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 is committed to create an environment that is safer and more empowering for all our staff and stakeholders. I am pleased to publish here our fifth quarterly progress report to our Ten-Point Plan, designed to improve our safeguarding systems and change our culture. In the past three months we have accepted all the findings and recommendations of two reports, one by the Independent Commission we set up in February 2018 under our Plan, the other by the UK Charity Commission following its enquiry into Oxfam Great Britain. Both these reports will help us greatly to expand upon the steady safeguarding improvements that we’ve been making. Every day, we are becoming a better organization. We will continue to cooperate, listen and learn. We understand we need to keep working hard and that we have a long way to go, but we are determined to become the best, safest and most empowering organization that we can be.”  

 

Oxfam International Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima 

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:

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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

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‘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

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

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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

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

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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.

In February 2018, Oxfam established the Independent Commission (IC) on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change to review Oxfam’s culture, accountability, and safeguarding policies and practice.  The IC was given a full mandate – independently and publicly – to investigate Oxfam’s work and highlight what was needed to transform culture and improve safeguarding systems with the goal of ensuring the safety of staff, partners and independents connected with Oxfam from all forms of negative and abusive behaviors.  

The IC published its final report on the 12th of June, 2019. The report pointed to significant gaps in Oxfam’s safeguarding and working culture while recognizing the progress that has already been made and Oxfam’s commitment to change. Oxfam communicated the report with all of its stakeholders and organized a series of webinars in four languages to share and discuss the findings with Oxfam staff in all offices. All recommendations put forward in the IC report were accepted in full and Oxfam announced three additional actions: 

  • The mobilization of a new €550,000 "Global Integrity Fund" to help strengthen the safeguarding work of local civil society organizations  
  • Further improvements to Oxfam’s safeguarding capacity and resources in the most fragile and challenging environments within which it operates  
  • The recruitment of two new global senior leadership roles – a Chief Ethics Officer, and Culture Lead. 

Our progress August 2019

Many country and regional programs and affiliates also organized internal discussions and communications with their staff and organized further stakeholder outreach meetings. Any affiliates acting as Executing Affiliates (EAs) with the responsibility for Country and Regional teams also provided regular updates and support as issues arose. Regional and country-level all-staff meetings were held, often with partners. In Ghana, for example, following staff meetings on the IC recommendations, detailed plans were put in place to address identified areas of weakness. Similarly, Mauritania’s management team scheduled visits to all field offices to ensure that ways of working were embedded through action plans.  

Read Oxfam's full response to the IC Report.

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 all programs and safeguarding approaches comply with the laws and regulations of all the countries within which it operates as well as with the changing requirements of donors and regulators. 

In April 2019, it was reported that early evidence suggested Oxfam’s new Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for reporting misconduct are improving the timelines and consistency of reporting, including safeguarding cases and reporting and dialogue with national authorities. Review is now underway in order to learn how this procedure is working in practice, how it can be simplified and how it can be utilized with greater consistency.  

On the 11th of June 2019 the UK Charity Commission (UKCC) published its report reviewing Oxfam Great Britain’s (Oxfam GB) handling of the case of sexual misconduct by members of Oxfam GB in Haiti in 2011 and their policies and procedures since then. The published report can be found here.  The UKCC’s judgment has been welcomed and accepted by Oxfam GB and Oxfam GB has apologized for failings in its investigation and case management.  Furthermore, the Oxfam International Executive Director underlining Oxfam GB’s apologies has reaffirmed the organization’s abhorrence for, and zero-tolerance of, abusive behavior, sexual or otherwise. 

Read Oxfam GB's response.

Progress August 2019

  • Oxfam’s country teams continue to update numerous governmental, donor, INGO, private sector and research bodies on the confederation’s progress. 
     
  • Across the confederation, affiliates have been working to ensure compliance with new Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) legislation and contracting language as specified by various donors. 
     
  • Affiliates have also shared the 10-Point Action Plan and progress report with institutional and public donors and Oxfam staff are working within various CSO/NGO coordination groups to build better policies and protocols on Sexual Misconduct. Among other examples, Oxfam’s team in Haiti presented the findings of the IC and UK CC reports, alongside Oxfam’s progress reports on the 10 Point Plan, to government and other officials. 
     
  • Oxfam has also been included within the PSEA follow-up system in the Central African Republic; the team in Ghana continues to work with the country’s Police Service to check the criminal records of candidates and in Mauritania, Oxfam has joined other NGOs in discussions with donors and authorities to improve coordination, gender programming, and plans for safeguarding initiatives. 

