Safeguarding in action: our 10-Point Plan

On 16 February 2018, we agreed on a 10-Point Action Plan to strengthen Oxfam’s safeguarding policies and practices and to transform our organizational culture. 

Oxfam made critical mistakes in Haiti in 2011, failing to properly prevent and investigate sexual misconduct by our staff. We are sorry for these failures in care and proper processes. Everyone in Oxfam is committed to putting that right now. 

Oxfam established an Independent Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change in February of 2018 to conduct a confederation-wide review of our culture, accountability and safeguarding. We asked the Commission to highlight weaknesses in our culture against the highest standards. We welcome its interim report. For us it is really challenging but incredibly important, coming at a crucial time. Please find Oxfam’s management response here.

We recognize the seriousness of the criticisms, welcome its recommendations and are sorry for where we’ve fallen short. We’re determined to keep working to make ourselves a better, safer place. The report says Oxfam is not immune from instances of misconduct and other unacceptable behaviors. We should not be surprised about this and we are not shying away from it. We thank staff who’ve shared their experiences. We are fully committed to continue to change.

The Commission recognizes our commitment to stamp out abuse as far as we can, on the improvements we’re making, and on our determination to focus on gender justice. Where we have got things wrong we will fix them, so that we can carry out our vital work in a culture of mutual respect and safety.

You can follow this page to track our progress against the 10-Point Plan. We will update it regularly to demonstrate how change is taking shape at Oxfam.

The plan

Progress report

Download the reports of the progress we have made implementing our 10-point action plan.

What we have done so far (January 2019):

Country Safeguarding Focal Points in all program countries, all to be fully trained by March 2019; new expert Safeguarding Advisors and HR staff in many affiliate headquarters, as additions to existing teams.

Fifteen additional new roles are in place across Oxfam, including: safeguarding advisors, gender advisors, Human Resources, humanitarian support staff and a role developing a rolling program of safeguarding training for all country-based staff.

New ‘Safer Recruitment’ guidance and support materials are in use, ensuring that interview questions and job advertisements and descriptions properly reflect Oxfam’s values and safeguarding commitments, along with pre-employment staff screening and a central system for providing references.

A new Partnership Approach and Assessment Tool to support our partners to improve their own safeguarding policies and practices and help them become safer organizations for their staff and people they serve is being rolled out.

A new Safe Programming guide to help ensure Oxfam’s humanitarian responses minimize the likelihood of safeguarding incidents happening is being implemented.

Standard, stronger Oxfam-wide policies and practices: Standard Operating Procedure for Reporting Misconduct including to authorities and donors, confederation wide policies on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, and on Child Protection, among others are complete.

1. An Independent High-Level Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change

Our commitment 

Oxfam cannot exonerate itself from the charges made against it and will not try. We will establish a High-Level Commission to operate at arms-length from Oxfam, comprised of senior leaders from across the world. Its Independent CoChairs will determine the scope of its own inquiry in consultation with the Board of Oxfam International. It will have full powers to investigate past and present cases, policies, practices, and culture. It will listen to criticisms and allegations, particularly in relation to the abuse of power and sexual misconduct. It will endeavor to create a comprehensive historical record which will be made publicly available. Oxfam will be guided by whatever recommendations the Commission makes.

On March 16, 2018, Oxfam established an Independent Commission (IC) on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change to conduct a confederation-wide review of its culture, accountability and safeguarding policies, procedures and practice. Zainab Bangura, former United Nations Under-Secretary General, and Katherine Sierra, former World Bank Vice-President, were brought in to co-lead a team of business, government and civil society experts with responsibility to report directly to the Commission and publish their final report within 14 months (May 2019). The Commission has been tasked with proposing recommendations on how Oxfam can better align with its values and strengthen its systems to prevent and respond to all forms of abuse of power, harassment, and interpersonal misconduct, including sexual misconduct, by anyone involved with Oxfam.

As previously reported, the IC had set plans to visit ten countries and a range of affiliates and Oxfam International headquarters to understand the perspectives of staff, partners and communities; established a Survivor Reference Group to ground its work in the realities of survivor experiences; agreed protocols for speaking to survivors, whistle blowers, staff or concerned people; met with a range of sector stakeholders; and set up a direct email for anyone to use, as well as a website and twitter account to ensure transparency.

Other reviews were also undertaken which will feed into the IC’s final report: Oxfam GB continued to cooperate with the UK Charity Commission statutory enquiry and conducted its own staff culture survey; Oxfam America and Oxfam India contracted independent reviews of their safeguarding work and organizational culture. In addition, Oxfam contracted two consultants to review the case management of historical cases to assess what was done well and areas for improvement. The recommendations arising from this work will feed into the Commission’s final report.

Progress January 2019:

  • The IC has released an Interim Report on 16 January 2019 (please find the report on the IC website) and the Oxfam Management Response can be found here. We commit to use the IC report to address weaknesses in our progress to date in order to build more swiftly a culture of safety and equality; one that empowers all who encounter Oxfam.
  • The Commission contracted Proteknon Consulting Group, an expert in community and participatory research, to ask local communities in three countries as to what improvements they want for reporting abuse and getting support during an investigation. Its research is now being reviewed and the outcomes will be included in the final IC report in May.
  • The IC continued to visit Oxfam teams around the world. So far it has visited five country programs and two offices of the Oxfam International secretariat. They met with partners, communities, staff (including in female and male only spaces) and government officials. Commissioners also visited five affiliates to gain insight into safeguarding practice.
  • Another consultancy group has continued to review past safeguarding cases, excluding those that the UK Charity Commission has reviewed, and selected a number for further examination from a range of affiliates. Their findings will feed into the IC’s final report.
  • Oxfam GB is continuing to cooperate with the UK Charity Commission's statutory inquiry.

2. Reiterated commitment to collaborate with all relevant authorities

Our commitment 

We will redouble efforts to show transparency and full cooperation with relevant authorities in any way that can achieve justice for survivors and help to prevent any instance of abuse in the future. This includes proactively reaching out to regulators and governments in countries where we operate to offer to share any information they need or may wish to see. Our aim is to ensure authorities can again feel confident in our policies and processes, with a demonstrable commitment to transparency whilst protecting the safety and confidentiality of survivors.

Over the past year, we have worked hard to ensure that Oxfam’s programs and approaches comply with the laws and regulations of all the countries within which we operate, and with the requirements of donors and regulators. We have proactively reached out to a number of large institutional donors to ensure the compliance of Oxfam’s policies and procedures; finalized Oxfam-wide standard operating procedures for the reporting of cases of staff misconduct (safeguarding and financial); and developing guidance for staff on reporting cases to national authorities.

Progress January 2019:

  • We have begun using Oxfam’s new Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for Reporting Misconduct and have improved the timeliness and consistency of reporting on misconduct, including safeguarding cases. We have established greater clarity of roles and responsibilities across our confederation on reporting and provided guidance on timeframes for different steps in the process. As a result, we have experienced improved reporting and dialogue with national authorities. We are focusing on ensuring that all parts of Oxfam are using the SOP. We will formally review progress in March 2019.
  • Oxfam GB has agreed a serious incident reporting process and mechanism with the UK Charity Commission and the Department for International Development (DfID) and is collaborating with the UK National Crime Agency.
  • In August 2018, DfID's reviewed Oxfam GB's safeguarding policies and practice as part of its due diligence process to implement new Safeguarding Standards for UK charities and NGOs. Oxfam GB passed this process and has since strengthened areas it was required to do.
  • In October 2018, as part of its commitment to transparency, Oxfam International published the first six-monthly update on open and completed safeguarding cases for the whole confederation. The next report is due in April 2019.
  • Oxfam affiliates have adapted their procedures to ensure they comply with their own national authorities and donors. Oxfam Germany responded to the German Federal Foreign Office to update rules for NGO on safeguarding reporting; Oxfam France has liaised with French Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Oxfam India complied with Indian legislation including by establishing more effective complaint mechanisms and internal processes and committees; Oxfam Australia is aligning its safeguarding processes for accreditation by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
  • Oxfam regional and country teams are similarly aligning their safeguarding procedures with donor and government requirements. For example, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have drawn on Oxfam’s experience of Haiti to emphasize victim protection and high-quality documentation of disclosure in cooperation with local authorities.
  • Oxfam Kenya’s process of national alignment resulted in a joint NGO statement re-affirming commitment to reporting incidences to appropriate authorities. Oxfam Uganda, as part of an interagency group, developed a safeguarding process that is now operational in humanitarian response programs. In Tanzania, Oxfam strengthened partnerships with government ministries including the police to establish ‘gender desks’ and a center for victims of sexual and gender-based violence. It has also worked with local government leaders, health workers and religious leaders to improve ways to tackle and report gender-based violence.
  • Oxfam has reached out to institutional donors to ensure the compliance of Oxfam’s safeguarding policies and procedures. For example, Oxfam Zambia held meetings with the country’s Refugee Commissioner, UNHCR and other international agencies to agree procedures for managing investigations involving multiple organizations. Oxfam Germany has been in close dialogue with donors regarding any cases that might affect German funding, based on reports received from other affiliates. Oxfam IBIS is aligning its safeguarding policies and procedures with those of Danish national donors.

