Safeguarding in action: our 10-Point Plan

In February 2018, the British newspaper The Times reported on a case of sexual misconduct by Oxfam GB aid workers in Haiti that occurred during its aid operation following the 2010 earthquake. In response, Oxfam apologized for what had taken place and acknowledged its failure to put in place the right steps, processes and culture to protect the people it was created to serve and its own staff and volunteers.

On the 16th of February, we agreed on a 10-Point Action Plan to strengthen Oxfam’s safeguarding policies and practices and to transform our organizational culture, and committed to report publicly on our progress every three months.

Oxfam welcomes the final report of the Independent Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change. Oxfam set up the Independent Commission in February 2018 and gave it a full mandate – independently and publicly – to investigate our work and highlight what more Oxfam needed to do in transforming our culture and improving our safeguarding systems, in order to ensure that the people we work with, our partners and all our staff are safer from all forms of bad and abusive behaviours.

This report follows the publication of the UK Charity Commission’s regulatory investigation specifically into Oxfam Great Britain. Please see our fuller response in thanking the Independent Commission for its work, including how Oxfam is accepting its recommendations in full, and for what Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said is a tremendously valuable tool that will assist us in learning and continuing our deep, on-going improvements in this area.

An urgent, comprehensive and accountable response

After the scandal that exposed the appalling behavior of some Oxfam staff in Haiti in 2011, we knew we had to learn, to address our own failings and to change. We made critical mistakes, failing to properly prevent and investigate sexual misconduct by our staff.

From 2011, we began to make improvements to our safeguarding practices. We introduced a range of measures to prevent sexual abuse and misconduct from happening in the first place and to improve how allegations are handled, including the establishment in October 2017 of a Global Safeguarding Taskforce to lead on structural change across Oxfam. But we regret we did not go far enough and fast enough.

In February 2018 we took collective responsibility and action in making wide-ranging improvements across our confederation, to bring about the necessary changes to our policies, practices and culture:

  • We agreed on a Ten-Point Action Plan to transform and strengthen our safeguarding policies, practices and our working culture;
  • As part of this plan, we appointed an Independent Commission on Sexual Misconduct, led by women’s rights and human rights leaders, to interrogate all aspects of Oxfam culture and safeguarding work, past and present.

The 10-Point Plan

Responding to the Ten-Point Plan, our leadership teams at headquarter, country and regional levels acted promptly and decisively to implement the real and deep change needed to safeguard and protect the people we work with and ensure a zero tolerance approach to all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.

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

What we have done so far:

Icon wrench
An investment of more than €3m to implement new safeguarding practices and culture change, doubling the size of the team dedicated to handling cases of abuse, harassment and sexual misconduct

Icon target
‘Safeguarding Focal Points’ (trained staff who are initial points of contact for staff grievances and lead on preventative measures) in all 67 Oxfam program countries

Icon phone
New reporting and whistleblowing systems in five languages, such as emails, hotlines and websites, to report cases of misconduct and abuse

Icon raised hand
Ensuring that all staff understood and signed Oxfam’s updated Code of Conduct, ratified in October 2017 by Oxfam’s Executive Board, and which explicitly forbids behaviors witnessed in Haiti

Icon paper
New harmonized policies in place on child safeguarding, and protection against sexual exploitation and abuse

Icon checkbox
A stronger system for checking and providing references to ensure that Oxfam references are not given to offenders seeking jobs elsewhere

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.

We established the Independent Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change in March 2018 to review Oxfam’s culture, accountability, and safeguarding policies and practice.

The Commission published its Interim Report on 16 January 2019 and Oxfam’s Management Response here, committed to addressing weaknesses in its current approaches and to building a culture of greater safety and equality. The Commission met for the final time in March 2019 and is now drafting its final report, which will be released in June 2019.

In its final report, the Commission is reviewing the outcomes of a community-based research initiative to examine safeguarding awareness and reporting mechanisms in three countries; reflecting the findings of Commissioner visits to Peru, Haiti, Papua New-Guinea and Jordan where they met with Oxfam staff, partners and local communities; and will include the outcomes of an Oxfam culture survey; the report of a consultancy group that has reviewed past safeguarding cases (excluding those that the UK Charity Commission and other external bodies have reviewed), to recommend how Oxfam could improve its case management, and further input from the Survivor Reference Group that met for the fourth and final time.