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, two external consultants were commissioned by Oxfam International to review the Oxfam’s handling of past reports and cases of sexual abuse and misconduct. The consultants found discrepancies in the policies and practices within the confederation and have made several helpful recommendations that have been implemented over the past six months as Oxfam reviews its policies and procedures.  

Progress August 2018

  • Oxfam has taken significant steps to standardize and improve the management of cases throughout the confederation. These changes include launching a Safeguarding Shared Service to support, oversee and embed common standards and practices throughout the confederation. This shared service is expected to be fully staffed and operational by 2020. 
     
  • Through updated guidelines and tools, increased transparency and efforts to strengthen feedback and complaint mechanisms for communities, Oxfam is working to demonstrate its commitment to protect individuals and communities from sexual exploitation, abuse and other forms of misconduct and to rebuilding trust in affected communities. Oxfam’s endeavors to take a survivor-centered approach to safeguarding, in-line with sector-wide initiatives and standards, including from the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC). 
     
  • In the last quarter, Oxfam has focused on working with development colleagues to ensure alignment and harmonization of guidelines, tools and resources. These include: Setting up Community Feedback Mechanisms in Oxfam Programs – One Oxfam Approach; a Feedback database (humanitarian and development); and a Monthly Accountability Report template (humanitarian focused). Additional guidelines and tools with a more specific humanitarian focus that may also be useful for development programs include:  A Checklist – Information Sharing: Introducing Oxfam/Partners and our PSEA Commitments; Ten Top Tips for Accountability; and sample Feedback Collection forms for Individuals. 
     
  • In May 2019, Oxfam began conducting a research project to understand the barriers, gaps and needs of people who might choose to report misconduct. The project began in Myanmar and now includes two other countries. Safeguarding colleagues and the Your Word Counts project are currently piloting the use of phones or tablets as tools for providing better feedback mechanisms for both programmatic and misconduct reporting in ways that are safe, confidential, trustworthy, and strengthen our accountability to affected people.  

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 part of Oxfam’s commitment to safeguarding, including implementing the recommendations of the Independent Commission, Oxfam has committed to increasing investments in safeguarding through: 

  • The mobilization of a new €550,000 "Global Integrity Fund" to help strengthen the safeguarding work of local civil society organizations;  
     
  • A boost in our own safeguarding capacity and resources in the most fragile and challenging environments within which we operate;  
     
  • The recruitment of two new global senior leadership roles – a Chief Ethics Officer, and Culture Lead.  

Progress August 2019

  • A new global Associate Director of Safeguarding has been appointed to lead a confederation-wide Global Safeguarding Network comprising of safeguarding leads and advisors from across affiliates as well as the Oxfam International Secretariat. Recruitment of the aforementioned new global senior leadership roles has already begun. Taken as a whole, the network and the new positions will form part of the Global Safeguarding Shared Service, incorporating a single rigorous governance and oversight function that will establish consistent standards across the confederation. 
     
  • Individual affiliates have also been increasing their affiliate-level investments. For example, Oxfam Germany has invested around €50,000 in building the capacity and expertise of its staff and a further €9,000 for external consultancy to date. Three employees have received training by the CHS Alliance and four SFPs (Safeguarding Focal Points) have been appointed and are working with the steering group to develop Oxfam Germany’s safeguarding policies. A further € 17.850,00 has been set aside for external consultancy, training and workshops in 2019-20. So far, 62 employees have participated in training on safeguarding, sexual violence and power, and three more workshops are planned for 2019.  
     
  • Oxfam GB also welcomed a new Global Safeguarding Director in February 2019. A Safeguarding Information Pack in four languages has been distributed to all countries for which Oxfam GB has an Executing Affiliate role and, as of the 5th of July, 2019 this has been downloaded 122 times and previewed (read on screen) over 600 times. Extracts have also been included in a weekly Managers Briefing (seen by 600 staff). The pack also includes a video from Liberia’s Safeguarding Focal Point (SFP) explaining the importance of their role. Furthermore, Oxfam GB’s Deputy Trading Director has started a blog on safeguarding in shops that has been seen by 1,000 staff members since the 10th of April, 2019. 
     
  • Oxfam Australia has appointed a dedicated Safeguarding Manager to lead and oversee the ongoing improvement and delivery of the organization’s safeguarding strategy and function and its Safeguarding Working Group will liaise with Program, HR, Risk and Public Engagement teams to review and track actions as well as to provide regular updates to the leadership team – including highlighting work that is taking place to address racism. 
     
  • Oxfam Novib has appointed two additional staff members within its Integrity Team, a Safeguarding Reporting and Support Officer and Safeguarding Specialist (investigator) who will join after the summer of 2019. 
     
