are in direct contact with the people we serve. Managers should prioritize PSEA awareness raising for themselves and their divisions, individual departments or teams, and provide budget lines for some activities.
  • Program Teams: Consult with beneficiaries (in a safe, accessible, and culturally appropriate way), to ensure that beneficiaries and those working on behalf of Oxfam are familiar with Oxfam’s Code of Conduct, how to raise complaints and concerns, and that Oxfam will take action when this happens. Program Teams should also clearly explain what goods and/or services the beneficiaries are entitled to and how beneficiaries are selected.
  • Head of Employee Relations Global Shared Service: SG leads from affiliates and OI Associate Director SG & Culture are responsible for reviewing and updating this policy annually. This will be in line with legislative and organizational developments, feedback and lessons learned.


Oxfam Employees and Related Personnel have a responsibility to report any suspicion or concern of SHEA. Any individual can raise a concern/complaint to Oxfam about an incident they have experienced, witnessed, or heard about concerning an Oxfam staff member or partner (suppliers, partners, contractor, etc.) without fear of retribution. Oxfam Employees and Related Personnel must not investigate allegations or suspicions themselves.

5.1 Reporting Channels

Anyone (including Oxfam’s beneficiaries) can raise a concern or make a complaint to Oxfam about something they have experienced or witnessed without fear of retribution. You can do this verbally or in writing to your country team or Executing/Home Affiliate’s Safeguarding Focal Point, Safeguarding Team or using the whistleblowing helpline service. If your Employing Affiliate does not have a Safeguarding Team, a dedicated whistleblowing helpline or if you simply prefer, you can use Oxfam GB’s Whistleblowing Service which is available to all Oxfam Affiliates and country teams. Employees can also choose to raise concerns with their Line Manager or Human Resources team member.

5.2 Confidentiality

Complaints can be made anonymously. Every effort will be made to maintain confidentiality throughout the complaints process. Information that identifies individuals involved in a complaint will be limited to essential personnel and will not be shared further without obtaining the informed consent of those involved, except if someone’s life is at risk, a child is at risk, or as required by law in consultation with legal counsel and where safe to do so. Non-identifying information will be shared as per reporting requirements.

Staff involved in the complaints process will be made aware of the importance of maintaining confidentiality and may be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement. Employees who breach confidentiality may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment, and others who work with Oxfam may have their relationship with Oxfam terminated. In some cases, such breaches may constitute breaking the law.

5.3 Retaliation against Complainants, Survivors and Witnesses

Oxfam will take action against anyone, whether they are the subject of a complaint or not, who seek or carry out retaliatory action against complainants, survivors or other witnesses. Employees may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. Others who work with Oxfam may have their relationship with Oxfam terminated.

5.4 Complaints about Oxfam’s Partners

Where Oxfam receives a complaint about a partner organization, Oxfam will expect the partner to respond safely, quickly and appropriately. Oxfam will assist the partner to ascertain its reporting obligations.
Where appropriate, Oxfam will work with the partner to address the issue through an appropriate independent investigation. If the outcome is that abuse has occurred, ongoing work with the partner cannot involve the individual(s) concerned. If there is reason to believe that an allegation of abuse has been dealt with inappropriately by a partner, then they risk withdrawal of funding or ending the relationship (including networks and consortia).

5.5 Receiving Complaints about External Organizations/Bodies

Safeguarding complaints raised to Oxfam about other organizations/bodies should be referred to the affiliate safeguarding teams, who will report cases to the relevant organizations involved where safe to do so, as well as local PSEA working groups, networks, and/or the charity commission/police/donors where appropriate and safe to do so. Oxfam will not investigate cases related to other organizations, but does have an obligation to report.

If an employee, volunteer, partner, consultant or contractor suspects that misconduct has, or is about to occur, we encourage them to communicate their suspicions without fear of reprisal and in the knowledge that they will be protected from victimization and dismissal.

Safeguarding concerns and fraud/corruption related misconduct can be reported here:

All reports are confidential, and we will only share the details with the appropriate team members to progress your complaint. Reporters/survivors/complainants can choose to stay anonymous.


The purpose of this policy is to ensure that Oxfam Canada takes a proactive role in preventing all forms of harassment, sexual harassment, violence and discrimination in the organization.


Understanding and Identifying Harassment and Sexual Harassment

Abuse of authority occurs when a person uses authority unreasonably to interfere with an employee or the employee's job. It includes humiliation, intimidation, threats, and coercion. It does not include normal managerial activities, such as counselling, performance appraisals, and discipline, as long as these are not done in a discriminatory manner. It may include:

  • setting arbitrary or unreasonable workloads or deadlines
  • abuse of power by a superior in such matters as appraisal and promotion
  • aggressive behavior, physical or verbal

Any place or event related to employment refers to the fact that harassment, sexual harassment, violence and discrimination can take place in the workplace itself, or outside of the workplace in a situation that is in some way connected to work. Some examples of place or event of employment include but are not limited to: public events, volunteer engagements, off-site meetings, and any other event or place related to employment.

Bullying is behaviour directed either against an individual or a group of individuals that creates a threatening or intimidating environment undermining the confidence and self-esteem of the recipient(s). It could be an abuse or misuse of power that humiliates or injures the recipient(s), and can be physical or psychological behaviour or conduct. Bullying does not include one-off incidents where a normally calm person loses their temper in a stressful situation and as a result another person was offended.

Discrimination is an act, behaviour or practice which may be intentional or unintentional and that has the purpose or effect of imposing burdens, obligations, disadvantages, or preferences on a person, or class of persons related to any of the prohibited grounds contained in the Ontario Human Rights Code, which are not imposed on others. These include: age, ancestry, colour, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed, disability, family status, marital status, gender identity, gender expression, record of offences, sex and sexual orientation.

Domestic Violence is any use of physical, sexual force or psychological, actual or threatened, in an intimate relationship. Intimate relationship includes those between the opposite-sex and same sex partners. These relationships vary in duration and legal formality and include current and former dating, common law and married couples. Domestic violence may include a single act of abuse and may include physical harm to a worker at work, which, in this situation, is considered workplace violence.

Poisoned Work Environment is characterized by an activity or behaviour, not necessarily directed at anyone in particular, that creates a hostile or offensive workplace. Some examples of a poisoned work environment include but are not limited to: graffiti, sexual comments or behaviours, racial or religious insults or jokes, abusive language or behavior directed at co-workers and/or supervisors or management, and the display of pornographic or other offensive material.

Safeguarding is the term used to define “the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse” or PSEA as well as prevention of harassment, assault and abuse of a non-sexual nature, as used broadly by the Oxfam Confederation.

Sexual Abuse is the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. Some examples of sexual abuse include but are not limited to: sexual assault, attempted rape, rape, sexual activity with a minor and accessing or having child pornography.

Sexual Exploitation is any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another. Some examples of sexual exploitation include but are not limited to: paying for sex, exchanging/demanding goods for sex, exchanging/demanding services or access to services for sex, exchanging/demanding employment for sex.

Sexual Harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favour, verbal or physical conduct or gesture of a sexual nature, or any other behaviour of a sexual nature that might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another, when such conduct interferes with work, is made a condition of employment or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment often occurs, but is not limited to, situations where there is unequal power between the people involved, and is an attempt by one person to assert power over the other.
Some examples of a sexual harassment include but are not limited to:

  • Making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant, or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know the solicitation or advance is unwelcome.
  • Stalking
  • Sexual or indecent exposure
  • Forced contract of an intimate or sexual nature
  • Unwanted verbal comments of a sexual nature

Systemic Discrimination is a form of discrimination that occurs where policies, practices, or procedures which appear neutral have a discriminatory effect on a person or class of persons who are identified by a prohibited ground; reference the Equity/Diversity policy for more information.