Oxfam’s leaders and managers around the world shared the Commission’s interim findings with their teams to reflect and discuss new ways of working. The Commission has commented on the design of Oxfam’s new Safeguarding Shared Service.

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.

Oxfam has worked hard to ensure that its programs and safeguarding approaches comply with the laws and regulations of all the countries where it operates and with the changing requirements of donors and regulators. Early evidence suggests Oxfam’s new Standard Operating Procedures for reporting misconduct have improved timeliness and consistency of reporting, including on safeguarding cases, and increased reporting and dialogue with national authorities. There is more work to be done to simplify these procedures and ensure they’re being used consistently. A review will take place in late April 2019.

As part of a routine review of Oxfam’s ability to meet sector-wide Core Humanitarian Standards (CHS) for humanitarian response, several areas for improvement were identified in its Summary Report. These included ensuring that communities are made more aware of Oxfam’s new safeguarding processes and to systematically build upon previous work. Oxfam’s next audit to check progress against criteria identified by CHS is in June/July 2019. This will cover all aspects of humanitarian response, from business support functions to program quality and organizational effectiveness.

Oxfam’s country teams have informed many governmental ministries and agencies, donors and INGOs of improvements to its safeguarding work. For example:

  • In Ghana, we updated the Ghana’s Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and now have access to their Child Abuse Registry and in Nigeria we reported into the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, which is also responsible for the oversight of INGO activities.
  • In Australia Oxfam has been ratified fully compliant with donor requirements of the Department for Foreign Affairs.
  • In Germany, Oxfam has aligned its rules on case reporting with the Federal Foreign Office.
  • In Hong Kong, Oxfam liaised with the government’s Disaster Relief Fund Advisory Committee and donors including Ford Foundation China and Chow Tai Fook Charity Foundation.
  • In Quebec, Oxfam continues as a member of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation Steering Committee to prevent sexual misconduct and is seeking funding for a project to improve policy and practice across the NGO sector.
  • In the Netherlands, Oxfam shared the Independent Commission’s findings with institutional donors and Dutch Parliamentarians, prompting one MP in a parliamentary debate to be “very impressed” with Oxfam’s measures and its “focus on cultural change”.

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.

Oxfam commissioned two external consultants to review past cases and recommend improvements. They found a considerable variation in the policies and practice of the confederation. Many of the recommendations have been adopted or agreed in the past 6-12 months and are feeding into the establishment of the new Safeguarding Shared Service and single case management system which will operate across the whole of Oxfam, as well as in planned reviews of policies and procedures as part of our continuing improvement approach.

Our Global Humanitarian Team has improved the way that Oxfam shares information about safeguarding with affected communities (adapted from six core principles developed by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee). Its Monitoring, Evaluation Accountability and Learning Team has also developed specific guidance on how its work can be directly informed by community members, including piloting the use of phones or tablets to gather feedback from local people. This will be scaled up over the coming two years.
Oxfam conducted a Humanitarian Safe Programing Review in July/August 2018. This identified actions including designing a new program for staff and partners, so we will have more trained safeguarding specialists across multiple roles. We are updating our “good practice” guides and translating them into multiple languages. In March 2019, as an example, one Protection expert in Indonesia trained 214 Oxfam staff and partners in the Sulawesi response. Oxfam is expanding its “Safe Programming” approach, building on the learning within the humanitarian program and applying this to our development and humanitarian work.

Oxfam’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning teams have piloted the use of anonymous case studies to enable staff and partners to incorporate a safe response and manage risk within MEL processes, successfully trialed in Pakistan and Latin America and now shared throughout the confederation. Oxfam’s Country offices have publicized information about how to report on safeguarding for instance by displaying posters in Oxfam and partner offices including in local languages. In Papua New Guinea, for example, Oxfam is exploring different ways with our partners to socialize and increase awareness safeguard reporting throughout the country.