  • Oxfam IBIS has trained a Safeguarding Investigator, appointed two (2) SFPs and delivered two Living Our Values workshops for all staff. 
     
  • Oxfam’s Emergency Strategy for Latin America and the Caribbean has been adapted to include a safe programming approach and safeguarding plan to be activated in the event of a humanitarian disaster. 
     
  • Oxfam México has trained 11 staff – three (3) new SFPs, HR and gender justice experts – to receive and accompany complainants making a case against Oxfam. 
     
  • Oxfam Intermón has further supported the LAC region with the recruitment of a Regional Safeguarding Advisor and the development of country action plans. They are also evaluating and adapting psychological support services and developing a professional coaching process to support and enable managers to detect and resolve conflict.  Moreover, a safeguarding budget has been set aside for all countries in the LAC region and a regional training plan has been developed to embed gender and feminist principles in all of Oxfam’s work and to strengthen organizational leadership. Concerns around the amount of time SFPs can commit to safeguarding work have been mitigated by the appointment of a second SFP in 11 countries and increased linkages between program staff and other partners to strengthen in-country capacity. 
     
  • In West Africa, Burkina Faso has set aside € 5,000 for safeguarding, € 5,000 for activities to promote gender and a further € 15,000 to build Oxfam’s protection capacity in the country. Similarly, the Oxfam team in the Central African Republic has invested € 25,000 in safeguarding prevention activities in the first quarter of 2019 and has budgeted a further € 50,000 for work in 2019-20, supported by a new Safeguarding Officer responsible for establishing a new corporate culture. Chad has allocated € 5,000 to build the capacity of local partners in order to develop and improve their policies and procedures, build the skills of its SFPs, and socialize Oxfam’s values and Code of Conduct through events and team building. Likewise, Ghana has set aside £13,000 to build the capacity of its partners in 2019-20 and Mauritania has committed € 7,000 for safeguarding activities.  In, Nigeria, six (6) SFPs have been appointed and are currently being formally trained. 
     
  • In March 2019, Oxfam’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region held its first HR forum attended by representatives from nine (9) out of eleven (11) countries. The primary objectives of the forum were to share knowledge and explore solutions to some of the operational challenges Oxfam is facing in this region through practical sessions, discussion and action points for different stages of the employee cycle. The value and use of the One Oxfam job description, advert, safer interview questions and new central system for supplying references for staff were addressed as part of the discussion on safer recruitment. HR leads confirmed that these tools and guidelines are being used in all countries. The One Oxfam induction for new employees was also discussed in depth, as a critical tool for ensuring that new employees are familiarized with Oxfam’s values. 
     
  • In Southern Africa, all country teams have appointed and trained SFPs. Zimbabwe has budgeted for safeguarding training from which it will develop and adapt future policy refreshers, inductions and initiatives to embed cultural change. Malawi, with funds from Comic Relief, has implemented a safeguarding plan with partners involved in addressing sexual and gender-based violence in schools. A safeguarding and protection plan is a key part of our on-going response to Cyclone IDAI and the team in Malawi has trained Flood Response teams in Phalombe, Nsanje and Blantyre regions.

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 the 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 be responsible for developing and managing new safeguarding policies, training and tools, case reporting mechanisms, the stand-alone case management system, and standard operating procedures for case management. It will work in partnership with HR, program, regional and country teams to ensure that prevention and case management is stronger and more consistent. All affiliates, regions and countries are now using Oxfam’s safer recruitment measures as standard and all staff are required to sign Oxfam’s Code of Conduct as a condition for employment. 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 recruitment.  

Progress August 2019

  • Currently, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for Case Reporting and two Safeguarding policies (PSEA and Child Safeguarding) have been put in place, alongside procedures for safer recruitment. 
  • Two new policies related to digital and youth safeguarding and SOPs for case management and survivor support guidelines have almost reached completion and work has commenced on the establishment of a Single Case Management System with external consultants assigned to develop this platform. Next steps include ensuring full dissemination and socialization of these policies in all teams, and to review and refine the SOPs and policies that are already in place. 
  • A mandatory safeguarding e-learning module has been made available and to date two-thirds of all staff members have completed this training. Leadership and management continue to prioritize completion for all incoming and existing staff. Training strategy plans and packages for country-based Safeguarding Focal Points (SFP), senior managers (CDs, RDs, OIMT), partners and communities have been designed and will be rolled out across the confederation. 
  • Oxfam has implemented a new approach to performance management, one that focuses on three key behaviors of enabling, building relationships and mutual accountability. In the next quarter, a new 360-feedback mechanism will also be introduced for senior leaders, the outcomes of which will inform further leadership development.  