Workplace Harassment, including sexual harassment, is any remark or behaviour that demeans a person or that undermines personal dignity and worth and that a reasonable person should have known would be unwelcome. It is a form of unlawful discrimination and has the effect of offending, humiliating or intimidating another person. It can create a negative climate (a poisoned work environment) and prevent full participation in activities, services, reduce enjoyment of work and/or interfere with an individual’s work performance.

Workplace Violence is the threat, exercise, or attempted exercise, of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker. Some examples of workplace violence include but are not limited to: threatening behavior such as shaking fists, destroying property or throwing objects; verbal or written threats that express an intent to inflict harm; physical attacks; or other acts that would arouse fear in a reasonable person in the circumstances.

Other acts that may happen in the workplace that must be reported include but are not limited to:

  • Human trafficking
  • Historic incidents of sexual exploitation or abuse
  • Undisclosed sex offender status
  • Accessing or having pornography via a work device

NOTE: At any time, should you encounter a situation or behaviour that you feel is threatening to your personal safety, call the authorities (911) immediately.

What does not constitute Harassment?

Consensual banter or relationships

  • Two or more people bantering back and forth is not harassment if everyone involved is in agreement. But if at any time a staff person or volunteer feels uncomfortable with this behaviour, and the behaviour continues even after that person has expressed their discomfort, or if the others involved should have known the person was uncomfortable, then it is harassment. This type of harassment can create what is known as a "poisoned work environment," where a person feels humiliated and unsafe.
  • Employees flirting with each other, or becoming involved in a romantic or sexual relationship, are not harassing each other, as long as the relationship is consensual. If one of the people changes her or his mind, and the other person persists in trying to continue the relationship, this is harassment.

Legitimate management interventions

  • Appropriate performance reviews, counseling, and discipline are not harassment.
  • Managers have the responsibility to manage poor work performance or inappropriate behaviour of those they manage, but are expected to follow the appropriate procedures or offer constructive advice and comment in a way that does not humiliate the recipient.
  • A manager who follows the stages of the performance or disciplinary procedures as set out in the relevant policy or day-to-day performance management using the procedures reasonably and fairly should not be seen as bullying or harassing an employee. Oxfam also has the right to manage volunteers reasonably. An Oxfam employee who manages a contract with an external employer or partner has the right to manage individuals in accordance with the relevant contract.


Oxfam Canada has articulated, through its mission statement and Gender Policy, a strong stand on respecting and promoting the fulfillment of universal human rights. Following those commitments, this policy seeks to ensure that Oxfam Canada takes a proactive role to prevent all forms of harassment, sexual harassment, violence and discrimination in the organization.

This policy seeks to:

  1. Create and maintain a positive and safe working environment free from harassment, sexual harassment, violence and discrimination. Relationships between any members of the organization (staff and volunteers) will be governed by mutual respect for each individual’s dignity and worth;
  2. Ensure all staff and volunteers understand that harassment, sexual harassment, violence and discrimination are not acceptable, regardless of seniority and position, and will be subject to appropriate procedures;
  3. Ensure that all staff and volunteers understand their rights and responsibilities towards preventing and addressing harassment, sexual harassment, violence and discrimination;
  4. Establish organization-wide definitions of harassment, sexual harassment, violence and discrimination and an understanding of what can be done to prevent any occurrences;
  5. Establish a method for addressing allegations of harassment, sexual harassment, violence and discrimination promptly and discreetly and
  6. Review at least annually the policy and its implementation including training of employees.


Oxfam Canada staff and volunteers, including staff supervisors, volunteer leaders and management personnel, are responsible for creating an environment which is free of harassment, sexual harassment, violence and discrimination. Individuals acting on their own and/or on behalf of Oxfam Canada can be held responsible under this Policy and in the law for harassing, violent and discriminatory acts. All staff and volunteers, including staff supervisors, volunteer leaders and management personnel, are therefore required to abide by this policy.

No person will be adversely affected in their employment or volunteer status as a result of bringing forth complaints of harassment, sexual harassment, violence and discrimination (refer to Oxfam’s Whistleblower Policy). Those found to have engaged in such conduct on the basis of a prohibited ground may be subject to discipline and/or dismissal.

This policy does not preclude a complaint being lodged with the Human Rights Commission or appropriate law enforcement agencies.

The policy applies to all locations involving Oxfam-related activities, whether conducted at or away from the workplace, during or outside of working hours, in an office, community or campus setting.

This policy also reinforces the commitment that “All staff and volunteers have the right to participate in Oxfam Canada activities and programs in a positive and mutually respectful and supportive environment. This includes the right to engage in an inclusive and positive space where diversity is valued”.

This policy prohibits harassment, including sexual harassment, related to any of the discriminating grounds contained in the Ontario Human Rights Code as well as on the basis of personal grounds such as appearance. Such behaviour may be verbal, physical, deliberate, unsolicited or unwelcome; it may be one incident or a series of incidents. While the following is not an exhaustive list, harassment may include:

  • Verbal abuse or threats;
  • Unwelcome remarks, jokes, innuendos or taunting about a person's body, attire, age, marital status, ethnic or religious origins, etc.;
  • Displaying of pornographic material, racist material, or other offensive or derogatory pictures;
  • Practical jokes that cause awkwardness or embarrassment; unwelcome invitation or requests, whether indirect or explicit, or intimidation;
  • Open or organized hostility to staff or volunteer
  • Failure to accept or work with any limitations a disability may cause;
  • Leering or other gestures;
  • Condescension or paternalism which undermine self-respect;
  • Unwanted physical contact such as touching, patting, pinching, punching,
    physical assault.

Any person who persists in such behaviour which she or he knows or should know is unwelcome may be guilty of harassment. Workplace harassment does not have to occur repeatedly to be taken seriously. One incident of a severe nature can be defined as harassment.


Implementation and Accountability Process


Individual privacy and confidentiality are basic principles underlying all parts of this process. Oxfam Canada will not disclose a complainant's or alleged harasser’s name except as necessary to investigate the alleged harasser or take disciplinary action related to the complaint or as required by law or if Oxfam Canada determines that the safety of an individual or the community is at risk. Staff or volunteers involved in a complaint will keep all information confidential, except in the above circumstances. If any staff person is approached with a disclosure, they have an obligation to report the incident to the Safeguarding Focal Point or their manager or supervisor. They should not disclose the information to any other party.

Conflict of Interest

Those involved in the harassment, sexual harassment, violence, or discrimination resolution process will be objective and free of real or perceived conflict of interest.

Complaint Resolution Procedures

The following set of procedures is meant to provide a structure for the resolution of internal Oxfam Canada complaints involving staff and volunteers. These procedures do not prevent filing a complaint through other avenues such as the Human Rights Commissions or law enforcement agencies.

What should an Oxfam Canada staff or volunteer do if they believe they have been witness to or are being harassed or subjected to violence or discrimination?

As an Oxfam Canada staff of volunteer, there are a number of actions that one should take should they be faced with or are witness to a potential harassment, sexual harassment, violent, or discriminatory situation.

If someone feels that they are being harassed, or sexually harassed, or are in a violent or discriminatory situation, or if they witness behaviour that is perceived as harassment, sexual harassment, violent, or discriminatory they should make written notes about the events leading to the incident. Retain all documents and materials that relate to that situation (dates, time, location, details, witnesses, etc.).

If a co-worker or volunteer discloses an incident of harassment, sexual harassment, or violence in the workplace, they should make note of the details shared and are required to disclose this information to the Safeguarding Focal Point.