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.

In 2018-19, Oxfam International invested €1.1m to establish and run the Independent Commission and increase staff capacity and expertize. This boost in investment has substantially improved Oxfam’s organizational understanding of safeguarding. While acknowledging that there is more work to do, our “awareness and prevention” work is becoming timelier, better
quality and more consistent – and we’re able to manage cases better now when they do arise. All this, in turn, is driving greater trust in our safeguarding systems, including by receiving more reporting of cases among staff. We now need to concentrate on making sure that Oxfam’s reporting mechanisms are clearer and better understood and embedded in our work with partners and communities.

Oxfam conducted a confederation-wide survey to open up a process of reflective discussion and internal debate about Oxfam’s culture. The outcomes of the Culture Survey were analyzed in March 2019, and the Executive Board responded with a range of actions, including to re-enforce deeper engagement with staff, improve prioritization and planning, and earmark a budget and capacity specifically for cultural change in 2019-20.

The Executive Board approved a Safeguarding Shared Service, with the aim that it would begin delivering some services by July 2019. This new function will incorporate a single rigorous governance and oversight function for safeguarding to ensure that all cases of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse are handled appropriately and consistently. This will result in improved prevention and reporting of cases and strengthen Oxfam’s ability to improve safeguarding practice across the confederation. Our Global Humanitarian Team invested £400,000 in its “Safe Programming” Project (see Section 3).

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 management 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.

Oxfam’s new Safeguarding Shared Service will begin delivering some services from July 2019. The team is responsible for developing and managing new safeguarding policies, training and safe programming tools, case reporting mechanisms, a single case management system, and standard
operating procedures for case management. It will work in partnership with program teams, HR, regional and country teams to ensure that our prevention and case management is stronger and more consistent.

All affiliates, regions and countries are now using Oxfam’s safer recruitment measures as standard. All staff are required to sign Oxfam’s Code of Conduct as a condition for employment. Oxfam is using World Check to detect if an individual has a history of fraudulent activity. Oxfam has a stronger system in place now for checking and providing references. Oxfam has agreed in principal to adopt the SCHR Inter-Agency Misconduct Disclosure Scheme, developed by nine of the world’s leading humanitarian organizations, as standard for referencing where this is legal.

Oxfam is now using stronger new policies on Child Safeguarding and Protection against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse across its confederation. New Youth Safeguarding and Digital Safeguarding policies will be approved soon and a Vulnerable Adult Safeguarding Policy is now under consultation. We have trained 102 staff in investigation techniques to increase our capacity to respond to reports of misconduct. Of these, 93 are now registered on a global database and can be deployed around the world on demand.

Oxfam has two new HR initiatives: “Welcome to Oxfam” – a mandatory induction course for new staff that has a strong safeguarding component so that everyone understands Oxfam’s Code of Conduct and core values; and “Let’s Talk” – a new approach to performance management that focuses on three key behaviors of enabling, building relationships and mutual accountability.

Oxfam has new ethical content guidelines as a global standard for how personal testimony, images and video is gathered, and how it should be processed and used in communications. These rules help to ensure that people’s rights are upheld, both in how their story is gathered and how it gets told.

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.

Oxfam agreed a “Safeguarding and Culture Strategy” in 2018 to create a new cultural and working environment where all staff would feel safer and more supported to reflect our values in their work. Safeguarding – and everything it means – is now more deeply understood across Oxfam. Our staff are more aware, are more comfortable in speaking out and challenging unacceptable behaviors.

We have increased our 2019-20 budget for culture change and creating new roles. Some Oxfam affiliate and country teams have created new posts dedicated to cultural change. We have brought in specialist insights, including from feminist activists, to help boost and share our knowledge. A dedicated staff group called ‘Living Our Values Everyday’ is grounding feminist principles across our cultural change work. Our Executive Board has approved a new Sexual Diversity and Gender Identity Policy. We are grounding our new Strategic Planning Process in feminist principles. We have opened many spaces for staff to reflect and debate, including a focus on the Independent Commission’s Interim Report and the outcomes of an all-staff Culture Survey. We have new performance management processes that prioritize how an individual works rather than solely what is achieved; new recruitment processes whereby applicants can better demonstrate their understanding and commitment to our values; and new induction processes that focus on ingraining values, good conduct and gender justice.