Safe Programming: 

Oxfam aims to ensure that all of its humanitarian responses are ‘safe programs’ and do no harm to affected populations. Proactive measures are being taken to avoid causing inadvertent harm by being conflict sensitive, preventing and mitigating risks of gender-based violence (GBV), including Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, and upholding humanitarian principles. The Safe Programming approach requires ongoing risk assessment in all responses in order to effectively identify and mitigate risk and is supported by technical advice. Due to the unpredictable nature of humanitarian contexts, risk assessments are carried out on an ongoing basis, with actions evolving and adapting to take new risks into account.   

  • In June 2019, Oxfam participated in the maintenance audit as part of the Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative (HQAI) Certification Process. The four-year process, which began in 2018, will assess to what extent Oxfam adheres to the Core Humanitarian Standards. Recommendations and findings from the certification process will be taken up in Oxfam policy developments and revisions. The initial audit report is available if required, summary published in HQAI webpage. 
  • Oxfam’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) team has embedded safeguarding in Oxfam’s MEL process. A Self-Training guide and webinar– Doing No Harm in Monitoring and Evaluation – have been uploaded to the MEL pages on Oxfam’s intranet, together with nine scenario-based exercises as tools to facilitate reflection and action planning in Oxfam. Additionally, New One Oxfam safeguarding policies are being integrated into program management processes and systems, including adding clauses on Oxfam’s PSEA Policy and Child Safeguarding Policy to Program Management and Contract Management templates. 
  • Most countries have prepared annual safeguarding plans that will be reviewed to ensure alignment with the recommendations from the IC report. A number of Country offices have held team sessions on the use of inclusive language, feminist principles, and power dynamics – and these will continue on a monthly basis. 
  • The Global Humanitarian Team (GHT) is reviewing and finalizing tools and guidelines for Oxfam affiliates Training and other capacity-building initiatives, such as mentoring and coaching, will be organized for regional and country-based humanitarian staff and partners to strengthen safe programming approaches. Two country-based projects will be funded to strengthen safe programming in in 2019-20. 
  • The GHT has also endeavored to integrate safeguarding and safe programming within its Real Time Review (RTR) program evaluation processes.  The RTR for the IDAI response in Southern Africa, planned for July 2019, includes relevant questions in order to analyze the efforts that have taken place, and the results.  This initiative aims to enhance our understanding of how safe programming and safeguarding is being integrated into Oxfam’s responses – especially at the initial stage. 
  • Oxfam’s work to improve the safety for women and girls (specifically associated with the use of latrines and bathing areas) - a project called Sani Tweaks – has been recognized for its value across the humanitarian sector. While Oxfam’s safe programming approaches have been pioneered by humanitarian professionals, coordination with development practitioners has also been a priority. A framework has now been agreed, action plans have been shared and the next phase is implementation. 
  • Worldwide, regional and country teams are embedding learning from Oxfam’s Partner Assessment and other safe programming tools with a view to rolling out standard processes this year. Much work has been done to incorporate safeguarding into monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning practices, including the creation of safe spaces for discussions about safe programming, and the piloting the introduction of a complaint’s mechanism with partners in four countries. 
  • The Oxfam GB funded Safe Programming (SP) project (£400k grant from a Legacy) is ongoing and will enable a large pool of trainers to be developed across multiple roles and technical specialism. It will draw together and update all relevant tools and examples of good practice, translated into multiple languages. 
  • In West Africa, Oxfam’s Global Humanitarian Team (GHT) led a Protection and Safe Programming workshop for 12 Oxfam staff and eight partner representatives in Burkina Faso and embedded this approach within three programmatic areas: humanitarian, resilience and livelihoods and value chains.  
  • In Central Africa Republic, 100% of programs have incorporated a safe programming approach; at least 100 staff members have been trained by safeguarding teams and more than 100 community leaders and authorities have been introduced to safe programming themes and mechanisms.  
  • The team in Liberia has engaged with partners, produced posters and flyers for offices and communities, translated safeguarding messages into local dialects, and embedded safeguarding within the objectives of senior managers.  
  • As part of the Cyclone IDAI response in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, Oxfam’s Gender and Protection team member has ensured that communities are familiar with Oxfam’s safeguarding approach and reporting mechanisms. Partners in Harare have also participated in child protection training with the outcome to develop their own guidelines.  
  • Oxfam’s team in DR Congo has worked with Safeguarding Advisors from Oxfam GB to enhance their capacity to conduct and manage investigations. We have found that witnesses or survivors of abuse are fearful of coming forward, mostly because of high insecurity in the country. In response, the team has continued to disseminate information on reporting mechanisms within communities and re-enforce the message that they can trust Oxfam respond appropriately. 
  • Project inception workshops for Oxfam Canada’s four newest women’s rights programs in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Guatemala and Ethiopia, were held with emphasis on the safety of Oxfam programs and providing information and support to anyone reporting a safeguarding incident appropriately.  
  • The team in Mauritania embedded safeguarding and PSEA through workshops with staff and partners, and is planning to work with the Women Parliamentary Network to promote safeguarding policies and influence government bodies to do the same. 