If an individual feels that they have been the object of harassment, sexual harassment, violent or discriminatory situation, there are a number of possible steps they can take to deal with the situation:

  • Speak up! Deal directly with the person whose behaviour is considered offensive.
  • Facilitated Intervention. Talk to a Manager, Director, the Safeguarding Focal Point, and/or Human Resources or in the case of volunteers, the Outreach Officer (responsible for volunteers).
  • Formal Intervention. (Investigation)
  • File a grievance. (union members only)

Disclosure: If any staff person is informed of a situation involving harassment, sexual harassment, violence, discrimination, exploitation of abuse, they are obligated to inform the Safeguarding Focal Point or their manager or supervisor. This means that if a staff member has experienced harassment, sexual harassment, a violent or discriminatory situation in the workplace and they tell a colleague, the information will be shared with the employer for further investigation. This can involve anything from a minimal follow up conversation to better understand the incident, to an in-depth formal investigation process involving an external investigator.

If a staff person wishes to have complete confidentiality when disclosing, they should seek to disclose to a friend who is not also an Oxfam staff, family member, or seek help from Oxfam Canada’s employment assistance program.

Speak Up and Get Support

If the complainant feels comfortable, they can talk to the person whose behaviour they find offensive. Let her/him know that this behavior affected them. The person may not be aware that their behaviour is unwelcome or offensive. In many instances, this will stop the offensive behaviour.

  • Document the interaction in detail
  • Seek emotional support from co-workers or supervisors if comfortable with the incident being on record or, from friends, family members, or the employee assistance program.

Oxfam Canada recognizes that this may help resolve the complaint in the early stages of the conflict, however:

  • It is not appropriate in situations where personal safety is threatened (in that case alert the Safeguarding Focal Point, Human Resources, your Manager, and/or the authorities as soon as possible)
  • In some situations, approaching the alleged harasser may be difficult or inappropriate
  • The staff/volunteer may have already asked the alleged harasser to change his/her behaviour to no avail.

In this case the staff/volunteer should take immediate action as outlined below.

Facilitated Intervention

If the complainant would like to proceed with the matter in the interest of seeking an informal resolution, report the incident to:

• In the case of staff, their Manager (only if s/he is not involved in the incident); the Safeguarding Focal Point, or Human Resources;
• In the case of volunteers, Outreach Officer (responsible for volunteers) or the Safeguarding Focal Point.

In the case of a member of the Bargaining Unit, the complainant is also able to seek the support of a union representative.

Together, the complainant and the appropriate representative, will discuss an appropriate course of action and time line as well as elaborate what the complainant would like to see as a reasonable resolution. Such action may include informing the alleged harasser of the complaint, discussing the complaint individually with both parties, and it may include discussing the complaint jointly with both parties.

The alleged harasser will be asked to respond to the complaint, in writing, and to attend any meetings to discuss the complaint. The alleged harasser may also request the assistance of a Supervisor, Manager, Human Resources, a colleague, or a Union representative (if they are a union member). In the case of volunteers or non-unionized employees, the person may choose to contact a staff person they have been working with directly, the Safeguarding Focal Point, or the Outreach Officer (responsible for volunteers).

This facilitated process will be launched within 10 days of the complaint being received.


If the complainant has attempted a facilitated intervention, and that process did not reach a satisfactory result or the complainant is not comfortable with an informal process, she/he may choose to proceed with a more formal process.

Oxfam Canada will investigate using a trained internal or external investigator to:

  • Meet with the complainant and understand their complaint
  • Meet with the alleged harasser and explain the complaint in detail
  • Explain to the alleged harasser her/his rights as well as the mediation/investigation process
  • Allow the alleged harasser to have a person of their choice accompany them during the process, or appoint someone to represent them in the process
  • Request from the alleged harasser a formal response to the complaint, in writing, within a reasonable timeline

The response will include:

  • A description of the incident(s) from the alleged harasser’s perspective
  • Name of any witnesses the alleged harasser wishes to provide

Both parties will be informed of the progress of the complaint. The findings of a formal investigation may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment and referral to the relevant authorities.

For investigations involving members of the Bargaining Unit, either as complainant, alleged harasser, or both, additional support may be engaged from their Union Representative.

Formal Grievance

Employees who are members of the Bargaining Unit may choose to file a grievance and should seek the assistance or advice of their union steward/representative. For detailed grievance procedures refer to Article 24 of the Collective Agreement.

  • The alleged harasser will be informed of the formal grievance
  • The alleged harasser will be given a written statement of the official allegations and be asked to respond
  • The incident will be thoroughly investigated
  • Both parties will be kept informed about the progress of the grievance process.
  • Both parties will be kept informed about the findings of the investigation

Rights of the Complainant

A complainant has the right to:

  • File a complaint and have it dealt with promptly, without fear of embarrassment or reprisal
  • Have a person of their choice accompany them during the process, or appoint someone to represent them in the process
  • Be assured that no record of the incident is placed on their personnel file as long as it was made in good faith
  • Be informed about the progress of their complaint
  • Receive fair treatment
  • Be informed of the findings and conclusion of the proceedings
  • Receive appropriate counselling and support
  • Have the opportunity to communicate to the employer their wishes to ensure they feel safe within the work environment
  • In the case of a member of the Bargaining Unit, exercise all their rights under the Collective Agreement.

Rights of an Alleged Harasser

If a complaint is made about their behaviour, the alleged harasser has the right to:

  • be informed of the complaint
  • participate in the ensuing procedures
  • ask their Manager, Human Resources, Executive Director, or a Union Representative (if they are a union member)
  • in the case of a volunteer, ask the Oxfam Canada’s Outreach Officer (responsible for volunteers) for advice or to be present
  • in the case of a member of the Bargaining Unit, exercise all their rights under the Collective Agreement

A person may not recognize that her/his behavior was perceived as offensive; therefore, if it is acceptable to the complainant, the alleged harasser may have the option to apologize and commit to changing their behaviour. If the investigation continues, they will be expected to co-operate, give their perspective on what happened and, if the findings show that harassment, sexual harassment, violent or discriminatory actions towards another person or group of people did occur they would be required to change their behaviour. They would also be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment and referral to the relevant authorities.


All parties involved in the process should make notes of their perspective of the alleged harassment, sexual harassment, violent or discriminatory incident(s), the date(s) it occurred, any witnesses, and any other information relative to the alleged incident.

All allegations, responses to allegations, and findings of investigation will be documented.

Roles, Responsibilities and Time Frames

Staff and Volunteer Responsibilities:

  • Staff and Volunteers have the legal responsibility to treat fellow employees and volunteers in a manner that is consistent with the Human Rights Act. An individual who infringes on a right of another individual can be named as a personal respondent in a human rights complaint;
  • Staff and Volunteers have the responsibility to treat each other with respect, and to speak up if they or someone else is being harassed;
  • Staff and Volunteers have an obligation to report incidents to the appropriate person;
  • After having reported the incident to the appropriate person, staff and volunteers are responsible for respecting the confidentiality of anyone involved in a complaint;
  • Every effort must be made to resolve any conflicts in which they are involved as soon as they arise and before they escalate;
  • All Staff and Volunteers are expected to co-operate in the investigation of complaints and the efforts to resolve them. Staff and Volunteers should be mindful of the sensitivities of the parties and must keep any information related to complaints confidential.

Employer Responsibilities:

Oxfam Canada is committed to providing its staff and volunteers with a safe working environment free of harassment, sexual harassment, violence and discrimination. As an Employer, Oxfam Canada is also responsible for:

  • Setting examples for appropriate workplace behaviour, and deal with situations immediately upon becoming aware, whether or not there has been a complaint;
  • Protecting the privacy of the parties involved; to be impartial in the process;
  • Co-operating with mediators and the investigation process
  • Keeping identifying information regarding past or current complaints confidential;
  • Monitoring the situation regularly to ensure that any corrective action has been successful;
  • Taking steps to restore the work unit or volunteer environment to a healthy state once a complaint has been resolved;
  • Ensuring training sessions on the prevention of harassment, sexual harassment, violence and discrimination are provided as required.