3. Re-examine past cases and encourage other witnesses or survivors to come forward

Our commitment 

We owe it to anyone who may have been affected by the misconduct of Oxfam staff to look back at previous cases and re-examine whether they were dealt with appropriately. If they were not then, insofar as is possible, we will take new action in line with Oxfam’s values. This may lead to some current staff facing disciplinary action and possibly losing their jobs. We will continue to communicate to staff, volunteers, partners and beneficiaries that it is safe and indeed actively encouraged to report any instances that they experienced or witnessed that they have previously felt unable to report or were not adequately dealt with at the time. We will ensure an effective whistle-blower system that can be easily and safely utilized by staff, volunteers and people external to Oxfam. More resources will be made available for this as needed.

In 2018, Oxfam invested in approaches to support survivors with affiliates expanding or setting up survivor support mechanisms that included counseling, psychosocial support and medical aid, for example: Oxfam Intermon (Spain) established a psychosocial support team; Oxfam Australia trained Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Contact Officers, Domestic and Family Violence Responders and Mental Health First Aiders; and Oxfam Canada held two mandatory all-staff training days on how to properly accept a disclosure from someone who has been sexually abused. Oxfam has also established a confederation-wide database to log information on historical and current cases of misconduct (with immediate effect for all new cases). This will enhance our ability to monitor cases, analyze trends and identify under-reporting and slow progress.

Progress January 2019:

  • Oxfam’s is working hard to establish an environment in which staff, partners and the people with whom we work feel sufficiently safe from misconduct and abuse and confident to report it when it occurs. We have improved reporting processes and, importantly, now have visible and trained Safeguarding Focal Points in many of our country, regional and affiliate offices. They work to support prevention activities and provide basic guidance on survivor support prior to professional help being secured. Some affiliates have provided guidance on how to conduct safety assessments and manage initial disclosures, and country teams are identifying and mapped sources of professional support for survivors. We are now working to ensure this guidance is available globally.
  • Oxfam has a dedicated Intranet page containing up-to-date information on all aspects of safeguarding. This is helping to improve both people’s understanding and the consistency of safeguarding prevention and case-management across Oxfam.
  • Anecdotal evidence implies that because staff better understand and are actively contributing to improving safeguarding standards – and that people are increasingly trusting of Oxfam to deal with cases robustly and sensitively – we are seeing an increasing in case reporting. This collective ownership of improvement is more sustainable and will result in greater impact than central efforts alone. We see this as a positive reflection of people’s confidence in the improved safeguarding processes, systems and leadership.
  • We have put in place independent and confidential external whistleblowing systems in five languages. However, most reports of concerns come through people talking to Oxfam staff. This is encouraging because it indicates a growing trust in own safeguarding teams and our internal systems that people’s concerns will be addressed. Oxfam is committed to safeguarding teams routinely making first contact with a complainant within 24 hours of receiving an allegation.
  • Oxfam GB has developed a new incident reporting form for shop staff and volunteers to better capture essential information and establish an accurate record for the case file. Its Safeguarding team now routinely makes first contact with a survivor within 24 hours of receiving an allegation.
  • We have established greater clarity on the responsibility for case handling between HR and Safeguarding based on the nature of the case. We held a day-long workshop in December 2018 attended by safeguarding, HR and legal colleagues as well as a member of the IC’s Survivor Reference Group. The workshop built on draft guidelines which clarify how everyone should collaborate on cases and ensure a consistent survivor-centered approach. The interface with the fraud team has also been clarified and formalized.
  • Oxfam’s regional and country teams are working to ensure that our implementing partners understand and conform to our safeguarding policies and procedures. Oxfam India has ensured that all partners involved in child rights and education have been trained and this will be extended to all other partners in 2019.
  • Oxfam is ensuring that fundraising events are risk assessed and managed in line with improved safeguarding guidelines. For example, all participants in Trailwalker are informed of how to report an incident.
  • Oxfam Ethiopia has new reporting mechanisms in all its operational locations so that partners and people from local communities can share their concerns. The team has distributed banners and posters and pamphlets to refugee communities, explaining Oxfam’s referral pathways. The team has translated our safeguarding policy into three local languages (Amharic, Nuer and Somali); and held training with senior managers of key partners. The team will check that our standards are being met via regular partner assessments.
  • Oxfam Uganda has developed a community response and feedback mechanism across all its field locations, including posting suggestion boxes in all offices and initiating feedback days with local communities.

4. Increase our investment in safeguarding

Our commitment 

The Oxfam confederation will significantly increase investment both in budget and staffing to ensure we have appropriate resources to ensure the safety and well-being of all people who come into contact with Oxfam staff. We will also increase our investment in gender training, including recruitment of more staff who will lead our work on gender equality and empowerment in programs and humanitarian response teams.

As previously reported, Oxfam International increased its budget for safeguarding to €1.1m, hiring a safeguarding Associate Director and a Project Manager. It is funding the Independent Commission and its activities, consultants that are reviewing historical cases, staff training, new regional advisors, and the capacity to develop new ‘One Oxfam’ policies and procedures and improve internal communications. Oxfam affiliates have invested more than €2m in new staff to support safeguarding improvements in countries and regions, to carry out investigations, promote awareness and prevention and review new policies and procedures. Oxfam’s Global Humanitarian Team has established three new safeguarding roles to provide expertise and support in its emergency responses.

Progress January 2019:

  • Oxfam International is designing working with colleagues from across the confederation on a new Global Safeguarding Network that will be finalized by February 2019 and built in the following months. This network will:
    • lead safeguarding across the Oxfam confederation to improve consistency and drive higher standards and quality;
    • oversee survivor support mechanisms;
    • develop, socialize, improve and monitor policies and procedures;
    • manage a single global case management system;
    • ensure information is available for external and internal reporting, and communication;
    • ensure training and capacity development is delivered for staff and partners.
  • Oxfam is continuing to build its safeguarding expertise and capacity. Two new Regional Safeguarding Advisors will start work in January with other regional posts now being recruited; country Focal Points are now in place in all country teams and will have received training by the end of March 2019; a new role is developing a comprehensive rolling program of training for country-based staff; the larger Oxfam affiliates have increased dedicated expert safeguarding (and in some broader integrity) advisors. Internal capacity has been enhanced by a range of consultants and referral services.
  • This boost in capacity is resulting in a stronger overall understanding among all staff of safeguarding, and in more timely, better quality and more consistency in prevention and awareness work – and also in the stronger management of cases when they do arise. This in turn is driving more trust, and more referrals, into the Oxfam safeguarding system. More work remains to be done, most particularly in how partners and communities can report cases, because reporting levels there remain relatively low. Oxfam will focus its particular attention harder on this in the next 12 months.
  • Oxfam GB has strengthened and standardized its handling of cases. Each case now has its own a risk assessment template and the safeguarding teams are closing cases much quicker, providing an initial response within 24 hours and seeking to close most cases within 8-12 weeks. Oxfam will ensure that this improved process is rolled out across the entire Confederation in 2019. In Oxfam GB there are more regular case management meetings and coordination among colleagues to monitor progress across the caseload. We have greater clarity on the responsibility for case handling between HR and Safeguarding, based on the nature of the case and have drafted guidelines that make it clear which behaviors are HR concerns and which the safeguarding team should investigate. These too will be rolled out across the confederation is 2019. In addition, where safeguarding cases also have a fraud element within them, we will ensure coherence and coordination across these functions with weekly meeting between these teams. The learning from Oxfam GB’s approach is feeding into the development of a One Oxfam Standard Operating Procedure for Case Management.
  • The Global Humanitarian team (GHT) has increased its budget and capacity to deliver an effective program response in respect of gender: GHT’s new staff include a gender technical lead, two gender advisors and three humanitarian support personnel, who complement the existing Gender Team. A network of Safeguarding Focal Points is also being put in place, with eight staff already identified to ensure that all humanitarian staff are trained in all Oxfam’s safeguarding processes.
  • To date about 30% of Oxfam’s staff around the world has completed online courses in PSEA and child protection, designed by UNHCR and UNICEF. The majority of staff have felt that the concepts covered were already familiar to them but valuable to reinforce their learning, according to our feedback. Some said that the course enhanced their understanding of the scale of the problem in the sector and that it made prohibited behaviors clearer and reinforced the importance of reporting. Most colleagues felt that they would be able to implement what they learned.
  • Oxfam GB has recruited seven new HR staff to work alongside the existing Trading Safeguarding Advisor, and it will ensure that a Safeguarding Focal Point attends all festivals and fundraising events. A new Director of Safeguarding will report directly to the CEO. It is also running workshops with an external consultant and expert on violence against women and girls. Staff taking part include its Leadership and Senior management teams. These workshops have been focused on what a survivor-centered approach looks and feels like. The aim is to build this approach into Oxfam’s work and contribute to the culture change we seek.
  • Oxfam GB has designated additional funding for the next 2 years up to a total of £2m. This is primarily for interagency safeguarding initiatives that will help make the sector safe for all those we work with.
  • Oxfam Novib has appointed an Integrity Lead to help embed more quickly the guidance and management systems needed to prevent and respond to misconduct and abuse.
  • Oxfam America has recruited a Senior Advisor for Safeguarding and upgraded the position of HR Director to Vice-President of People, Culture, and HR, and has hired an additional Gender Advisor to focus on policy and advocacy. It facilitated a workshop on survivor-centered approaches to safeguarding confederation staff, organized by Oxfam International.
  • Oxfam Canada’s safeguarding committee meets on a regular basis and a new senior manager will support the Executive Director to strengthen the safeguarding work of the organization. A trained safeguarding focal point has been appointed to support the Oxfam team in Cuba, as part of Canada’s support role.
  • Oxfam Intermón’s new Safeguarding lead started in January. Oxfam Germany has translated the mandatory Gender and Justice course and an introduction to Oxfam’s Code of Conduct and Values. Oxfam Italy’s HR Manager and Focal Point have been trained as investigators by the CHS Alliance. Oxfam IBIS now has a trained investigator
  • Oxfam’s regional team for Latin America and the Caribbean countries has 11 Safeguarding Focal Points, coordinated by the regional HR lead. The team is part of the overall Cultural Change Plan for each office. Teams across the region, have delivered a wide range of gender and rights-based training, including those focusing on power and consent, labor and sexual harassment, feminist approaches, inclusive language, chivalry and machismo, sexual harassment and abuse of power.
  • Oxfam’s Learning Management System is enabling greater regional analysis of the take up of mandatory online courses, with reports provided on the on-boarding of safeguarding progress and commitment to achieving key performance indicators.