Oxfam Country Teams have held staff workshops on culture, gender and power, including most recently in Afghanistan, Haiti, Senegal, Kenya, South Sudan and Ghana. In the United States we have new Employee Resource Groups working on People of Color, Young Women Professionals and LGBTQIA+. In Australia we are working with Melbourne University on a study on Respectful Relations at Work. In Canada and elsewhere we have used the Independent Commission’s report to guide culture improvements. In Germany, Denmark and elsewhere we have run staff workshops on feminism and power. In the UK we have begun deeper work around race and inequality, including with open-staff workshops, and have based two Oxfam-wide leadership programs upon feminist transformational leadership. We have developed thinking around providing support for all survivors. In Mexico we have run internal campaigns including in support of witnesses. In the Netherlands, as part of our deeper conversations around culture and policy, we discussed how could Oxfam support a partner organization that champions the rights of sex workers, against our Code of Conduct that prohibits payment for sex: we can explain the rationale for our Code not discriminating against sex workers but rather in acting to minimize the risk of exploitation.

Oxfam’s Country Teams are working with our national partner organizations, at a minimum to ensure that they comply with our new Code of Conduct, including in different languages. This work will extend now through to signing new contracts and Oxfam supporting our partners to strengthen their own safeguarding practices. In this, we are aiming that our own Culture Change work will extend beyond Oxfam and support debate across our sector.

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 safeguarding staff are members of various INGO and national cross-sector working groups all around the world, including government and donor-led initiatives. Along with other INGOs, Oxfam is developing a Humanitarian ID system (Passport Initiative) whereby misconduct will be recorded and made available to an individual’s future employers. We are also working with other agencies on a ‘Misconduct Disclosure Scheme’, a referencing system, leading specifically on the legal work and its basic features. We are funding a part-time position to coordinate and finalize this initiative as well as rolling it out across Oxfam. Oxfam is part of an inter-agency group developing a Call to Action to prevent gender-based violence in humanitarian situations.

In America we’re seeing consistent demand to support other agencies on safeguarding: we participated recently in a World Bank workshop on designing programs that are accountable to communities; with the Rockefeller Foundation to explore the links between evaluation and safeguarding; with the OECD’s proposed Instrument for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse; and with the UN Women’s proposed International Commission to combat Sexual Harassment. In Australia, we advised the Australian Council for International Development on sector wide safety standards and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s own prevention policy. In Canada, we co-chair the sector’s Steering Committee to Prevent and Address Sexual Misconduct where we’ve urged other agencies to sign up to the Leaders Pledge. In Germany, we are helping to strengthen best practice in the multi-agency group, VENRO, as we are doing similarly in Quebec, and Spain, in the UK with BOND, in Ireland with the Dochas Safeguarding Group, in Italy with the Italian Agency for International Cooperation, and in Denmark with Global Fokus. In Holland, Oxfam gave the keynote speech to 200 charities at a symposium organized by the regulator Toezichthouder Goede Doelen.

In Western Sahara, we are working as part of the UNHCR’s Protection Coordination oversight of refugee camps. Our Latin America Country Directors are involved in on-going discussions with other agencies in the region, similarly in Ghana, Liberia and in Mauritania and Niger where we are strengthening our local partners. We have signed a compulsory protocol in the Central African Republic that will allow agencies to exchange information on safeguarding cases. We are reporting on-going work sharing best practice on safeguarding protections with other agencies in Tajikistan, Colombia, Zambia, Jordan, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Malawi – where our team also organized a public protest to end violence against women and girls – and in Rwanda, where we are also raising awareness not only of sexual harassment but also of teenage pregnancies in schools, and have helped to train 40 health professionals in how best to support survivors of gender-based violence. In Haiti, Oxfam has built strong relations with the EU, OCHA, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, the Canadian Embassy and others. Oxfam is also an active member of the Safeguarding Committee of Haiti’s national forum for coordinating NGO activities (CLIO).