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code an employee who is a “directing mind” of the organization and who discriminates, harasses or commits a violent act against anyone in a manner contrary to the code, or who knew of the harassment, sexual harassment, violence or discrimination and did not take steps to remedy the situation, engages the liability of the employer.

“Directing Minds” is defined as anyone who performs management duties of the organization; for example, employees with supervisory authority, if they are seen to function as representatives of Oxfam or employees who have significant responsibility for the guidance of employees

The Courts may:

  • Impose penalties on the employer and manager, even if neither of them was actually involved in or aware of the harassment, sexual harassment, violence, or discrimination but should have known about it; or
  • Impose financial and legal consequences on the employer who is determined to have not taken any initiative to prevent harassment or to mitigate its effects.

Union Responsibilities:

Unions and employers have a joint duty to ensure that workplaces are free of harassment, sexual harassment, violence and discrimination. The human rights of staff are protected explicitly in the Collective Agreement.

The Union has the duty to accommodate:

  • Where the Union causes or contributes to discrimination by participating in the formulation of a rule that has a discriminatory effect, the Union must cooperate in attempting to find appropriate solutions. Unions share the obligation to remove or alleviate the source of the discriminatory effect; and
  • The Union must not impede the reasonable efforts of the Employer to comply with the Human Rights Code.

The Union will play an active and supportive role. Union Members are encouraged to seek assistance and advice of their union representatives prior to engaging in, or at any time throughout, the complaint resolution process.

Union Members have the right to be represented by their respective unions at any stage in the overall process. Where the union is representing a member in the complaint resolution process, it will, as an active participant, be involved in all meetings relevant to its member.

The Union will play a key role in any mediation or conciliation efforts and actively participate in the monitoring phase.

Investigator Responsibilities:

Investigators and mediators will be internal or external professionals who will be selected by Oxfam Canada to resolve alleged harassment, sexual harassment, acts of violence, and discrimination issues in consultation with the complainant.

The Investigators must possess the appropriate experience/qualifications, be independent, objective, and maintain the confidentiality of the process. All complaints will be dealt with as quickly and with as little disruption to the workplace as possible.

The Investigators will:

  • Commence their investigation within ten (10) working days of the complaint being brought forward; an extension may be required in order to engage a qualified investigator
  • Review all documentation already obtained, interview the complainant and obtain a signed complaint with names and contact information of any witnesses
  • Inform the alleged harasser of the complaint, provide a copy of the complaint, and agree on a deadline by which the alleged harasser will respond; receive either a written response or have the alleged harasser sign a written summary of the interview; obtain names and contact information for witnesses
  • Interview witnesses; obtain written statements or have parties sign written summaries of their interviews
  • Assess whether, on balance of probabilities, harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination or violence did occur
  • Submit a written report to Oxfam Canada Executive Director (if the harassment claim includes the ED, to the Chair of the Board of Directors) within fifteen (15) working days of commencing the investigation or request an extension stating why more time is required.
  • If the investigation is extended, it must be completed within 30 days of the original commencement date.
  • The written report will contain:
    • Summary of the investigation
    • Findings on the allegations
    • All statements and documents related to the investigation
    • A copy of the report (but not the supporting documents) shall be provided to the complainant and the alleged harasser

Executive Director Responsibilities:


The Executive Director will make the final decision regarding actions to be taken such as disciplinary action, etc. The decision will be based on the formal report from the Investigator, and ensure that the decision is communicated to the complainant and the alleged harasser within five (5) working days of completion of the investigation.

The Executive Director will withdraw from the proceedings if a conflict of interest exists. In this circumstance, senior management, who are not in a conflict of interest, will appoint a senior manager to carry out the Executive Director’s role in the investigation. This person will be responsible for making the final decision based on the formal report and ensuring the decision is communicated within five (5) working days of receiving the report.

If the Executive Director is the alleged harasser, the Executive Committee of the Board will appoint a Board member(s) to take on the role of the Executive Director

Remedies and Corrective Action

Corrective Action

The progressive discipline process will be used to change and discourage unacceptable behaviour. It will be applied fairly and without delay. Discipline imposed will be based on the seriousness of the event and any prior occurrences of related behaviour. The stages of progressive discipline are:

  • Verbal reprimand
  • Written reprimand
  • Suspension without pay or temporary suspension of volunteer position
  • Dismissal
  • Counselling and/or training on anti-harassment, sexual harassment, nonviolent communication, and discrimination may be recommended instead of, or in addition to, disciplinary action.
  • If the investigation does not substantiate the complaint, there will be no documentation concerning the complaint placed in the personnel file of the alleged harasser. However, if the investigation reveals harassment, sexual harassment, an act of violence or discrimination did occur, the incident and the discipline which is imposed on the harasser will be recorded in her/his personnel file and may be conveyed to a future potential employer.

In keeping with Article 26.03 of the Collective Agreement, no disciplinary record of an Employee will remain on the employment record longer than 18 months.

Remedies for the Complainant

Oxfam Canada will make every reasonable effort to remedy the effects of the harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination or violence. Remedial action could be, but is not limited to:

  • An oral or written apology from the harasser
  • Compensation for any lost Oxfam Canada employment benefits
  • Counselling and other support provided
  • Any unfavourable work review or comments based solely on, or found to be part of, the incident, will be removed from the Complainant’s personnel file
  • No record of the complaint, investigation or decision will be placed in the Employee’s personnel file if the complaint was made in good faith.


No Retaliation

Every individual has a right to carry out any of the following actions without fear of retaliation. A person may:

  • File a harassment, sexual harassment, act of violence or discrimination complaint
  • File a grievance, in the case of members of the Bargaining Unit
  • Participate or cooperate in an investigation
  • Provide information relevant to the complaint
  • Act in any designated role under the policy and procedure

Anyone who retaliates in any way against a person who has placed a complaint, participated in an investigation, or been found to have harassed, committed an act of violence, or discriminated against another person, will themselves be subject to an investigation and, if the complaint is substantiated, will be subject to the same disciplinary action.

Safe work environment while the investigation takes place

It is important to maintain a safe work environment during the investigation.

In cases of a complaint of harassment, sexual harassment, violence or discrimination, the Employee has the right to request, through her/his manager, to discontinue contact with the alleged harasser, pending determination of the investigation. Such request shall not be unreasonably denied.

If the presence of the alleged harasser jeopardizes the investigation or escalates the activities perceived as harassment, sexual harassment, violence or discrimination the alleged harasser may be suspended with pay for the lesser of the duration of the investigation or 30 days. This may be extended in exceptional circumstances.

If the alleged harasser is from an external source, such as in the case of domestic violence, the alleged harasser will not be allowed to enter Oxfam Canada offices or property. Depending on the situation the appropriate law enforcement agency may be involved.

Every attempt will be made to ensure the safety of the affected staff or volunteer.

Withdrawing a Complaint

A complainant may, at her/his discretion, decide to withdraw a complaint at any point in the process.

However, Oxfam Canada may be required to investigate the complaint to comply with its legal obligations under the Human Rights legislation, and Bill 168 and Bill 132 under the amended Health & Safety Act.

Unsubstantiated Complaints

If a staff or volunteer, in good faith, files a complaint that is not supported by evidence gathered during an investigation, that complaint will be dismissed, and no record of it will be put in either person’s personnel file.

Malicious/Bad Faith Complaints

If the complaint is made maliciously or in bad faith, the complainant will be subject to the same disciplinary process as that for someone who has harassed another person, and a record of the incident and disciplinary action will be placed in their personnel file.

Remedies for the person falsely accused may include steps to restore lost reputation, and any of the remedies that are available in a case of harassment.


Once a resolution of the complaint has occurred, Human Resources, or in the case of volunteers, the Outreach Officer (responsible for volunteers), will monitor the successful application of the resolution with the Employees/Volunteers concerned. If, during the resolution implementation process there is insufficient change in behaviour, the progressive discipline process will be applied.