5. Strengthen internal processes

Our commitment 

We will improve our internal processes including to ensure that official Oxfam references are never given to offenders seeking jobs elsewhere. We will strengthen the vetting and recruitment of staff including to make safeguarding a mandatory part of the recruitment and selection process and in performance man(The Netherlands) agement criteria. We will make safeguarding training mandatory for all staff. We will strengthen whistle-blowing process to ensure it is safe and easy for people to use. All Oxfam affiliates will have trained safeguarding focal points, including at all major Oxfam-organized events. We will ensure our systems are reliable in order to report any suspected illegal activity to the relevant authorities.

By October 2018, Oxfam approved One Oxfam PSEA and Child Safeguarding policies and were developing Survivor Support, Digital, Youth and Vulnerable Adults policies. A Standard Operating Procedure for Reporting Misconduct has been approved and rolled out for use across the confederation. Safer recruitment processes had been reviewed and improved, and now include new wording in job advertisements and standard questions related to safeguarding in job interviews. A central system for providing references is also in place whereby every Oxfam affiliate has accredited referees who ensure that staff references will refer to findings of gross misconduct, including sexual abuse, where this is lawful.

Progress January 2019:

  • The strengthening Oxfam’s internal processes has resulted in a process to overhaul the policies, procedures and practice that Oxfam must put in place to operate effectively as a global confederation. Safeguarding, of course, has been at the heart of this huge piece of work, the implications of which have affected everything we do now, and will do in the future, in how the Oxfam confederation operates on an affiliate, regional and country level. We are improving other processes including those relating to HR, as well as the design and implementation of all of our programs and activities
  • Key new safeguarding policies are now in place i.e. PSEA and Child Safeguarding and the Standard Operating Procedures for Reporting Misconduct, including safeguarding (as well as financial and HR). These are One Oxfam policies and applicable across the whole organization so will improve standards and consistency, as well as the understanding, expectation and trust that Oxfam takes these issues seriously globally and that we will react consistently.
  • One Oxfam Survivor Support guidance and a Standard Operating Procedure for case management are being developed, drawing on experience from affiliates, countries and the wider sector, and will be completed in the coming months.
  • Safer Recruitment guidance and materials are fully developed and being implemented. Oxfam is currently focusing on improving the consistency, implementation and accountability of its HR and recruiting managers.
  • Oxfam GB has put in place a multi-purpose case management system for fraud, HR, aid diversion and safeguarding in one package, so that all cases can be recorded and managed consistently. It has strengthened and standardized the processes for handling safeguarding cases. Where previously there was a single decision maker, there is now a panel of decision makers agreeing the outcome of a case.
  • The Oxfam GB Trustee Safeguarding Group’s role is to support the organization and its Safeguarding Team as it enhances capacity and processes to ensure we minimize the risk that anyone with whom OGB has contact (including beneficiaries, staff and volunteers) comes to harm as a result of that contact. To ensure effective oversight of and progress on the actions OGB has already committed to strengthen to improve its safeguarding, to set an organizational culture that prioritizes safeguarding, to handle incidents as they arise, report them to the relevant authorities including the police and the Charity Commission, and to learn from these mistakes and put in place the relevant mechanisms to stop them happening again.
  • The Global Humanitarian Team commissioned an external protection review to assess its processes and mechanisms to ensure safe programming and improve the risk management measures in emergency responses, including an analysis of how safe programing can help to reduce safeguarding risks and support a culture of accountability to the people and communities that we serve. From this, the GHT is developing a short practical Safe Programming Toolkit in four languages and introducing a ‘safe programming’ leadership training for key staff. In relation to social accountability, the GHT is updating its guidance on feedback and complaints during emergency responses. This is a live document and the GHT is talking with our implementing partners and other organizations to ensure these new ideas and best practice are included. The GHT will then begin to establish new ways to build awareness of safeguarding practice among affected communities, so that local people feel better able to use these mechanisms. We will implement these recommendations in 2019, along with more robust monitoring and evaluation processes.
  • Oxfam underwent an external assessment by an external auditing organization (Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative) of its humanitarian work to assess whether it is meeting the Core humanitarian Standards. The outcome was that Oxfam is verified in relation to the CHS commitments, of which safeguarding is a key commitment. A summary of the report is published in HQAI webpage. Oxfam is working on the areas identified for improving the practice.
  • The Oxfam confederation-wide MEL (monitoring, evaluation and learning) teams that assess the impact of Oxfam’s program activities have been working together to improve staff training, to ensure that their practices are in line with our strengthened standards. The team selected nine case studies to better understand the potential for inadvertently causing harm when working with communities. We have turned these into training materials.
  • Oxfam India is conducting the real time review/evaluation of the Kerala Floods in January and has added Safeguarding, Social Inclusion and Gender mainstreaming as key benchmarks.
  • Oxfam Canada’s International Program teams have developed minimum standards guidance for integrating safeguarding into all new program proposals and MEL systems, and more than 30 staff attended a safe programing training workshop.
  • Oxfam France has incorporated safeguarding into its 2019 monitoring and evaluation methodology.
  • The team in the Dominican Republic have used donor funds an innovative project for Oxfam and partners have been developed reaching (amongst other results) deep analysis on our program work (including MEL).
  • Oxfam’s Asia region team has surveyed five pilot countries (Philippines, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India) to understand our existing use of tools, practices and measures. The team has more information now to improve safeguarding effectiveness. The team also ran crisis management sessions, learning and sharing how to deal with, report and reduce associated risks from safeguarding, media, security, fraud and other scenario situations. Forty-eight participants joined experts from Security, Finance, Safeguarding, HR, Program and Business Systems. Safeguarding and impact on programs, Program Quality has been incorporated into Business Development discussions, partnerships and future MEL processes. Investment into Program Quality onboarding digital tools to incorporate safeguarding and ethical working has been made and committed for FY2019/2020.
  • Oxfam has started to review examples of what factors contribute to safe programs in longer-term development work including project design, entry point and developing better risk assessment mechanisms throughout the design and implementation cycle to ensure risks are identified and adequate mitigation measures are in place.
  • A working group of technical experts from across Oxfam GB will be established to look at this closely through different lenses with the aim of a more holistic, systematic approach to design safer programs.

6. Re-enforce a culture of zero tolerance towards harassment, abuse or exploitation

Our commitment 

We will change the culture that enabled harassment, exploitation, discrimination and abuse to exist within Oxfam and help to lead this change throughout the sector. We will work with agencies to support Oxfam’s cultural shift. We will set up a Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) Taskforce to make recommendations that we will act upon with urgency.

As previously reported, Oxfam is on a journey of improving and changing its culture. At the beginning of 2018 the ‘Safeguarding and Culture Strategy’ was finalized, which laid out a path to creating an environment that enables all staff to be safe and reflect our values every day. A range of actions were identified including improving formal policies and processes and informal norms, behaviors and deep structures in order to re-enforce a zero tolerance to harassment, abuse and exploitation. Given the scope of culture change, this work interacts with all the priorities in the 10 point plan, including but not limited to the Independent Commission, strengthening of internal processes, and increasing trust and investment in our safeguarding processes. All staff have signed a new ‘One Oxfam’ Code of conduct, supported by on-line and face-to-face workshops where staff could discuss what our organizational values mean in everyday working life in their role and context.