Recruitment Practices and Staff Training: 

At a country level, safer recruitment processes and the screening of partners, suppliers and staff is being coordinated with Executing Affiliates (EA)s.  

  • Oxfam Intermón has focused on issues linked to harassment and abuse of power, helping departmental managers to prevent and address issues as they arise in order to maintain a peaceful work environment.  
  • Oxfam Canada provided training and support for the team in Cuba to integrate safeguarding into monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning (MEAL) processes and pilot and test approaches. The team has also conducted a workshop for partners on Oxfam’s values.  
  • Oxfam México is ensuring that all new staff complete a safeguarding induction so that they understand what is expected of Oxfam employees; and safeguarding investigations have been strengthened through the inclusion of a survivor-centered approach.  
  • Country teams in the West Africa region linked into the Oxfam webinar for all staff following the release of the UKCC and IC reports and took part in all-staff and team meetings to discuss the findings in relation to their own programs.  
  • The team in Ghana created spaces for discussions of gender, power and safeguarding at a staff retreat and learning week, and will do the same again towards the end of 2019. Central African Republic is using the safe recruitment toolkit and conducts reference and anti-terrorist checks before contracting employees and partners. Chad has shared SOP for safeguarding and reporting misconduct with all staff and implemented from February 2019; information and debate sessions have been held to introduce Oxfam’s new performance management system; and safe recruitment tools and processes (job advert templates, job profiles, reference checks and inductions) have been used for the recruitment of five national staff and four consultants.  
  • In Mauritania, where partners have received support to develop their own Codes of Conduct (with 71% having done so). In Niger, non-literate staff and those without email addresses have been trained on safeguarding in local languages and further training sessions are planned for staff in sub-offices. 
  • Rwanda is ensuring that all staff and their line managers have completed their performance reviews using the new Let’s Talk format and set objectives for 2019-20. Rwanda hosted the Regional Leadership Team meeting in May 2019 at which all staff attended a session on cultural change.  
  • Burundi has included safeguarding control questions in all recruitment interviews and ensured that all staff understand that they can no longer provide references themselves and that this process is now centralized through OI recruitment services;  
  • In the DR Congo, all staff have attended organizational culture change and Gender Justice workshops and are meeting weekly to discuss Oxfam’s values.  
  • Oxfam Novib’s Safeguarding Lead facilitated an interactive session on safeguarding at Uganda’s staff retreat and a half-day capacity building session was held with university students working as Oxfam interns to build their understanding of guarding and gender justice. 

Coordination and Mutual Responsibility: 

Oxfam has endorsed the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response  (SCHR) interagency referencing scheme in a collaborative effort to prevent offenders from moving between organizations. Oxfam affiliates are in the process of ensuring that this scheme can be implemented in-line with local legal requirements.  

  • Oxfam IBIS (Denmark) is working through the challenges of this kind of screening in respect of Danish law and GDPR and has received criminal record and statutory safety certificates for working with children from all current staff and has made this mandatory for all new staff.  
  • Oxfam Australia committed to ensuring compliance with minimum standards and PSEAH policy of the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade is in the process of establishing legal parameters and a foundation framework for signing onto the scheme and is conducting a comparison exercise with the One Oxfam PSEA Policy.  
  • In Ghana criminal checks are conducted for successful candidates, references are sought through the E-arcu system, emails addresses are checked as official, and communication is sought with a candidates’ most recent employer.  

Transparent Communication: 

All countries, regions and affiliates continued to publicize reporting channels and processes with staff and volunteers, in Oxfam shops and with Oxfam’s face-to-face fundraising and campaigning teams at events and concerts.  

  • Oxfam Germany has embedded the global database for reporting misconduct within its headquarters and Oxfam shops.  
  • Oxfam IBIS (Denmark) has reviewed all personnel files to check for evidence of past misconduct (with no cases found) and has been transparent with all stakeholders and the media. 
  • Oxfam Novib has continued to publicize the importance of reporting internally, with its Integrity Lead using the internet to remind staff to use its Speak Up procedures and contact the Integrity team for further questions. All reports and concerns received have been followed up and investigated, where necessary using safe and survivor-centric approaches.  