Record Keeping (Workplace Health & Safety Act, Bill 168 and Bill 132)

The documents corresponding to any investigation will be kept on file in a secure location and separate from personnel files, for 7 years from the date of the incident, to be readily available for inspection by an Occupational Health and Safety Officer. Records of any remedial action will be placed in the appropriate employee’s personnel file. In keeping with Article 26.03 of the Collective Agreement, no disciplinary record of an Employee will remain on the employment record longer than 18 months.

Implementation Process

The implementation steps will include:

  • The policy will be distributed to all Oxfam Canada Employees and volunteer leaders.
  • An orientation to the policy will be provided to all employees and volunteers to ensure the policy is fully understood.
  • New Employees will receive orientation on this policy during their human resources orientation sessions. Staff responsible for recruiting volunteers will ensure that all volunteers are informed about the policy in the volunteer intake and orientation.
  • Employees and volunteers will be required to sign the policy stating that they have read, received orientation to the policy and understand the No Harassment and No Violence in the Workplace policy.
  • With the approval of the complainant, the Co-Presidents of Local 2722 may be advised when a complaint that involves a bargaining unit member, is received. The Outreach Officer (responsible for volunteers) will report to the Executive Director any harassment cases involving volunteers.
  • The Labour Management Committee will receive a quarterly report on facilitated interventions and formal investigations provided that this does not jeopardize confidentiality.

Training and Education (ongoing)

Oxfam Canada recognizes that having a formal complaint procedure in place does not guarantee a problem-free workplace. An employee or volunteer, who is afraid to speak up, may be suffering in silence without colleagues, other volunteers or managers being aware.

Training will:

  • Provide supervisors with tools to assist in recognizing harassment and react appropriately following the guidelines of the No Harassment and No Violence in the Workplace policy
  • Teach employees to respect each other and maintain a safe work environment

Oxfam Canada is committed to safeguarding your privacy. Learn more.

Approved by the Oxfam Canada Board of Directors, 25 February 2011

Oxfam Canada has a long tradition of working in partnership and solidarity with civil society actors in the global South and in Canada as a key strategy in realizing its mission to end poverty and injustice.

Oxfam’s partners are independent development actors in their own right. Our theory of change asserts the pivotal role partner organizations play as protagonists in the struggle to build and channel the assets and energies of individuals and communities to promote, defend and secure their rights. Our Gender Policy underlines the critical leadership role women and women’s organizations play in supporting transformative change and affirms our commitment to support them in this role. And our ways of working respect the prime importance of our partners as agents of change within the majority world, without diminishing the value of Oxfam Canada’s role in accompanying our partners in complex processes of change, helping build their capacity and nourishing their efforts with knowledge, linkages and resources.

Statement of Partnership Principles

Oxfam Canada subscribes to the Statement of Partnership Principles adopted by Oxfam International and commits to work within the confederation to privilege and support partners’ leadership.

Oxfam understands partnerships as mutually empowering relationships, cognizant of power imbalances, focused on impact, mutual growth, organizational development and institutional strengthening.

The Statement of Partnership Principles describes different kinds of partnerships, how each should work and the values and responsibilities attached to different partnership arrangements. As well it reaffirms the legitimacy and importance of three key roles for Oxfam: as an active member of a worldwide constituency for people's rights; as a catalyst for change; and by directly engaging to ensure people’s rights are met.

The Statement of Partnership Principles provides a framework for all Oxfams. Oxfam Canada has made women’s rights and gender equality both its priority and its key strategy for ending poverty and injustice. In keeping with this commitment, Oxfam Canada will give priority to women’s organizations and movements and will seek and create opportunities to privilege partners working to address power imbalances between women and men, girls and boys in all their diversities in support of transformative change.

Purpose of document

The decision in November 2008 to move the Oxfam family to a Single Management Structure prompted the development of a set of policies, standards and tools to provide the foundation of a more coherent approach to programming. In September 2009, the need for an OI Partnership Policy was confirmed and the decision taken that Oxfam Canada and Intermon Oxfam would lead a consultation process in early 2010 in order to develop such a policy.

A Discussion Paper based on existing OI and affiliate literature on partnership was circulated across the confederation in January 2010. Fifty Oxfam staff actively participated in the ensuing consultation process either through individual interviews, or by contributing written comments and additional literature. At least two affiliates convened internal consultation processes across their organizations.

In the process of this consultation, it was determined that the document should in fact take the form of a Statement of Partnership Principles. A draft Statement was submitted to the RST SG and LRMs for feedback in early February, and this document incorporates the (relatively modest) amendments proposed at those tables, and is prepared for submission to the ED Reference Group.

The Statement of Principles provides a unified framework and foundation for addressing partnership issues across the confederation. Its primary purpose is to contribute to a common understanding of partnership by providing both:

  • a set of clear definitions related to partners and partnership; and
  • a set of aspirational principles to guide Oxfam's relationships with others.

The document does not however include statements of standards, tools, procedures or plans to guide the application of these principles. These supporting instruments remain to be developed through subsequent processes (summarily listed in Annex 3).


The imperative of alignment

The OI 2007-2012 Strategic Plan Demanding Justice affirms that due to the scale of human need and injustice around the world, in a context of growing inequalities, there is an imperative for Oxfam affiliates to maximize their combined contribution towards an agenda for the realization of people's fundamental human rights. It emphasizes that: “priorities need to be set and Oxfam's assets aligned to achieve as much impact as possible”. The SMS process will move OI towards a more robust alignment in all areas of Oxfam’s work (humanitarian, development and campaigning) at every level – national, regional and global.

The notion of partnership lies at the core of how affiliates understand the world (i.e., our model of change) and our role therein (i.e., our identity). A common understanding of partnership is therefore a pre-requisite for successful convergence of affiliates and our programs. Some important steps have already been taken in this direction , but the case for a formal Statement of Partnership Principles is compelling and closely tied to our commitment to increased affiliate accountability to each other and other stakeholders.

Why Oxfam works with partners

Oxfam currently works with over 3,000 partners in approximately 100 countries. Through this work, Oxfam aspires to make a sustained and significant positive impact on poverty and injustice. Oxfam believes it is only through the collective effort of many actors (civil society, state, private sector and others) that this goal can be achieved. Each of these actors has a role to play in accordance with its responsibility, legitimacy, its capacities and strengths, while holding duty bearers to account for their commitments. These relationships are not about side-lining, displacing or instrumentalizing others; they seek instead to foster complementarity and to harness the added value each may bring.

The one program approach is Oxfam’s strategic framework for achieving change. The key relationships through which Oxfam develops this approach are those that most effectively impact on the root causes of poverty, vulnerability and injustice, and help people become empowered as agents of their own development. Amongst the many actors with which Oxfam has such relationships, local civil society organizations stand first and foremost, given Oxfam’s conviction that these actors have both the legitimacy and position to foster lasting changes in their societies.

Section 1: Definition of key concepts

In general, Oxfam’s relationships with local organizations are commonly referred to as partnerships. However, Oxfam has relationships with a wide range of actors with which it engages in different types of activities and assumes diverse and often context-specific roles. In attempting to categorize and define these partnerships, it is therefore proposed to focus less on the actors themselves and more on the nature of the relationships with Oxfam.

It is clear that these relationships vary greatly in scope, depth, maturity and length. In fact, the notion of a partnership continuum may be a helpful device to represent the diversity of relationships. At one end of the spectrum are relationships which are effectively tactical: ad hoc, short-term and output-driven. At the other end of the spectrum, the relationships are strategic in nature: long-term and impact-driven. In order to achieve its mission, Oxfam establishes relationships across the entire spectrum, depending on the national and programmatic context, agreed model of change, and specific objectives sought.