A key part of the delivery of our culture strategy has been the leadership and active engagement of diverse staff from all parts of Oxfam, and the creation of a critical mass of Oxfam colleagues who are committed to and engaged in improving culture and sharing good practice. Staff have both participated in and led initiatives aiming to improve Oxfam culture, with a staff culture group called ‘Living Our Values Everyday’ driving a number of key initiatives as described below.

Progress January 2019:

  • The staff culture group comprises Oxfam staff from around the world who stepped forward to help build a more cohesive and empowering Oxfam culture. In 2018 they identified a number of priority areas upon which to work:
    • Embedding our Values in Human Resources Processes: We have recognized the importance of strengthened HR processes as a way to embed our values and feminist principles through an employee’s lifecycle at Oxfam. Values based recruitment is now part of Oxfam’s new ‘Safer Recruitment Guide’, and we have started to incorporate values and feminist principles into the performance management process, considering more strongly the ‘how’ we carry out our role (how we live our values) alongside what we do.
    • Culture Survey and Dialogue: The culture group has developed a global survey that has been completed by more than 3000 staff. The outcomes of the survey will provide information for honest informed conversations about Oxfam’s cultures and will stimulate further action. The outcomes are expected in February 2019.
    • Staff Wellbeing and Resilience: A confederation-wide campaign and online conversation on well-being and resilience began at the end of 2018, which received a lot of positive feedback. We have made links with HR about policy and procedures to support staff wellbeing, and work is being planned in a range of areas from induction to performance management to staff health.
    • Feminist Principles: Many parts of the organization have been exploring how feminist principles can be put into practice across countries, programs and affiliates. The Gender Justice Platform is developing a shared Oxfam articulation to be published internally in January. Feminist Principles have also been used in the design of all the culture activities, including the Code of Conduct and Values workshop, Culture Survey and Dialogues, and the Wellbeing campaign.
  • The Independent Commission’s Interim Report is a valuable source of information about where we are as an organization. We will use this as well as the outcomes of our culture survey, to which over 3000 staff responded, to enrich our strategy into the future, and enable facilitated localized dialogue across the organization.
  • Leadership is committed to model good behavior and is adopting feminist leadership principles that support positive change in Oxfam and its work. Oxfam affiliates and countries have had team discussions, developed initiatives and programs to improve our culture.
  • Staff across the confederation are actively involved and contributing to addressing the more problematic aspects of Oxfam’s culture. Staff at all levels are becoming more confident to openly speak out and challenge leaders and unacceptable behaviors where they occur. There is an open and passionate debate about what the cultural strengths of Oxfam are and what needs to change.
  • An individual online module on the Code of Conduct and Oxfam’s values is now available on Learning at Oxfam, which every new staff member must complete as part of their induction.
  • Our culture work will get greater financial investment and specialist capacity from April 2019. This will be closely related to safeguarding to ensure that Oxfam is safer for all staff, volunteers, partners, communities.
  • Oxfam Canada has played an important role in refining Oxfam’s understanding of feminist principles which serve as a guidepost for all Oxfam’s work: partnership, our humanitarian programming, our long-term development work, our policy advocacy and campaigns and our organizational culture and behavior.
  • The Oxfam International Management Team met the CEO from Greenpeace International to learn about the process they followed in strengthening their internal culture. The team also heard from members of the staff culture group, who spoke about what behaviors and changes would improve trust and morale in the organization. Inspired by these exchanges the management team reflected what they as individual leaders and as a team will do differently such as: empower staff more, listen more, stronger staff engagement, promote self-care and to lead by example, manage expectations, strengthen prioritization and further explore how to translate feminist principles within programs, campaigns and other departments.
  • Oxfam GB aims to be an organization where everyone feels safe, valued and respected, with these values reflected in all of our work. To achieve this, we have implemented an inclusive culture project consisting of three phases:
    • Understanding our current culture;
    • Co-creating our "new" culture;
    • Intervening to evolve our culture.

    We have held six workshops for staff and volunteers in all divisions over the past year, resulting in more than 100 statements proposing ways to drive cultural change.

  • Oxfam America has launched three Employee Resource Groups on People of Color, Young Women Professionals and LGBTQIA+. These groups are creating spaces for all employees to meet and plan events. The group’s purpose is to foster a more diverse and inclusive workspace aligned with our organizational mission, values and goals. OUS created a staff-led Male-Identified Staff Group that meets regularly – open to all staff – to discuss issues such as positive masculinity and how male-identified staff can support safeguarding and culture change initiatives.
  • Oxfam Germany conducted three “gender focus breakfasts”, a forum for discussion to learn about staff concerns and ideas on how to bring about a stronger focus on gender issues in our ways of working. It concluded that Oxfam Germany needs a gender action plan of awareness raising training as well as measures that will lead to structural and cultural change and more gender equality and equity at Oxfam Germany.
  • Oxfam Italy ran a course attended by 80 staff on gender equality (stereotypes, commonly used language, beliefs, ways of working) to help rebuild an organizational culture based on mutual understanding and respect. The course had very positive feedback and a clear request to continue.

7. Work with our peers across the sector to tackle physical, sexual and emotional abuse

Our commitment 

We will work with the rest of our sector to ensure people are safe, recognizing there are actions we cannot take on our own. This includes how to ensure that offenders who have lost their job with one organization cannot move on to another. We will work with UN bodies, the International Civil Society Center and other joint NGO platforms to agree on proposals for sector-wide improvement. We will contribute to the work initiated by BOND in the UK for a humanitarian passport and/or anti-offenders’ system housed by an accountable agency such as UN OCHA.

Oxfam is contributing to numerous initiatives to help to raise safeguarding standards across our sector. Oxfam has contributed to the development of an inter-agency Misconduct Disclosure Scheme and all Oxfam affiliates are actively leading or involved in initiatives to improve safeguarding, disclosure and reporting standards in their own countries.

Oxfam France and Italy are part of cross-sector human resource groups. Oxfam Intermon (Spain) and Oxfam Ireland have joined working groups with other INGOs. The Executive Directors of Oxfam Quebec and Oxfam Canada both joined a new Steering Committee to Prevent and Address Sexual Misconduct (initiated by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation) with both organizations helping to develop the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCCI) Leader’s Pledge on Preventing and Addressing Sexual Misconduct. Oxfam Australia is participating in the Australian Council for International Development’s safeguarding review and is a member of various communities of practice, as well as informal diversity networks within the INGO sector. Oxfam Novib (The Netherlands) is active in the Dutch development and humanitarian network, PARTOS, which is developing a Joint Integrity Program to raise response and reporting standards within Dutch INGOs. Oxfam America’s Chief Executive is playing a leading role in helping to improve the safeguarding standards of other international NGOs in the US, including within the Interaction alliance. Oxfam GB worked with DfID and the UK Bond network, and Oxfam Canada with the Canadian government, in the lead up to the Global Summit on Safeguarding. Oxfam GB also engaged with other INGOs on how best to undertake international criminal checks, something Interpol has supported. The UK Department for International Development has proposed a Global Centre of Excellence after discussions with the UK sector including Oxfam GB. Oxfam in Jordan is a member of a PSEA network, including with UN organizations and other INGOs and national groups, within which information, lessons and resources are being shared.

Progress January 2019:

  • Oxfam Quebec’s Chief Executive sits on the DAC Reference Group on Protection against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) – a group of civil society activists making recommendations to donors, which will ensure agreed standards and policies are fully implemented.
  • Oxfam is working alongside other humanitarian agencies (ICRC, IFRC, Oxfam, CARE, WVI, ACT Alliance, Caritas International, Save the Children International, plus Plan International and VSO) to develop an inter-agency ‘Misconduct Disclosure Scheme’, a referencing system for aid workers. Oxfam is leading on its legal aspects. It clarifies the principles, scope and basic features of the scheme and identifies options for further consideration by HR and legal teams. The scheme was accepted by the sector at the UK’s DfID conference in October 2018 and completed 21 December 2018, subject to the final Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) being agreed, provisionally by mid-January. Oxfam will implement the scheme confederation-wide in the first quarter of 2019.
  • Oxfam is part of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee PSEA/SH’s work on advancing PSEA at country-level. Oxfam is encouraging its new Safeguarding Focal Points to take part in in-country PSEA Networks, particularly to facilitate safe and quick referrals for survivor assistance.
  • The Oxfam Global Humanitarian Team is working with Save the Children-UK and the UK INGO network ‘Bond’ Group to progress discussions on the design of a Humanitarian ID system. This is still at an early stage, with current discussions focusing on technical options, legal and jurisdiction issues, and conversations with Microsoft on possible collaboration.
  • In November 2018, colleagues involved in Oxfam’s flood response program in Bangladesh were invited, together with an implementing partner, to share experiences of setting up complaints and feedback mechanisms at a CHS (Core Humanitarian Standards) Alliance event in London.
  • Oxfam is organizing a panel with African parliamentarians on national evaluation systems including discussion of the three issues highlighted from the meeting and sharing our resources on the responsible data policy. In addition two papers (here and here) produced for this meeting is informing the development of the strategic learning and impact evaluation practice group.
  • Oxfam Novib is a member of the Dutch Relief Alliance (DRA), a coalition of 16 Dutch aid organizations funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). The structure of the DRA enables participating NGOs to respond to major international crises in a timely and effective manner. Members have recently drafted an Integrity Protocol that sets out minimum standards of integrity to which each member can commits and realize change in their organizations.
  • Oxfam Novib is a member of Partos, a Dutch membership body for organizations working in international development. In 2018, Partos led a Joint Integrity Action Program (‘Gezamenlijk Actieplan Integriteit’) that aimed to support the improvement of integrity systems in Dutch organizations and enhance their prevention, response and reporting mechanisms. Its Joint Action Plan focuses on four main areas: (i) improving existing integrity systems, (ii) taking preventative measures, (iii) safe reporting and response mechanisms’ and (iv) transparency and accountability. Project reports and tools available to view via an online magazine (in Dutch and English). The Partos Code of Conduct for organizations has also been updated to incorporate more and better references to integrity and safeguarding.
  • Oxfam Novib is one of the 160 members of Goede Doelen Nederland which establishes minimum standards and framework conditions for the Dutch NGO sector. It is launching new standards that promote ethical conduct by ensuring organizations have robust integrity systems, while also discussing integrity dilemmas. Goede Doelen Nederland, jointly with Partos, recently published their Integrity Guidelines, setting out minimum standards and providing a set of tools to assist organizations in improving their integrity systems, including prevention and response actions. Complying with the standards set out in the Guidelines will ensure that organizations comply with the Partos Code of Conduct and the Goede Doelen system of qualification. The Goede Doelen Standards Committee will soon inform all recognized charities about all new standards and changes.
  • In the absence of a government regulator for the charity sector, such as the Charity Commission in the UK, the Dutch charity sector has a self-regulation mechanism administered and supervised by the Central Bureau for Fundraising. During 2018, the CBF carried out an assessment of integrity policies and procedures of Dutch charities, the results of which are expected in early 2019. In principle, from March 2019, we will need to report to them on 2 levels: 1) annually through an annual report, and 2) on a case-by-case basis for serious incidents of misconduct and abuse. A common reporting form has been developed by the CBF and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ease reporting requirements for Dutch organizations.
  • Oxfam America, in partnership with the Rutherford Foundation, organized a Safeguarding in monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) workshop for foundations, philanthropic organizations, NGO’s, UN agencies, and academics. The resulting report covered data protection and privacy, a closer examination of the types of evaluation that should be conducted to protect and safeguard the interests of vulnerable people, and recommendations for building the capacity, knowledge and expertise of teams. As a follow-up, Oxfam is organizing a panel with African parliamentarians on national evaluation systems including discussion of the three issues highlighted from the meeting. The Rockefeller Foundation is now researching the safeguarding policies of other philanthropic organizations.
  • Oxfam America continues to play a leading role in safeguarding among other international NGOs in the US, including within the Interaction alliance. In October, it facilitated a session on survivor-centered approaches to Safeguarding for CEO’s as part of InterAction’s NGO Leadership Retreat on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. Oxfam America also provides on-going technical support and advice for NGO’s who are in the process of strengthening their safeguarding policies and response capacity. Oxfam America is part of an inter-agency INGO working group for HR and discusses PSEA issues in Sudan.
  • Oxfam Canada’s Executive Director was invited by the Canadian government to be the civil society representative on the Canadian delegation to the Global Summit on Safeguarding held in London in 2018. In addition, she spoke at the Canadian Council for International Cooperation’s annual conference plenary session on stepping up against sexual misconduct and moderated a dialogue between Global Affairs Canada and civil society on sexual misconduct in the humanitarian aid and development sector.
  • Oxfam France participated in the French NGO working group on safeguarding (Coordination Sud); Oxfam Belgium and the CHS Alliance are organizing a training workshop on safeguarding standards with Belgian NGOs.
  • Oxfam Germany is taking active part in discussions to improve safeguarding standards and PSEA principles through an umbrella group for German NGOs (VENRO) and, at the Humanitarian Congress in Berlin (October 2018), Oxfam Germany’s Executive Director joined a panel to discuss safeguarding in the humanitarian sector (with more than 10 participants).
  • Oxfam IBIS is working across the Danish NGO sector to improve the processes and politics on safeguarding. The work is led by Global Fokus (similar to BOND) and supported by The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DANIDA). We have also conducted a workshop in November on the topic, where we invited partners and colleagues from e.g. Syria, Somalia, Kenya, Bangladesh and Guatemala to get their point of view on the matter, so it is not only driven by the north perspective.
  • During the Indonesian Sulawesi emergency tsunami response, joint initiatives for safeguarding were part of immediate life-saving and second stage recovery efforts, with local NGOs taking the lead for case management and survivor support with advice and monitoring by Oxfam’s Emergency response operation lead. More detail on safeguarding was included within the real time evaluation of Oxfam’s response (November 2018).

8. Active engagement with partners and allies, especially women’s rights organizations

Our commitment

We will reach out to partners and allies to rebuild trust including from their input on how we can learn and improve. We will reach out to women’s rights organizations and others who work on Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) issues, to answer their questions, hear their reflections and concerns, and ensure our responses are defined in consultation with them.

As previously reported, in 2018 Oxfam sent a questionnaire to all of its country offices to open up discussions with partner organizations about their systems and processes for managing misconduct (both safeguarding and financial). More than 400 partners from 44 countries responded, which was the first step in a process of assessment to ensure that all our partners are able to meet donor compliance standards. New Partner Assessment and Safeguarding Awareness tools were developed. Oxfam’s ‘Accountability Working Group’ also designed a process for better understanding the safeguarding needs and preferences of local staff, partners and communities, which will enable them to share their needs and preferences for reporting incidences of misconduct and make informed choices about how to organize their resources to better support survivors. Other initiatives included Oxfam Australia partnering with Women’s Health Victoria to deliver a “Domestic Violence Bystander” program; Oxfam Intermon (Spain) meeting with women’s rights organizations to strengthen its support; and Oxfam Canada – which specializes in support for women’s rights - conducted a national speaking tour on violence against women and girls in partnership with indigenous women and women’s rights organizations.

Progress January 2019:

  • Oxfam’s Partner Integrity Survey of 2018 provides an overview of the policies and procedures that partner organizations have in place five areas: Code of Conduct, safeguarding, fraud, terrorism financing and community feedback. In respect of core values, there was little difference between those of Oxfam and the partners that we work alongside. Almost 90% of partners have a zero-tolerance stance against sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. More than 80% of partners have a Code of Conduct. The survey has led to an increased awareness of the importance of safeguarding (and wider integrity issues) and stimulated debate and planning for improvements among partners and Oxfam program teams, some examples of which are outlined below.
  • Oxfam new Partnership Approach and Partnership Assessment Tool focuses on integrity and aims to prevent safeguarding issues, protect the rights and privacy of survivors, and support partners. It provides a checklist on mandatory standards and questions designed to generate two-way conversations. It is helping us to meet donor requirements and is currently being rolled out to country teams, including beginning to be used with partners.
  • Oxfam has carried out an assessment and developed a database of Oxfam Partnerships’ with Women’s Rights organizations ‘Local to Global (2018)’. The report revealed that 10% of our funded partners were women’s organization. In humanitarian responses this reduces to 7% and only 2% of partners at a global level are women’s rights organizations. In 2017-18 and 2016-17, over 60% of Oxfam’s financial contributions to women’s rights organizations were under $50k USD. We are using this information to increase the number and quality of partnership-driven initiatives, especially in gender-mainstreamed areas across all Oxfam programming.
  • Leaders of Oxfam GB’s global campaigns have identified the value of mainstreaming gender as a core component in all campaigns in future action plans. OGB has created two new Gender Justice posts and its Director of Women’s Rights now sits on the Leadership Team (which leads the organization).
  • Oxfam Hong Kong translated the mandatory e-learning training courses into Chinese and shared these with their partners in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and mainline China, as well as Oxfam staff.
  • Oxfam Canada has significant partnerships with women’s rights organizations in its programs many that stemmed from its flagship Engendering Change program. Oxfam Canada is launching two new programs specifically focused on supporting and strengthening women’s rights organizations (in Pakistan and Guatemala). Oxfam Canada has developed a Theory of Change for its Women’s Voice and Leadership program, clearly articulating how OCA’s feminist principles and values are put into practice in the program.
  • Oxfam India carried out an assessment of its partnerships with Women’s Rights organizations (WRO). It found that it is working with 23 WROs, which comprises of 25% of its total partnerships and 30% of its total budget.
  • Oxfam Australia conducted training, with an emphasis on child safeguarding, for the country staff and partners in Southern Africa (Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which are contributing to DFAT funding projects with an emphasis on child protection.
  • Oxfam Hong Kong is working with partners in China to improve safeguarding standards and mainstream gender justice and power within its programs. After attending a workshop, one partner disclosed a safeguarding event and since then Oxfam has been working with this partner to help embed safeguarding policies and practice within program activities and will support with monitoring and evaluation activities.
  • In Southern Africa, Oxfam has helped partners to establish and strengthen their policies and procedures and partner risk assessments and routine reports now include safeguarding. Oxfam’s internal safeguarding reporting channels have been shared with partners and beneficiaries at program inception and review meetings.
  • Country teams in Latin America and Caribbean have continued to ensure that all new project agreements with partners communicate Oxfam’s safeguarding standards reporting mechanisms. 67 partners in LAC completed the survey and the results have been analyzed both at the regional level and with the countries. The safeguarding focal points have played a key role in facilitating this analysis in their countries with their Country Management Teams. As of today, the Dominican Republic and Cuba have already carried out the socialization of the results with the partners that participated in the survey.
  • In Asia, the majority of partner NGOs in Nepal currently working with Oxfam have been trained on Safeguarding, Safety and Security. Partners in all countries in Asia will be trained in 2019.
  • In the Pacific, program staff have met with partners to reflect with HR colleagues on how to strengthen safeguarding in both Oxfam and partner organizations.
  • Oxfam’s South Sudan team partnered with a women’s rights organization (Rural Women for Development) to carry out research on women in local humanitarian leadership. It conducted a mapping of Women rights organizations through the South Sudan NGO Forum and developed a safeguarding and gender capacity building plan for three other partners.
  • In Uganda, Oxfam’s Women’s Rights Advisor completed a mapping exercise of national women’s rights organizations to strengthen the partnership approach and begin deeper strategic engagement. The team-initiated discussions on safeguarding during the Partner’s Forum and in other fora including the Irish Aid PGII Partner’s Meeting and with the VOICE Grantees.
  • In Kenya, Oxfam’s Women’s Rights Program has linked local women groups to national women rights organizations. The aim of this link is to create buy-in from the women’s rights organizations to commit to support these women, to enjoy their rights (including sexual and bodily) through supporting the local women to understand what legal action to take to enable them to be in a better place to report and seek support from the respective organizations when claiming their rights e.g. demanding action in cases of sexual violation. Representatives of the institutions in attendance shared their personal and official contacts as well as the office locations with the women present and encouraged them to share with them information on the incidences as soon as they take place.
  • In HECA (Horn, East and Central Africa) a learning event with Oxfam and its partners took place in October 2018 focusing on Misconduct and Safeguarding, reiterating the importance of strengthening policies, practices and culture of Oxfam and partner organizations.
  • In Ghana, Oxfam held a meeting with all its partners about how to mitigate the risk of safeguarding in the sector. In 2019 Oxfam contracted a consultant to work with partner organizations to develop stronger safeguarding policies and systems and will also be providing more detailed training for focal points of all partner organizations.
  • Oxfam in Bangladesh is developing a safeguarding focal points network with 18 partner NGOs to date. As part of a key program (Empowering Local and National Humanitarian Actors) Oxfam conducted six learning events to build protection and safe programming capacity of Bangladeshi NGOs, attended by 50 women and 67 men, representing six organizations and one Network (The National Alliance of Humanitarian actors in Bangladesh). These organizations are parts of two major network of humanitarian organizations: the Bangladesh Women’s Humanitarian Platform (BWHP), and 2) the National Alliance of Humanitarian Actors in Bangladesh ((NAHAB).
  • In Pakistan, Oxfam is reviewing and revising its Partners’ Safeguarding policies as per Oxfam Safeguarding Policies. It ran two Child Safeguarding Awareness sessions for 30 Partner organizations in November.
  • In Timor-Leste Oxfam promoted the new app for smart phones which allows people to report – or seek advice – about incidents of sexual harassment within the public service.
  • In Nepal, Oxfam has worked with partners and the wider sector to identify risks and developing a mitigation plan for a complaints/feedback, found/missing stall, gender balance monitoring team in five earthquake districts. It ran a safeguarding training for 28 partners in December during its Financial Management and Compliance Workshop. The Nepal team has also supported community members, for example running a session on safety and safeguarding on child safety and child friendly environment with home owners and construction workers in an integrated settlement in Nuwakot. As a result, it was reporting that there was no child labor used in construction works and no use of offensive language reported during the construction period and equal wages to male and female during construction period.
  • Oxfam Malawi has organized inter-partner support to strengthen the safeguarding standards of our partners, with the stronger partners supporting those with less experience.
  • Oxfam South Sudan has ensured that all staff and members of community-based protection structures apply safe programing procedures in all projects and activities. It is carrying out regular consultations with women and girls to determine the best approaches and the safest locations for activities, in ways that don’t exacerbate tension between rival groups or undermine people’s rights. Protection assessments regularly take place to mitigate threats and risks and program staff have been given training in psychological support in order to handle incidences safely and appropriately.
  • Oxfam Ethiopia has undertaken risk assessments and mapped the safeguarding policies and practice of two partner organizations.
  • Oxfam Uganda is supporting the roll out of Start Awareness Support and Action methodology in all locations where it is responding to the influx of refugees. This is one of the community-based approaches used to prevent sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse and HIV. It also participated in a Global Protection Annual Peer Group meeting where safeguarding aspects are always shared; coordinated Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) training in all locations where Oxfam is implementing programs in coordination with the Office of the Prime Minister (government department in-charge of refugees and IDPs) and UNHCR.
  • Oxfam Chad trained 20 members of staff and partners on key components of safeguarding and accountability early October 2018 and established a task force of partner organizations with the skills and capacity share knowledge on the main concepts of Oxfam’s ethical framework (exploitation, harassment and sexual abuse).

9. Listen to the public

Our commitment

We will listen and learn from feedback from supporters around the world. We will ensure two-way communication with them, responding to the concerns they raise and explaining the actions we are taken to learn and change.

In February 2018, when the case of misconduct by Oxfam staff in Haiti was in the news, we received a huge number of messages, both critical and encouraging. We have worked hard to get back to people personally and we have kept record of what people have been telling us to learn what their expectations are and how we can improve. Since then, Oxfam affiliates have done surveys to find out how supporters and the wider public think and feel towards Oxfam so that we understand better what changes we need to make in order to earn back trust. Several Oxfam affiliates have also organized specific projects to listen to the public. Oxfam Italy, for example, did a survey and a series of interviews with internal and external stakeholders and presented the finding in public meetings in Florence, Milan and Rome. Oxfam Canada held public town halls webinars to discuss issues around sexual conduct.

Progress January 2019:

  • Worldwide, Oxfam has communicated with all stakeholders about the progress on Oxfam’s 10 Point Plan. Oxfam India, Oxfam Germany and other affiliates have created specific sections on their websites on safeguarding. Where possible Oxfam affiliates have organized ways to provide feedback through online and offline channels. Oxfam Novib (The Netherlands) for example has added a chat box on their website in order to promote an open dialogue with website visitors.
  • Oxfam has carried out public surveys in Spain, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Germany, India, Canada, Quebec, Mexico, Great Britain, Belgium, Australia, France and Ireland to learn what the public expects from us and what changes we need to make to earn back trust. We have learned that in some countries trust in Oxfam by the public is challenged and will need to be earned back by taking action. The public wants to see a well-managed organization that applies its own values to itself and uses its resources carefully and efficiently. We have also learned that the vast majority of the public supports our vision for a just world without poverty and want to contribute to it in a meaningfully way. We intend to track progress in the future to see if the changes we are making are effective in the eyes of the public.
  • Oxfam Australia and Oxfam Germany have solicited feedback from their supporters and responded. A supporter survey in Germany showed that supporters were generally satisfied with actions planned and taken through Oxfam’s 10 Point Plan.
  • Oxfam Belgium organized six face-to-face events for Oxfam volunteers, supporters and the public. At these events, Oxfam engaged with the public on what happened in Haiti and what Oxfam’s response has been to date. The public was invited to provide feedback that was used to improve our response.
  • Oxfam in South Sudan helped to set up a radio show called “Peace of Her Mind” to discuss issues related to safeguarding and gender inequality.
  • Oxfam Novib has successfully piloted live Q&A sessions with its Executive Director on Facebook, offering the public an opportunity to ask questions and comment on any aspect of the organization, including safeguarding. Oxfam Novib intends to continue using Facebook Live to engage with the public.
  • Oxfam Intermon asked supporters who had decided to leave Oxfam in 2018 to complete an online form asking why Oxfam had lost their trust and what measures we need to put in place to rebuild it (265 people responded); one-to-one interviews were also conducted with more than 30 journalists, influencers, companies and other external stakeholders. In November 2018, Intermon held ‘accountability events’ in 29 cities to demonstrate to the public the results we had achieved in our Annual Report. We talked about our safeguarding progress and allowed time for public questions and answers. 1,000 people attended and 600 completed a satisfaction survey (scoring well with 9/10 on most questions). We also organized a workshop on ‘how to build trust’ involving ten inspiring talks by professionals from a range of different sectors, attracting 50 attendees who rated the sessions as ‘excellent’ (we were a trending topic on social media).
  • In Tanzania, Oxfam organized public debates on the prevention of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in Kigoma, Mtwara, Kahama and Arusha. These engagements involved more than 50 people in each location including community members, government officials at district, ward and village levels, and civil society organization representatives. The event facilitates reporting of abuses to the respective authority.
  • Oxfam Australia actively participated in sector wide and industry leadership forums, and speaking opportunities to listen to public questions, respond and learn. Oxfam Australia refreshed its feedback and complaints channels available to the public, stakeholders, partners and staff to ensure that there are easily accessible and people are confident in accessing them.
  • Oxfam Hong Kong participated in a forum, organized by one of the universities of Hong Kong, where scholars, researchers and NGO’s reflected and fed back on Oxfam’s experience and mechanisms of safeguarding.
  • Oxfam continues to engage with the public on safeguarding through social media. Several affiliates do extensive social listening through their online presences. The analysis of this work is helping to shape our response.
  • Oxfam in Nepal distributed hotline numbers to partners and beneficiaries through stickers to collect feedback and complaints about safeguarding in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Sindhupalchowk and Nuwakot.