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 has increased its 2019-20 budget for culture change and recruited for new roles. Most Oxfam affiliate and country teams have created new posts dedicated to cultural change. Oxfam has engaged with specialist insights, including feminist activists, to help expand and share knowledge. A dedicated staff group called ‘Living Our Values Everyday’ is grounding feminist principles across Oxfam’s cultural change work. The Executive Board has adopted new Sexual Diversity and Gender Identity Policies and feminist principles are being grounded in the new Strategic Planning Process. Space has been created for staff to reflect and debate, including via the Independent Commission’s Interim Report and an all-staff Culture Survey. New performance management processes have been created that prioritize how an individual works rather than solely what is achieved; new recruitment processes whereby applicants can better demonstrate their commitment to Oxfam values; and new induction processes that focus on ingraining values, good conduct and gender justice.  

Progress August 2019

  • Almost 4000 staff members responded to Oxfam’s Culture Survey to open a process of reflective discussion and internal debate. The outcomes of the survey were shared with all staff and included statistics, stories, quotes and questions to stimulate further reflection and action. Where more than 30 people from one location responded to the Survey, localized reports were also produced. A guide and webinar were developed for facilitators to frame discussion, debate and action planning with their teams in relation to Survey results and findings of the Independent Commission and UK Charity Commission reports. Local culture groups are also being encouraged and promoted within Oxfam for staff to take ownership in strengthening Oxfam’s culture. Four topics were selected by staff for further online discussion in the workplace – Work-life balance, Gender, Race and Voice of Countries in Oxfam. Many affiliates undertook their own internal reflections on culture.  
     
  • Oxfam Canada established an ad hoc committee to steward the follow-up activities that resulted from the Culture Survey and held an all-staff meeting, a half-day meeting with the management team and three breakfast meetings to discuss hierarchy, accountability, safe spaces and work-life balance as a staff team. An anonymous pin board was also made available for staff to post questions or comments. Other events and workshops included a mindfulness communications workshop; sessions on feminist principles, privilege and power; and mental health training for all staff in May and June 2019. 
     
  • Oxfam America’s HR department has focused on Culture and Performance Management during this reporting period. The team worked with a leading culture and diversity expert to empower and train managers in facilitating effective performance management discussions in order to promote open and honest conversations.   
     
  • The outcomes of the culture survey intensified conversations in Oxfam Novib about how to live up to Oxfam values and achieve transformational change. Following the launch of the Culture Survey results, Oxfam Novib staff members from across the organization – including from the Gender Justice team, the Integrity team, representatives from senior management, and Confidential Counselors – joined forces to spearhead increasing engagement with the Survey results. While cultural change is a process that belongs to all staff, the Lighting It Up team has made itself available to support and enable other staff to have engaging discussions about the results of the survey and other relevant issues. Supported by directors and senior management, the team presented a Draft Action Plan to all staff in May 2019 and encouraged space for individual reflection within teams to consider personal impacts of the survey results and look at what should be done to change things. Suggestion boxes have been made available for posting ideas; several Walk-In-Clinics are planned for July; and safe spaces will be available for the discussion of specific themes over the coming months. Oxfam Novib’s Board of Directors and management team participated in a Culture Reflection session to seek alignment on the concrete steps that will need to be taken to change Oxfam’s culture. Five major themes emerged through this discussion: ‘Inclusivity’, ‘Safety to speak out’, ‘Hierarchy’, ‘Work-Life balance’, and ‘Giving and receiving feedback’. Concrete actions and the commitment of senior management to focusing on these areas will be merged with other proposals from the Lighting It Up working group. An all-staff Inspiration Day was held in early July to capitalize on work being taken forward by the Manifesto 2025 Group. This inclusive process has been initiated for staff to co-create Oxfam Novib’s direction of travel over the next five years.  
     
  • Oxfam Australia hosted Srilatha Batliwala, a well-respected feminist Indian activist, to run feminist principles sessions for the Oxfam Australia Board, Executive Leadership Group and staff in June 2019. Topics included power, patriarchy, an overview of feminist leadership principles and practice, and a discussion about why these topics are essential for organizational transformation. 
     
  • Oxfam GB’s externally facilitated conversation series on race and racism has held the first three of five workshops. The final two workshops take place in July, with an all-staff webinar at the end to report back and share learning. A group of internal facilitators have been trained to deliver a series of conversations in Oxfam GB to co-create a new culture. This co-creation series will run from July to September, drawing heavily on learning about the current culture from the IC report and the global culture survey. 
     