Although no one set of relationships is by definition ‘better’, Oxfam's one program approach, driven by a rights-based analysis, finds its foundations in mature strategic relationships on the impact-driven side of the spectrum.

It is in this sense that Oxfam understands partnerships as mutually empowering relationships, cognizant of power imbalances, focused on impact, mutual growth, organizational development and institutional strengthening . Oxfam partnerships commonly include contractual relationships which are nevertheless based on trust, and evolve through dialogue, shared experience and a deep commitment to achieving sustained changes in the lives of vulnerable and marginalized people. Underlying this definition is the notion of partnership as a perfectible and evolving relationship.

A useful distinction made by some affiliates is that between two broad categories of actors, partners and allies, which both fall within the partnership continuum.

Partners are autonomous, independent, accountable organizations that share OI's core values and work towards common goals on a long term basis under an agreement that ties accountability and performance to the existing relationship.

Allies are individuals or organizations with whom we work towards a specific goal, even though their organizational and institutional mandates and long term purpose may be different from Oxfam’s.

These are not mutually exclusive categories, and the nature of the relationship with a particular organization may evolve over time or vary across program. In either type of relationship (tactical or strategic), Oxfam may or may not contribute funding to partners or allies. In general, Oxfam’s funding relationships are based on a shared goal and mediated by a contract that binds parties to the achievement of results and carries other obligations, with explicit power imbalances at play that need to be addressed.

A distinct sub-set of partnerships has been negotiated between those Oxfams engaged in Fair Trade activities and the range of small-scale producer, intermediary and trading groups with which these affiliates collaborate as part of a broader strategy of sustainable economic development. These relationships constitute a quite particular form of ‘trading partnership’ based upon dialogue, transparency and respect that seek greater equity in international trade. The global Fair Trade movement has elaborated its own comprehensive set of principles and guidelines to govern these long-term relationships .

Section 2: The Role of Oxfam

Oxfam is an independent development actor in its own right, as are Oxfam's partners and allies. Oxfam's voice, its agenda and global capacity constitute the added value we bring to our relations with others in local, national, regional and global contexts. In these relations, Oxfam plays a number of different and often evolving roles:

Oxfam is an active member of a worldwide constituency for people's rights: we work with others to build a global citizen movement for change, acting in solidarity with people living in poverty, especially women, to achieve their rights and assert their dignity as full citizens by holding duty-bearers to account for their responsibilities. In this role we aspire to changing the terms of the debate.

Oxfam is a catalyst for change: by using our convening and facilitating capabilities to bring together actors to work on common problems; by accompanying, mentoring and coaching others; by stimulating learning and strengthening partner capacities; by generating knowledge, promoting innovation and alternatives that may be brought to scale; and through development, campaigning and humanitarian work. In exercising this role, we provide both financial and non-financial support, and work increasingly with networks and coalitions of partners.

Oxfam directly engages to ensure people’s rights are met: when local capacity is unavailable or when our engagement can clearly increase impact , we will promote inclusive, active citizenship and participation; advocate for the rights of people in poverty; and provide humanitarian assistance and protection to people affected by disaster. Such engagement will be accompanied by investments in developing the capacity of local organizations to secure long-term impact and framed by an exit strategy to ensure long-term sustainability.

Section 3: Partnership Principles

Oxfam`s partnerships are based on six core principles. Whilst recognizing that these principles are not equally applicable to all types of relationships along the partnership continuum, we nonetheless aspire to follow them in all our working relations with others.

1. Shared vision and values

Partnerships between Oxfam and other organizations are built on a shared vision of a fair world, free of poverty and injustice, which implies solidarity beyond the implementation of specific programs and activities.

Whilst recognizing and respecting differences – and welcoming dialogue and debate – sufficient common ground must be found for our partnerships with others to be viable. At a minimum, Oxfam and partners with which we work must share both a belief that people living in poverty should enjoy their fundamental human rights and an organizational commitment to gender equality and respect for diverse identities. Our shared understanding of change processes should encompass the agency of poor and marginalized people and the importance of movements and organizations representing their interests, while affirming state institutions as ultimate duty bearers.

2. Complementarity of purpose and value-added

Oxfam works in partnership with a variety of actors in a diverse set of relationships. Across the partnership continuum, the emphasis will be placed on identifying the common goal to which we are working, whether in long or short term relationships, looking to build on the distinctive contribution of all actors and ensuring that our combined efforts bring about change.

We recognize that each partner brings different capacities and resources to an interdependent relationship. We believe that working with others towards common objectives creates synergies and the potential for real collaborative advantage. For this potential to be realized the diverse knowledge, experience and skills which each partner brings to the relationship must be valued and acknowledged as essential to ensuring the success and sustainability of joint efforts. The value-added Oxfam brings to the relationship will vary across our continuum of partnerships as well as our diverse roles, and must be clearly stated. Funding is understood as only one aspect of partnerships, however determinant, with Oxfam increasingly engaging non-funding relationships with a variety of partners and allies.

Partnering processes must create opportunities for partners and for Oxfam to articulate what is important to them and what they believe they can contribute to the partnership, and to arrive at a common understanding of shared purpose, mutual benefits and interests. In making decisions about with whom to partner, Oxfam will always consider the contribution the partnership will make to bringing about positive outcomes for people living in poverty.

3. Autonomy and independence

Our partnerships will strive for mutual respect for institutional integrity and autonomy. We are aware that, in many of our partnerships, particularly in funding relationships, power imbalances exist that may undermine the principle of autonomy and independence. Oxfam will work to manage this tension through our partnering processes and accountability systems.

Oxfam must not impose its views on partners. We take responsibility for clearly communicating our positions to partners. We are open to being challenged and will create opportunities for dialogue and debate around goals, values, results and impact. While there must be some commonality in vision and values in order for the partnership to be viable, we accept that partners may not share all our views. The right of each partner to determine their own institutional identity, directions and priorities should be respected. In our capacity strengthening work with partners, we must be attentive to the challenge of balancing respect for institutional autonomy and independence with program support for institutional growth and development.

We are open, within the limits of our mission and mandate, to being influenced as to where, how and with whom we work, and on the messages we convey through our campaigns. This includes being open to learning from different experiences of, and approaches to, development, campaigning and humanitarian work which may challenge us to question our own assumptions about effective practice – and to change the way we do things. Every effort is made to build mutual respect for different viewpoints, values and beliefs within the partnership.

4. Transparency and Mutual Accountability

Oxfam and partners have multiple accountabilities to a variety of stakeholders, including supporters and donors, and – most importantly – to those women and men living in poverty who are engaged in and benefitting from our programs. We will strive to achieve a balance between upward and downward accountability in our own systems and processes, and improved mutual accountability within our partnerships. As part of the process of developing partnerships, we explicitly discuss how Oxfam is accountable to partners and how we and our partners are accountable to people and communities with and for whom we work.

In funding relationships, Oxfam and partners recognize and are committed to high standards of financial management, as we hold in trust money which others have offered in good faith and for which we are jointly responsible. Oxfam also acknowledges and strives to address accountability issues associated with all our partnerships, including those involving non-funding relationships.

Oxfam and partners have a mutual interest in demonstrating impact and in designing accountability systems that support this need. Within the limits imposed on Oxfam by back donor requirements, Oxfam will not oblige a partner to adapt its own planning, management and evaluation systems to those of Oxfam. Oxfam will attempt to coordinate financing and reporting requirements across affiliates and with donor agencies. We will support partners to develop and implement monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) approaches that reinforce the partner’s accountability to their communities, giving women and men living in poverty ‘voice’ to provide feedback on partners performance. We will lead by example by putting in place feedback mechanisms that enable partners (and other stakeholders) to assess Oxfam’s performance. Such systems will be supported by formal grievance procedures or complaints mechanisms. We are committed to openness and transparency about how decisions are made regarding partnership, and will establish regular consultations and communications with partners.