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.

In 2018 Oxfam launched a “Partner Integrity Survey”, opening discussions with our partner organizations about how they manage cases involving staff misconduct. More than 400 partners responded. We found that around 90% of them already had zero-tolerance against sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse and more than 80% had a code of conduct. We also designed a way to better understand the safeguarding needs of local staff, partners and communities, in order that they could make more informed choices about organizing better support for survivors. We conducted a review, which showed that 10% of our partners are specifically women’s organizations, going down to just 7% in our humanitarian emergency responses. We’re now using this information to systematically increase the number and quality of our partnerships with women’s rights groups across the board.

Oxfam has changed the methodology through which it assesses the quality and standards of the partners that we work with, from a simple check of whether a potential partner met Oxfam’s safeguarding criteria, to a more rounded and mutual assessment of the standards that both parties must achieve. This approach is being adopted by program teams and will help us to meet donor expectations in a proportionate way and ensure partners have more time to strengthen their work. Roll out is beginning in May/June 2019.

Oxfam is establishing a fund to support the capacity and capability of local partners in safeguarding and other areas of integrity such as financial management. It is designed to benefit the whole of the sector, and not just Oxfam. Our Global Campaigns and Advocacy team is committed to increase Oxfam’s engagement with women’s rights organizations across the board.

In the countries where we work around the world, Oxfam is focusing on establishing partnerships that bring us closer to women’s rights movements, so that we can better learn and support them in turn. Oxfam Canada have launched new women’s rights programs into Pakistan, Bangladesh and two in Guatemala and lobbied successfully with women’s groups to increase the federal budget for women’s rights to $160m over five years. In Latin America, we are developing joint work plans with feminist partners – specifically in Haiti, this includes building a “Young Citizen” project to foster leadership skills of young women in the cities. We are training women leader in Afghanistan and Benin, Central African Republic, and Chad, and Ghana. In Rwanda, Oxfam was selected to partner with FEMNET, COCAFEM and the Rwanda Women Network) to strengthen regional umbrella organizations. In Sierra Leone – after the country’s President had declared a state of emergency on child abuse – Oxfam volunteered to be part of a government initiative with national women’s rights organizations to improve safeguarding in schools.

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.

Oxfam’s senior leaders are taking personal responsibility for communicating with supporters and the public. Oxfam affiliates have all reached out to the public, supporters, donors and other external stakeholders in their own markets, issuing timely progress reports and updates on social media and all affiliate websites. In Australia, Oxfam conducted a public survey to ascertain levels of trust, as we did in Germany to 100,000 supporters. In countries where Oxfam runs High Street trading shops, we have held events and concert tours, and our volunteers have consistently tried to engage with the public where they can. In the Netherlands, Oxfam’s Executive Director sent a letter to individual supporters describing all our measures to tackle areas of weakness identified in the Independent Commission’s interim report and received dozens of emails and letters mainly appreciative of the open and honest reflection. All Oxfam affiliates have been updating institutional donors on our progress and sharing the findings of the Independent Commission’s interim report.

Oxfam continues to use the opportunities of public fora and debate to discuss safeguarding issues, responding to feedback directly from the public and demonstrating the progress that we are making.

  • In Sierra Leone, for instance, we participate regularly in public debates, to explain the actions that we are taking to strengthen our safeguarding policies and practice.
  • In Burkina Faso, we joined rural women and female parliamentarians in a national forum on women's empowerment.
  • In Chad, the Minister of Women encouraged Oxfam to maintain its promising approach as a driver to overcome safeguarding issues.
  • In Colombia, our Country Director met with more than 70 partners, donors and allies and, together with Oxfam’s Regional Director for Latin America, with feminist partners to discuss the measures that Oxfam is doing to improve its safeguarding culture.
  • In Rwanda, as in many countries, Oxfam uses Twitter and Facebook to spark debate and encourage positive public attitudes and beliefs. In January, members of the Scottish Government visited Oxfam in Rwanda to meet anti-GBV champions to exchange ideas and gain insight into the issue at a community level.
  • In Uganda, Oxfam supported a broadcasting initiative called the People’s Parliament where topical humanitarian issues are debated and live streamed. This has prompted a wide range of stakeholders – for instance from local government, civil society and women’s rights organizations, refugees, teachers and students – to debate the issue of violence against women and girls.