  • Oxfam Germany’s safeguarding policy and framework has been in place since April 2019. It’s the outcome of year’s work by a diverse group of employees with a mandate to reflect Oxfam’s global safeguarding strategy and ensure that it is supported by sustainable focal points and report mechanisms. It is being embedded in 2019-20 through a pool of staff trained in handling safeguarding cases, awareness-raising and training for all staff (online/offline), training for the leadership team, and the integration of policies into organizational processes, such as recruitment, onboarding and performance management.  Around 3,400 volunteers in Oxfam shops, and others in our street fundraising teams and events teams will be targeted as part of the roll out and SOPs for these three groups of stakeholders are being developed. 
     
  • In Denmark, staff of Oxfam IBIS have attended Living our Values workshops and have a growing awareness of feminist leadership principles, which together are feeding into work on cultural change.  
     
  • Oxfam México has launched an empowerment program using tools that help staff to identify misconduct, create awareness and prevent incidences of abuse, and is developing plans to initiate cultural change that is based on transformative feminist principles. 
     
  • Oxfam Intermón has encouraged discussions about cultural change with a view to increasing empathy for the day-to-day struggles people are facing. Teams have initiated dialogue with country and regional platforms, through which relationships with potential allies have been built to discuss cultural change and the steps that need to be taken to embed safeguarding and feminist approaches. Other initiatives include the launch of an Equality Plan to examine work/life balance and working from home. 
     
  • Alongside renewed efforts to embed safeguarding approaches, the LAC regional platform is looking at the constructs of power – and the abuse thereof – in relation to transforming its own leadership model, performance review processes, and other organizational and program activities.  As the UKCC and IC reports were released, all countries in the region held sessions for staff to reflect and to discuss the findings in a context of cultural change. Among other issues, staff expressed the need to transform the LAC leadership model, to conduct further analysis of power and its abuse and to increase capacity in management and HR teams to support transformational change. 
     
  • Oxfam’s leadership team for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region dedicated a day of its Governance Group meeting to HR and a discussion of cultural change in a context of living up to the values that we defend. Using the findings of the culture survey reports, both Global and MENA, the team to reflected and identified the main cultural changes that needed to take place with support and direction from the leadership team. The outputs of this discussion will be shared in the MENA countries for meaningful and open conversations. 

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 experts are members of various INGO and national cross-sector working groups, all around the world, including government and donor-led initiatives. Along with other actors in the sector, Oxfam is working to prevent offenders from moving between organizations. Oxfam is also working with other agencies on the ‘Misconduct Disclosure Scheme’, a referencing system, taking the lead on the legal work and basic features. Oxfam is funding a part-time position to coordinate and finalize this initiative before rolling it out across the confederation and it is part of an inter-agency group developing a Call to Action to prevent gender-based violence in humanitarian situations.  

Progress August 2019

  • Oxfam America has been active within the broader sector to raise safeguarding standards and the focus on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA).  The Executive Director of Oxfam America continues to co-chair InterAction’s PSEA Task Force, and also represents Oxfam as co-chair of the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response that has pushed for the development of an inter-agency misconduct reporting scheme. Oxfam America is also representing Oxfam in the IASC PSEA Senior and Technical Focal Points forum. 
     
  • Oxfam Australia has provided inputs to the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) to develop and finalize quality standards on PSEA. These will become sector-wide standards for Australian NGOs and will guide sectoral practice. Staff from Australia and the countries for which Oxfam Australia is EA, participated in focus groups with the ACFID designed to bring Australian NGOs and their partners together to pitch ideas, exchange good practices and build a coalition across the sector to advance collective action on PSEA. Oxfam Australia also attended an ACFID workshop on sector-wide standards and joined discussions to update its Code of conduct, which also fed into DFAT’s consultation on its PSEA Policy. ACFID has engaged the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) as an independent reviewer to understand the practice and response of its member organizations in preventing sexual misconduct. Oxfam Australia will continue to review and cross-reference Oxfam policies and practice against the recommendations of VIFM and ACFID.  
     
  • As the co-chair of the Canadian Council of International Cooperation (CCIC) Steering Committee to Address and Prevent Sexual Misconduct in the International Development and Humanitarian Sector, Oxfam Canada’s Executive Director met with Heads of Agencies attending the Annual General Meeting of CCIC and worked with the committee to successfully secure funding for a sector hub to address safeguarding needs for the humanitarian and development sector. Oxfam Canada also reached out to key contacts from Global Affairs Canada and civil society colleagues across the humanitarian and development sector in relation to the findings of the IC and UKCC reports. Oxfam Canada’s Executive Director is also a special advisor to the “From Pledge to Action Advisory Committee” of the US CSO umbrella group InterAction. The goal of the committee is to implement the leaders’ pledge on safeguarding. It is currently reviewing proposals to support US organizations implement innovative programming to address safeguarding in their organizations. 
     