10. Recommit and strengthen our focus on gender justice externally

Our commitment

We reiterate and reinforce our commitment to putting women’s rights and gender justice at the center of our work. Recognizing we have a lot to learn and put right as an organization, Oxfam will continue to build investment in advocacy, campaigns and programming focused on tackling the injustices women living in poverty face around the world. This includes addressing social norms that cause violence against women, campaigning to rectify systematic power imbalances that trap women into poverty, and partnering with feminist and women’s rights organizations to address gender injustice at all levels. It includes strengthening and focusing our development and humanitarian programs to deliver transformational change in the lives of women living in poverty.

Success in strengthening our external Gender Justice (GJ) work is critical not just in terms of the impact of our programming, influencing and humanitarian work, but in tackling the root causes of, response to and preventing sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse in the sector and society at large. At the heart of PSEA and safeguarding is the combat of the abuse of power. Institutional structures and power dynamics cannot be shifted towards equity and fairness by mandate only. Attitudes and values determine how people in our organization, sector and wider global community engage in the exercise of power.

Over the past year, we have tracked our investment in gender programing in order to assess progress against the targets we have set ourselves. Across our programs we have increased capacity. We redesigned our humanitarian structure to increase staff capacity and ensure that gender equality becomes a stronger standard part of Oxfam’s emergency response. In November 2016, we launched "Enough”: a new global campaign to enable millions of people around the world to end violence and discrimination against women and girls in their communities – for good.

What we have done so far January 2019:

  • Oxfam created its Gender Justice Platform and Committee in 2017 to drive thought leadership, political influencing, effective programing, knowledge sharing and resource mobilization on gender justice and women’s rights across the Oxfam confederation and through Oxfam’s external work. Oxfam’s second annual meeting of gender justice and woman’s rights advocates, activists and specialists took place in October 2018. The group has made proposals to ensure that Oxfam’s strategic planning process puts gender justice and women’s rights at the forefront of our work and developed key performance indicators against which progress can be measured.
  • Oxfam has made an organizational commitment that 15% of all program funding will be used to support standalone gender justice programs. This currently stands at 5.3% and the KPIs will be used for Oxfam to drive progress and hold itself accountable.
  • Oxfam’s global Campaigns Team have produced a new guide to feminist influencing, to provide the resources for teams engaged with influencing across the Oxfam confederation. This will result in increased delivery on feminist approaches across Oxfam’s influencing work.
  • Of the top ten most downloaded Oxfam publications of 2018, more than half of them were strongly focused on gender inequality.
  • On International Women Human Rights Defenders Day – Oxfam spotlighted how women worldwide are being increasingly attacked for standing up for their rights, for their communities, and for wanting a place at the peace table. Women need protection and support to remain in the public eye and continue to act as role models to the millions of girls who will become tomorrow’s leaders. Oxfam highlighted this through this film
  • The Global Humanitarian Team committed to ensuring the inputs of Women’s’ Rights Organizations and networks, and putting partnerships, feminist principles and community engagement at the forefront of its work. There is increasing gender and protection capacity at field and advisory level. The GHT is undertaking a power analysis to better understand the use of power within the team and make changes as needed. In addition, there will be two additional Humanitarian Support Personnel (staff who are deployed to support large scale, complex humanitarian emergency responses) for safeguarding. The GHT restructure was launched on 12 November 2018 and several teams have already started analyzing their strategies in relation to the feminist principles, the local humanitarian leadership and the community engagement.
  • Oxfam’s Latin America and the Caribbean region published a regional report on the social norms and belief systems that perpetuate violence against women and girls as part of Oxfam’s international “Enough” campaign. Oxfam campaign teams across Africa have created a continent-wide campaign strategy, under which Oxfam in Mozambique has launched ‘CHEGA’, a campaign to tackle sexual violence.
  • In Indonesia, Oxfam launched its second Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index in October 2018 and included within it more gender indicators to each of the three pillars (social spending, progressive taxation and labour) including indicators on laws against sexual harassment, rape and gender discrimination. It highlighted how gender inequality interacts with economic inequality to lower the social mobility of women and girls, creating inter-generational inequality. The index was also the most downloaded Oxfam publication of 2018.Oxfam promoted local and national migrant women's rights organizations through the Marrakech Women's Rights Manifesto
  • Oxfam Canada continues to focus exclusively on gender equality and women’s rights in its programs and influencing/campaigning work, working in partnership with women’s rights organization and integrating feminist principles into all its programmatic work and organizational culture. It has launched programs on women’s economic empowerment, leadership and voice, on combating violence against women, and on sexual and reproductive health and rights. This work represents tens of millions of dollars invested in gender equality and women’s rights.
  • Oxfam Canada is on the steering committee of ‘Up for Debate’, a coalition of national women’s rights organizations fighting for political parties to include women’s rights on their platforms; conducted a national speaking tour on violence against women and girls in partnership with indigenous women and women’s rights organizations; profiled the voices and experiences of women affected by conflict in a country-wide touring exhibition; and launched “What She Knows Matters”, a campaign seeking to put more power and decision-making in the hands of women forced to flee conflict. More info here:
  • Oxfam America continues to advocate for legislation to achieve gender justice: 1) calling for the BUILD development finance act (with a $60 billion financing liability) to include gender justice component, and 2) for the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act (WEEE Act) to support women’s rights advocates to get it passed and to protect key development language. Oxfam America played a key role working with others to shape the content of both Acts. The House version of the BUILD Act was amended before it was passed to include gender disaggregated data and a section on women’s economic empowerment and we successfully built on these gains in the Senate to mandate the US DFC to consider the impacts of its support on women’s economic opportunities and to reduce gender gaps. Our focus on the WEEE Act resulted in a mandate that all USAID assistance, (a portfolio of about $20 billion) should include gender analysis indicators, and address gender equality and women’s empowerment across the board.
  • Oxfam America has embarked on a Gender Action Learning journey as part of a suite of efforts to become a more gender just organization. This initiative involves a critical mass of 35 staff from across the agency, including senior leadership, who will identify steps and work towards integrating gender justice into Oxfam America’s identity and ways of working, both internally and externally. This 18-month peer learning process is being facilitated by Gender at Work. Over 94% of staff have completed the Gender Justice Basics Online Course as well as Gender and Power online course in a commitment to enhance gender capacity of Oxfam staff. It has also recruited another Gender Advisor to strengthen external gender policy work. It also continues to provide technical support linked to gender initiatives across the confederation.
  • Oxfam GB continues to play a key role in the UK’s Gender and Development Network and is engaged with Womankind, the Women’s March, and other key allies. Two new posts have been agreed as part of a reinforced OGB Gender Senior Management Team – a Gender, Diversity and Inclusion post in the People Team (managed by the Director of Gender Justice) and a Gender and Communications post in the Communications Team.
  • Oxfam Novib has developed and implemented a gender mainstreaming strategy focusing on capacity building of project staff in The Hague and country offices, on gender justice and social inclusion. Capacity building trajectories for campaign and influencing work will be completed by March 2019. The focus of the Gender Justice Team is on two main programs: Women on the Move (Sexual Violence and SRHR violations suffered by women and girls in conflict and crisis contexts) developed together with countries such as Uganda, South Sudan, India and Iraq; and Equal Power, Better Life (women’s economic empowerment and increased decision-making power) together with Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. We have also continued implementation of existing gender programs: Marriage, No Child’s Play: Mali, Niger and Pakistan’; Empower@scale: Uganda and Nigeria; Saving our Daughters: Thailand; and Youth in Difficult circumstances: Pakistan.
  • Oxfam France ensured that all communications had a gender focus and delivered a report on poverty with working women working in France; Oxfam Hong Kong ensured that gender was mainstreamed in all its funded programs, facilitating safeguarding training and assistance in embedding operating procedures; Oxfam Germany has ensured that Gender Justice is a key focus area of all future work and a dedicated gender officer will be hired when funding is available; Oxfam Italy used Facebook and Instagram to post update on the International Day to eliminate violence against women and its annual calendar included a specific page on gender equity; and Oxfam IBIS has invested in two large multi-country programs to combat violence against women and girls and a number of programs to address violence in schools, and co-financed global surveys and initiatives related to the Enough campaign.
  • In Latin America, at least 8 of 11 Oxfam country teams now have staff specialists in gender who, with support from the Gender Justice Group, are ensuring increasing focus on gender, gender justice and feminist principles as entry points for our work. All Country Directors and the LAC leadership team have committed to implementing tools to measure Oxfam’s progress towards achieving its gender key performance indicators. In El Salvador, an organization supported by Oxfam won a national prize due to their strategy to develop the Gender violence prevention route (“Ruta de la Prevención de la Violencia de Género”); in Nicaragua amidst the crisis, staff is trying to ensure close work with human rights and feminist organizations; In Paraguay, stronger efforts to ensure women at the center of our work, resulted in approval of three new specific projects, along with work in social imaginary (imaginarios sociales) on sexual violence in emergency context which is also part of the enough campaign work in country.
  • Oxfam, NGOs, women’s rights groups and numerous other organizations around the world participated in 16 days of activism against gender-based violence as part of our Enough Campaign, this year focusing on the world of work (25 November – 10 December). Some of the highlights include: Russia launched a virtual reality immersive experience (note Trigger Warning in film); Pakistan collaborated with Feminist artist Shenzil Malik to create this image of a world #FreefromFear of violence and harassment and our team campaigned, calling for and end to the violence and harassment that women fact when using public transport and public spaces; Benin launched Hear Me Too to raise awareness of violence with young people using a canoe caravan to publicize events; Bolivia supported the ACTUA! Campaign, Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima met with feminist leaders and sent a message of support to feminists in their fight against violence against women and girls around the world; Oxfam in Cuba and partners launched the Evoluciona campaign used concerts, body painting and performance art to support of the worldwide Enough campaign to end catcalling and other forms of control over women’s bodies; Oxfam Morocco and three local partners organized a big event in the city of Rabat to raise awareness of gender based-violence and the recently adopted law to end violence against women. As part of Oxfam’s BARAKA campaign, we worked with local artists (circus, street theatre, traditional music) to share our messages towards around 400 people who attended.
  • Oxfam launched research “Let’s Stop Thinking It’s Normal” on the drivers of violence against women and girls – which is based on a mixture of interviews and surveys of women and men in Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Tunisia, Solomon Islands and Zimbabwe. The research shows that two of the strongest and most consistent patterns in relation to violence against women and girls are male entitlement over women’s bodies and rigid gender roles. The report:
  • In Oxfam’s Pacific Region gender equality and social exclusion (GESI) has been integrated into programs to strengthen humanitarian response and recruitment processes have been strengthened to ensure gender diversity and inclusiveness. Oxfam Timor Leste will be targeting female applicants to apply for a Gender and Inclusion Coordinator role in January 2019.
  • In HECA Region (Horn and Eastern Africa), Oxfam Sudan developed and implemented gender check lists for all thematic areas of program; program staff were trained on how to develop MEL and gender frameworks for all funding proposals; regularly contributes and coordinates gender-based events; and recently conducted a baseline assessment and research to assess the impact of its work from a gender perspective. In Kenya, the women’s rights team is leading influencing efforts with the National Bureau of Statistics (for data collection on Sustainable Development Goal 5.2) and pushing for unpaid care and domestic work to be recognized through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies. Projects are designed to fit the broader Even it up campaign since they are designed to challenge gender inequalities perpetuated by socio economic class. In Uganda, our Women’s Rights program has continued to work with women’s rights organizations to address gender-based violence in the world of work. Oxfam Tanzania has built partnerships with public and private sector organizations to advance gender justice; participated and led public initiatives to raise awareness of women’s rights (e.g. World Food Day and International Rural Women’s day); and ensured that all program concept notes adhere to safeguarding principles and gender justice; conducted a panel study to measure the rate of sexual and gender-based violence in different regions.
  • In West Africa Region, Oxfam Liberia is embedding women’s rights and gender justice at the center of all of its work; has invested in campaigns and advocacy work across the country; and partners with feminist and women’s rights organizations to address gender justice. Oxfam Ghana will coordinate regional activities for Enough Campaign to end sexual and gender-based violence in Ghana, Liberia and Mali.
  • In Oxfam’s Asia Region, Oxfam Pakistan implemented Gender Action Learning System training with partners to integrate this tool into project development and enhance women’s resilience and leadership potential; and delivered leadership training for female staff working in government institutions to enable them to take on leadership roles when humanitarian disasters strike. Oxfam Sri Lanka has been selected to co-chair the National Gender Based Violence Forum (a key national body for addressing GBV) together with the UNFPA; conducted research on sexual harassment on public transport as part of the Enough Campaign; and continued to support the government Ministry of Women and Child Affairs to strengthen their capacity to implement a national action plan to address sexual and gender based violence. The second Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index launched in Indonesia in October 2018 included more gender indicators to each of the three pillars (social spending, progressive taxation and labor) including indicators on laws against sexual harassment, rape and gender discrimination. It highlighted how gender inequality interacts with economic inequality to lower the social mobility of women and girls, creating inter-generational inequality. The index was also the most downloaded Oxfam publication of 2018.
  • In Oxfam’s Middle East (MENA) region, Oxfam Tunisia organized a high-profile conference with civil society actors and women’s rights organizations to apply recent legislation to end violence against women and girls and a research project was conducted about gender inequality in Tunisia. In the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTI), each of Oxfam’s offices participated in an event for International Women’s Day, through which staff were urged to provide anonymous feedback on issues related to gender justice and safeguarding for consideration by management. Oxfam Morocco has a strong focus on women and gender and is part of the Enough campaign.