Oxfam has used high profile campaigning moments to respond to criticism and demonstrate the improvements we’re making, including during the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019. In Malawi, Oxfam tapped into public outrage at the violence of recent elections to promote messages around ending violence against women and girls. This led to a national campaign – the 50:50 Elect Her Campaign – to push for more women in leadership roles in the lead up to the May 2019 elections.

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.

Oxfam has committed that 15% of all program funding will be used specifically for gender justice programs. This is part of our strategic planning process and key performance indicators. Gender Justice work is one of Oxfam’s top four fundraising priorities for 2019-20.

Oxfam’s Gender Justice Platform is responsible for our thought-leadership, political influencing, effective programming, knowledge sharing and resource mobilization on gender justice and women’s rights issues. It has finalized a reference guide that explores key concepts and advises on reflective practice, including amplifying the scope and application of feminist thinking in all of Oxfam’s work. It will be shared across Oxfam in May 2019. Two members of Oxfam’s Gender Justice Platform will participate in Oxfam’s Strategy Development Core Team. Oxfam’s global Guide to Feminist Influencing will strengthen Oxfam’s expertise of feminist principles in policy, advocacy and campaigns.

Oxfam’s Global Humanitarian Team has increased its gender and protection capacity as well as its support for teams in applying feminist principles in their work, including priority partnerships with local women’s rights organizations.

During the High Level Pledging Conference for Yemen in February 2019, Oxfam highlighted the impact of hunger on women and girls in calling for an end to the arms sales there. In Benin, Oxfam and the West African Network of Young Women Leaders (ROAJELF) organized a workshop to advance women's rights. Oxfam’s “Enough” campaign engages communities to work to eliminate gender-based violence. Our 'Break the Silence' campaign in Thailand is challenging the social norms that justify domestic violence. In Sri Lanka, Oxfam’s ‘Not On My Bus’ campaign is urging public action to prevent sexual harassment on public transport. In a Valentine’s Day, the “Enough” campaign used artists, influencers and Instagram to reach more than a million young people with feminist messages.

In America, Oxfam led a delegation at the 63rd Session of Commission on Status of Women in New York, urging it to put women’s rights and gender equality, social protection and access to public services at the heart of policies and programs. In Uganda, Oxfam convened a debate and will continue its lobby for commitments made to women’s rights there. In Canada, Oxfam has launched four new women’s rights programs to promote women’s leadership in Pakistan; advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights in East and Southern Africa; to secure the rights of domestic workers in Bangladesh; and advocate for women’s economic empowerment in Guatemala. Oxfam Novib and its partners are addressing gender inequalities and power imbalances in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, and will be running similar projects planned in Iraq, Syria, OPT, Lebanon and Jordan. From Quebec, Oxfam is investing in gender justice programs in the Middle East and North Africa, West Africa and Latin America for the next 5 years. From Denmark, Oxfam IBIS is funding in two multi-country programs to combat violence against women and girls. In Spain, Oxfam aligned with a national general strike called by feminist movements on 8 March (International Women’s Day).

Among many other initiatives around the world, In Burkina Faso, Oxfam is working with the Association of Women Lawyers to provide legal support to survivors of violence. In both Malawi and Chad, Oxfam is supporting women defending their right to land. Oxfam is running campaigns to end gender-based violence in Ghana, Liberia and Mali. In Uganda, Oxfam is supporting women MPs and also training Gender Focal Points in ministries there. In the Philippines, Oxfam is promoting the election of women leaders while in Tajikistan Oxfam is fundraising to support Safe City, a project to protect the rights of women.

Safeguarding data from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019

Over the past few years and especially since February 2018, Oxfam has encouraged its approximate 10,000 staff, 50,000 volunteers, 3000 partner organizations and millions of people it works with in 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, Oxfam is improving and increasing its capacity to support survivors and deal with cases as they arise.