Oxfam has an obligation to ensure that our partners are aware of various international accountability charters and quality standards to which we have adhered and to clarify how these codes and principles are applicable to partners’ work.

As part our power analysis, Oxfam and partners discuss the power imbalances that exist between us, created by funding discrepancies, size, experience, access to information, and North/South dynamics. Where we are in the position of power, we will act with humility and aim to reduce such imbalances. We acknowledge that such power relations have often led to women’s civil society organizations (CSOs) being marginalized or side-lined and will fulfill our commitment to strengthen partnerships with women’s organizations, networks and movements.

5. Clarity on roles and responsibilities

Partnerships are built on clear understanding and robust partnership agreements. For funding partnerships, all the elements of the partnering process and decision-making are discussed and agreed by partners (partnership appraisal and assessment processes, contractual and financial arrangements, program implementation, monitoring and evaluation, joint learning and exit). Oxfam understands that the credibility and trust required to sustain healthy partnerships comes from good communication, competence and reliability.

Oxfam and partners are co-strategists of programs and activities on which they jointly work, though the extent to which they are co-owners of program will vary according to the nature and maturity of programs and partnerships themselves. Whatever the nature of the relationship, Oxfam will create opportunities for regular consultation with partners, ensuring that such spaces enable all partners to voice their issues.

Partner relationships, and with them the roles and responsibilities of each party, will evolve over time. The understandings and agreements that define a particular partnership shall need to be revisited at regular intervals. This evolving reality will require flexibility and responsiveness on all sides as organizational circumstances and social contexts change.

Oxfam will discuss its understanding of its roles (see Section II) with partners and clarify the ways in which we will work together within and across these dimensions. At all times we will work with local and accountable organizations and/or towards strengthening or facilitating the establishment of such organizations or structures. Whatever can be done with sufficient quality, effectiveness and efficiency by local organizations must be done by them. We will support efforts to increase partners’ visibility across all areas of our work and will explicitly acknowledge the work they have done.

Every effort will be made to live up to the aspiration embodied in OI Program Standard 6 which states that “effective partnering is a fundamental strategy through which Oxfam seeks to become redundant”. We will deepen, by discussing with partners and amongst ourselves (being particularly attentive to the perspectives of Southern-based Oxfams) our long-term vision of partnership and related to this how we can contribute most effectively to strengthening local organizations and a sustainable civil society.

6. Commitment to joint learning

Oxfam, as a learning organization, promotes continuous and systematic learning. In partnerships this requires upfront agreement on how Oxfam and partners can learn from their joint work, and from each other, with the aim of incorporating learning, communications and knowledge sharing into the relationship. How program results and learning will be shared outside the partnership will be agreed by Oxfam and partners so that no misunderstanding arises.

Our learning agenda with partners will explore both partnership processes and outcomes.
As Oxfam works primarily through partnerships, we have an interest in understanding the factors, including ways of working, that condition successful partnerships. We will work with partners to ensure that joint learning is used regularly to adjust our strategy and plans as we strive for increased impact.

Annex 1

Standard 6 of the OI Program Standards


Programs rely upon partnership and alliances with autonomous, independent, accountable organizations to achieve positive changes in people’s lives as well as policy changes- these relationships should be mutually empowering, cognizant of power imbalances between partners, and focused on impact, mutual growth, organizational development, and institutional strengthening.
Our Working Principles speak directly to the principles, beliefs, and values that Oxfam holds regarding partnership. Key values for Oxfam International are respect for the diversity of people and partner organizations, respect for their autonomy, transparency and accountability of their own organizational policy and processes, and a consultative style that ensures that the voices of partners and allies can effectively influence Oxfam thinking and practice. Programs do not instrumentalize partners. Effective partnering is a fundamental strategy through which Oxfam seeks to become redundant.

We are transparent in how we select partners and allies through our country and regional joint analysis and strategic planning. We make long-term commitments to partners, set agreed mutual expectations, and are clear about when and why partnerships end. Programs establish explicit mechanisms for partner feedback and mutual influence. We talk openly and consistently about power imbalances between partners, imbalances created by funding discrepancies, size, North/South dynamics. The quality and productivity of partnerships and alliances is subject to regular and formal evaluation.

As approved by the EDs, November 2009.

Annex 2

Working with partners in humanitarian response, Partnership Policy Implementation Support Kit (PPISK) - Oxfam International’s Emergencies Management Network (2009)

Diversity in humanitarian partnerships
In any one humanitarian response, there may be a variety of partnership working models. Broadly, partnerships could be divided in following categories:

  • Partner-driven model wherein the affiliate programs are determined by the partner based on proposals submitted by them
  • Consultative driven model wherein the affiliate consults the partner through which proposals are formulated
  • Sub-contract driven model wherein the Oxfam formulates the project and identifies a suitable partner for implementation

Annex 3

Beyond a Statement of Principles

The primary purpose of the Statement of Partnership Principles is to contribute to a common understanding of partnership by providing both:

  • a set of clear definitions related to partners and partnership; and
  • a set of aspirational principles to guide Oxfam's relationships with others.

Effective application of these principles will likely require a number of follow-up steps, including:

  • Exploiting existing tools and procedures (on partner assessment, selection, management, evaluation, complaint procedures, partner feed-back mechanisms/satisfaction surveys, open information/transparency policies, etc.) as well as creating new, improved tools and procedures as required.
  • Establishing monitoring and evaluating standards and mechanisms that speak to partnership issues.
  • Building staff skills and capacities to apply tools and maintain systems.
  • Elaborating and operationalising accountability mechanisms across Oxfams, into the operational agreements under SMS, with partners and allies, and to people living in poverty.
  • Building on the specialized knowledge of affiliates and good practice on partnership.
  • Learning from field staff's and partners’ experiences on what constitutes ‘good practice’ in partnership relations.
  • Progress towards a set of common principles for trading partnerships across all affiliates engaged in Fair Trade activities.

Environmental degradation and climate change increase the vulnerability and undermine the resilience of women and men, girls and boys living in poverty. Impact varies depending on gender, geography and other elements of diversity. But the global, cumulative consequences of despoiled environments and changing climate mean that in the longer term, no one will be spared.

Approved by the Oxfam Canada Board of Directors, 27 February 2011


Oxfam Canada seeks to end poverty and injustice. A safe, sustainable world is critical to success.

Environmental degradation and climate change increase the vulnerability and undermine the resilience of women and men, girls and boys living in poverty. Impact varies depending on gender, geography and other elements of diversity. But the global, cumulative consequences of despoiled environments and changing climate mean that in the longer term, no one will be spared.

This policy sets out Oxfam Canada’s approach to managing and mitigating the impact on the environment and on communities of all our activities using effective, measurable methods. It also serves as a learning tool for staff, Board Directors and volunteers.


All of Oxfam Canada’s institutional and programmatic activities are included within the scope of this Environmental Stewardship Policy. 

The responsibility is on all Oxfam Canada staff, Board Directors and volunteers to use more environmentally friendly practices.

Oxfam Canada will encourage others to create and maintain environmentally sustainable practices.

This policy includes two sets of Guidelines, one concerning Oxfam’s institutional operations and program activities in Canada; the other relating to Oxfam Canada’s international programs. 

Oxfam Canada’s Environmental Stewardship Statement

Oxfam Canada will take every action with a view to promoting a healthy, sustainable environment and reducing its ecological footprint. Every project, operation or activity must minimize its negative impact on the environment and on communities.

Oxfam Canada will be a leader in Environmental Stewardship at home and abroad by minimizing the environmental impacts inherent in our current ways of working and through the pursuit of appropriate methods of reducing our ecological footprint, including our carbon footprint, and enhancing sustainability.

Oxfam Canada will support partners and initiatives that protect and enhance the environment and  increase the resilience of communities affected by climate change and environmental degradation.