Safeguarding data from 1 April 2018 to 20 September 2018

In July 2018, Oxfam committed to publish data from the immediate past six months relating to safeguarding cases from across the global confederation. This will include the data that individual Oxfam affiliates and the International Secretariat will make public including for some in their own Annual Reports. Oxfam is committed to a survivor-centered approach and thus ensuring their confidentiality in all public reporting.

Over the past few years and especially since February this year, Oxfam has encouraged its approximate 10,000 staff, 50,000 volunteers, 3000 partner organizations and millions of people it works within communities in 70 countries across the world, to speak out and report concerns and incidents affecting them, even when the incident itself took place in the past. At the same time, as demonstrated in the 10 Point Action Plan progress report, Oxfam is improving and increasing its capacity to support survivors and deal with cases as they arise. As people increasingly trust that Oxfam will deal with their cases robustly and sensitively, the numbers of people reporting incidents have increased, which we are seeing as positive and a reflection of growing confidence in the improved safeguarding processes, systems and leadership. 

As described in the progress update on the 10 Point Action Plan, Oxfam continues to improve its systems and processes relating to safeguarding including the management of safeguarding data collectively across the confederation. All the case management information and data is held by individual affiliates, each of which is responsible for safeguarding management in their HQs and relevant country operations. Oxfam is committed to further improving our case and data management and reporting both internally and in collaboration with the wider sector. Oxfam has adopted commonly used definitions, including by the United Nations, relating to safeguarding.

Closed cases

Closed cases are those where an allegation has been investigated and an outcome reached and acted upon, including where the case was not upheld or did not proceed because a survivor did not want to continue. Between 1 April and 20 September 2018 Oxfam closed 7 safeguarding cases globally. Of the 7 cases, 5 occurred in an Oxfam affiliate HQ and 2 in country programs. 

  • There were no cases of sexual abuse.
  • There was one case of exploitation (including actions such as paying for sex) which took place in a country program and led to the dismissal of the perpetrator, a member of Oxfam staff, with the survivor being a member of a community.
  • There were two cases of sexual harassment, both of which occurred in an Oxfam affiliate HQ. One case involving Oxfam staff did not proceed as the complainant did not wish to proceed. The second case led to the dismissal of an external contractor.
  • Four cases involved other inappropriate conduct (such as bullying or inappropriate language). Three cases took place in affiliate HQs and one in a country programme. In affiliate HQs, two of the cases involved volunteers and resulted in disciplinary action in one case and non-disciplinary action (such as training) and the other case involved the dismissal of a volunteer. In the country programme case, volunteers were involved and the outcome was non-disciplinary action (such as training) of the perpetrator.

Oxfam offers and provides support to survivors both during the investigation of the case and once concluded. This support can include counseling, health care and legal support.

Open cases

In the period between 1 April 2018 and 20 September 2018 Oxfam continued to investigate 60 safeguarding cases. 

Cases remain open while investigations proceed. The number of open cases reflects Oxfam’s proactive encouragement for people to report cases from the past, some more than 10 years ago, and has re-examined many of these during this reporting period. Given that Oxfam is taking a survivor-centered approach, cases can only move at the speed that survivors are comfortable with. The number of historical cases (i.e. incidents which happened before this reporting period) being newly reported, means that some cases are taking some time to close. 

Oxfam will disclose further information on these open cases in its next case data transparency report due in April 2019 after they have been closed and acted upon, including those cases which are closed due to the survivor not wanting to proceed or the case not being proven.