Oxfam continues to improve its systems and processes relating to safeguarding including the management of safeguarding data across the confederation. 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.

Oxfam streamlined its confederation-wide case data collection through a central global database, which now contains all information reported from April 2018. The information provided here contains all cases reported to the database from April 2018 to the end of March 2019 (i.e. end of FY2019), irrespective of the time the incident occurred.

Cases reported

294 cases were reported during this period. 221 were closed, and 73 have been carried forward as open cases into the new financial year. The volume of cases reported has risen significantly compared to last year, which we consider to be a positive development that reflects an improvement in our systems and that people (particularly staff) are increasingly understanding their rights and know where and how to report. We would expect case numbers to continue to rise and that a greater proportion would come from partners and community members as their understanding of their rights, how to report and trust that Oxfam will follow up appropriately, grows over time.

Closed cases

Closed cases are those where an allegation has been reviewed, investigated where necessary and/or 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 1st April 2018 and 31st March 2019, Oxfam closed 221 safeguarding cases globally. 61 of these were cases resolved for the current year, and the balance of 160 were historical cases which had been brought forward and closed within the year.

The closed caseload consisted of:

  • 23 cases of sexual abuse;
  • 25 cases of exploitation (including actions such as paying for sex);
  • 74 cases of sexual harassment;
  • 98 cases of other internal reportable issues (such as bullying, other inappropriate conduct; sexual or romantic relationship against the code of conduct and conflict of interest policy for instance, in the line of management, with partner staff, or otherwise leading to conflicts of interest; non-sexual child abuse such as physical, emotional, neglect, or other non-sexual harm to an under 18);
  • 1 case where information was not provided.

A breakdown of the 221 cases show that the complainant/survivors were made up of:

  • 48 Adults (7 Beneficiaries; 4 community members; 1 Vulnerable Adult; 20 non-beneficiaries; 13 volunteers; 3 vulnerable volunteers)
  • 17 Children (3 beneficiaries; 3 community members; 2 non-beneficiaries; 9 volunteers)
  • 14 Non-Staff (2 Contractors/consultants; 12 partner staff)
  • 117 Non managerial staff
  • 12 managerial staff
  • 13 Not known

Of the 221 cases, a breakdown of the Subject of Complaint (Perpetrator) shows that:

  • 2 were beneficiaries
  • 5 were community members
  • 24 were volunteers
  • 17 were non-staff (including contractors and consultants)
  • 12 were partner staff
  • 100 were non-managerial staff
  • 51 were managerial staff
  • 10 cases were not determined

Of the 221 closed cases, 200 cases reported were investigated, and action taken. The outcomes were:

  • 79 cases involving disciplinary action, including 43 dismissals
  • 45 cases: non-disciplinary action e.g. training on safeguarding and code of conduct
  • 58 cases: insufficient evidence and the allegation was not upheld
  • 10 cases: resignation of the respondents (person against whom the allegations were made) (2 prior to allegation being raised and 8 after)
  • 7 cases: No information available
  • 1 case: was later identified as not related to safeguarding.

In 21 of the 221 closed cases, the complainant did not wish to go forward to an investigation.

Oxfam offers and provides support to survivors from the moment that an incident is reported, during the investigation of the case and once concluded and even when an investigation does not take place. This support can include counselling, health care and legal support.

Open cases

At the end of March 2019 Oxfam continues to investigate 73 open cases.

Given that Oxfam is taking a survivor centered approach, some investigations take additional time to ensure that they are conducted safely and at a pace that survivors are comfortable with. Oxfam is committed to supporting survivors and remains committed to creating a culture of zero tolerance and encouraging people to come forward to report their concerns.

Correction 20 May, 2019

In publishing our safeguarding data, on 13 May, we incorrectly stated that 79 staff had been dismissed following investigations into allegations of sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment. We should have stated that 79 of the cases resulted in disciplinary action including 43 dismissals. We apologise for our error and any confusion it may have caused.