Annually, Oxfam Canada will measure, monitor, evaluate and report its practices with a view to continual improvements and further reductions of environmental impacts.


The Director of Organizational Services will report annually to the Board on progress in implementing the Environmental Stewardship Policy.  This information will also be made publicly available.


Carbon Footprint
The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Ecological Footprint
A measure of the area of land and water a human population would hypothetically need to provide all the resources required to support itself and to absorb its wastes.

Environmental Stewardship
The responsibility for environmental quality shared by all those whose actions affect the environment, reflected as both a value and a practice by individuals, companies, communities, and government organizations. Positive stewardship behavior demonstrates acceptance of this responsibility through the continuous improvement of environmental performance to achieve measurable results and sustainable outcomes.

LEED Standards
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design: a third-party certification program and an internationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

The ability to meet people’s needs today, while facilitating the capacity for future generations to live in a global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace.

Oxfam Canada is committed to developing a diverse organization that is reflective of and responsive to the diversity of Canada and the world, in which women and men, girls and boys, in all their diversities, are respected and valued.

Approved by the Board of Directors 17 October 2010

Introduction and Scope
Oxfam Canada holds human rights, social justice, collaboration, learning and inclusion as core values driving its mission and focus on gender justice and women’s rights. It recognizes that it must align and embody these core values in all its activities and operations.
This policy provides a framework to which all other policies should conform. It provides direction to staff, members, volunteers, and the Board.

We recognize that Oxfam Canada will better reach its overall goals if it is successful in systematically identifying and removing barriers to full participation in all aspects of our work.

Policy Statement
Oxfam Canada is committed to developing a diverse organization that is reflective of and responsive to the diversity of Canada and the world, in which women and men, girls and boys, in all their diversities, are respected and valued.

Oxfam Canada is committed to promoting an equitable organization where every member, volunteer, staff and Board member can realize their potential through valued contributions.
Oxfam Canada is committed to developing an inclusive organization which is able to attract, retain and accommodate a range of diverse people who will feel valued and confident within the organizational environment.

Oxfam Canada will be guided by the principle that equity means more than treating people in the same way; it requires special measures and the accommodation of differences.
Oxfam Canada will implement training and education programs so that it will be understood that discriminatory behaviour, such as harassment, name-calling, and disparaging jokes will not be tolerated.

Oxfam Canada will review policies, procedures and practices with respect to domestic and overseas programming, volunteer and staff recruitment, administration, physical structures, communications, and all operations and activities to ensure the elimination of systemic barriers and any discriminatory elements.

Oxfam Canada will include a commitment to diversity in the selection process and criteria for all staff and volunteer positions and appointments to Boards, committees and working groups.

Responsibility and Authority
It is the responsibility of all Oxfam members, volunteers, staff and Board to ensure that Oxfam Canada upholds its principles of equity, diversity and inclusiveness in all its practices.

All Oxfam members, volunteers, staff and Board will uphold the principles of equity, diversity and inclusiveness in carrying out their various roles within Oxfam and as Oxfam representatives in public.

The Executive Director will report to the Board once each year on initiatives taken in order to advance our inclusiveness, and demonstrate our commitment to equity and diversity.

Annex 1: Definitions
Attitudes, behaviour, procedures or physical impediments that undermine equity and diversity, inhibit inclusion and can prevent people from maximizing their contribution to an organization.

Any act, behaviour or practice which may be intentional or unintentional, which negatively affects or could negatively affect the environment of a person or group.

The visible and invisible differences that exist among people, including but not limited to, gender identity, race, ethnic origin, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation or identity, age, economic class, language, religion, nationality, education, and family/marital status. These visible and non-visible differences among people can also lead to differences in experiences, values, attitudes and ways of thinking, behaving, communicating and working.

Fairness of treatment for individuals or groups according to their respective needs, which may include equal treatment or treatment that is different but is considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities.

The ability of an organization to attract, retain and accommodate a range of diverse people who will feel valued and confident within the organization.

Systemic discrimination
A form of discrimination that occurs where policies, practices or procedures which appear neutral have a discriminatory effect on a person or class of persons. Systemic discrimination is measured by its impact, not the intent.

A guide for actions of representatives of Oxfam Canada, particularly during protest events that can be rapidly changing and unpredictable.

 Approved at the October 2009 Board Meeting



  • This policy is a guide for actions of representatives of Oxfam Canada, particularly during protest events that can be rapidly changing and unpredictable.
  • This policy is intended to facilitate participation by representatives of Oxfam Canada in public demonstrations and protests, while at the same time helping to protect the interests and reputation of Oxfam Canada. 


This policy applies to all persons who identify themselves as being associated with Oxfam Canada, including staff, members, volunteers, and partners.


  • Non-violent protest is a longstanding and honourable means of expressing concern. It is an integral component of active citizenship.
  • Freedom of speech, expression and association are fundamental to a healthy democracy and the achievement of justice. At times, it is important to take a clearly visible stand in order to achieve social justice. Consequently, Oxfam Canada views non-violent protest as a positive means of expression, and will initiate as well as participate in it as appropriate and according to specific circumstances.
  • Women and girls throughout the world are disproportionally affected by violence in their homes, communities, and societies. Responding with violence may only escalate the harm to them. However, non-violent protest may serve to reduce that risk.
  • Injustice often prompts public anger. While that anger may be justified and understandable, it is almost always counterproductive if it is manifested in a threatening manner.
  • Oxfam Canada holds non-violence as a key principle because:
    • We strive for a more peaceful and non-violent world.
    • We situate our commitment to non-violence within our vision of peace, cooperation, development, environmental sustainability and respect for human rights.
    • Our methods must be consistent with our goals.
    • Our message of peace and justice is not served by images of violence and destruction.
    • Our commitment to human rights must be reflected in our public actions.


  • Representatives of Oxfam Canada will not engage in actions which threaten persons or property (such as barricades)
  • Oxfam Canada discourages any activities that put Oxfam Canada representatives or anyone else in physical danger.
  • Oxfam Canada representatives do not engage in aggressive behaviour towards police or other security personnel.
  • As public protests are fundamentally about visible expression of a point of view, Oxfam Canada representatives will not normally disguise their identity when participating in non-violent protest. However, there may be very limited instances (such as when puppets are used or when protection from tear gas is required) that necessitate temporary hiding of identity.
  • Oxfam Canada does not condone violent, discriminatory or sexist language during protest activities.

Oxfam Canada is committed to being accessible. Learn More.

External Standards, Codes and Charters

Oxfam International Code of Conduct and Governance Standards. Oxfam Canada is accountable to the Constitution, Rules and Procedures, and Code of Conduct for the Oxfam Confederation as a whole.

INGO Accountability Charter (Accountable Now). The Charter commits Oxfam and all other INGO signatories to meeting best-practice standards on public accountability and transparency, including in good governance and effective management, ethical fundraising and multi-stakeholder engagement.

Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) Code of Ethics. Oxfam Canada accepts and promotes the ethical principles outlined by CCIC - a set of operational standards, which promote understanding and improvement of development and operational practices.

Imagine Canada Standards Program. Oxfam Canada’s accreditation ensures that standards are met in the areas of board governance, financial accountability, fundraising, staff and volunteer management.

Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP). Oxfam Canada is committed to ethically generating philanthropic support, adhering to AFP’s Code of Ethics.

Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement. Oxfam Canada ensures effective volunteer involvement while providing a safe and supportive environment for volunteers.

Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response (Sphere). Oxfam Canada joins other signatories from around the world in commitment to a set of common principles and universal minimum standards in life-saving areas of humanitarian response.

Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS).  As an organization involved in humanitarian response, Oxfam Canada adheres to this standard to measure and ensure the quality and effectiveness of the assistance it provides, including accountability to communities and people affected by crisis.

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