  • Oxfam Novib continues to actively engage with peers in the Dutch humanitarian and development sector and beyond, including participation by the Integrity Lead in reflection and discussions sessions on sexual exploitation and abuse organized by the Dutch Red Cross, and on workplace harassment in international justice institutions in The Hague. Oxfam Novib shared its’ learning in developing the One Oxfam safeguarding and integrity policies and procedures with Dutch organizations who are now further developing their own policies and procedures. 
     
  • Similarly, Oxfam Germany has actively participated in discussions within the country’s NGO sector, including working within the umbrella organization for German humanitarian and development NGOs (VENRO) to develop standards and principles for preventing sexual exploitation and abuse. This goes beyond the Code of Conduct that has already been agreed to and it works to build capacity and best practices in the German NGO sector. 
     
  • Oxfam Intermón has shared materials and participated in debates about safeguarding within CONGDE, a network of Spanish NGOs 
     
  • Oxfam IBIS as part of Global Fokus, the Danish INGO network, to finalize recommendations to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DANIDA) to improve safeguarding standards within the Danish NGO sector. A toolkit will be presented to DANDIDA in August 2019. 
     
  • Oxfam México has identified another four organizations for inclusion within a Safeguarding Peer Group, along with two government agencies: Inmujeres (Women National Institute) and Conapred (Prevent Discrimination National Council). It has also reached out to feminist organizations – Fundar, GIRE, Serapaz, Equis and the Simone de Beauvoir Leadership Institute – to share good practice in tackling abuse. 
     
  • In West Africa, Oxfam in Burkina Faso is complying with ECHO standards for safeguarding. Ghana’s Country Director has had initial conversations with other NGOs on physical, sexual and emotional abuse and its People and Culture Manager is meeting with HR colleagues from other NGOs. Oxfam in Mauritania has initiated a round-table platform for dialogue and exchange with other NGOs. It has also pushed for collaboration between agencies within our sector – NGOs, INGOs, the UN and national authorities – to have a dedicated focal point for all aspects of gender and protection. 
     
  • In Southern Africa, Oxfam in Zimbabwe participated in a Protection Mainstreaming workshop facilitated by UNHCR and is a member of the district level psychosocial and protection sub-cluster that deals with PSEA. Oxfam in Zambia continues to partner with a specialist organization in child protection (Tehila Consultants) in a project to build the capacity of partners. Oxfam in Malawi shared knowledge and practice with others part of an Irish Aid Consortium program on gender-based violence. The team also participated in protection clusters and forums at national and district level during the humanitarian response to Cyclone IDAI.
     
  • Oxfam in Rwanda is participating in a quarterly meeting organized by the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion to discuss country priorities for gender equality, women’s empowerment and the fight against gender-based violence. Discussions with the NGO, Girl Effect, were conducted in June 2019 on collaborating to promoting sexual and reproductive health rights and to fight against gender-based violence through building self-confidence in girls and young women. Oxfam in Rwanda also attended a Women’s Congress in Kamonyi district attended by more than 1560 women, delivering a presentation on gender-based violence and the role of women in prevention and response. Oxfam in DR Congo has shared information and good practice in PSEA with the UNFPA. Oxfam in Uganda is a member of the UNHCR Protection Working Group in which participants share information and provide updates on work to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse and has developed an action plan by which organizations will integrate PSEA into funding proposals and budgets and it is leading training initiatives for partner organizations working in all settlements. Oxfam in Rwanda is also participating in the UNHCR-led inter-agency Feedback Referral and Response Mechanism.  

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.

Oxfam continues to improve how it assesses its partnerships: where previously a simple check was conducted to verify compliance with Oxfam’s safeguarding criteria, there is now a comprehensive “Partner Assessment” tool of standards that requires mutual commitment from both parties, and concerns not only the issue of safeguarding but also fraud, terrorism financing and community feedback. This improved assessment method will help to meet donor expectations in a proportionate way while ensuring partners have time to strengthen their work. Partnerships that have the potential to bring Oxfam closer to those working in women’s rights movements have also been prioritized to enable reciprocal knowledge sharing and support. 

Progress August 2019

  • Oxfam Canada is part of a consortium of partners that make up the Equality Fund, a groundbreaking initiative announced at the Women Deliver Global Conference in Vancouver, in June 2019. The Fund brings together diverse partners to increase the impact and sustainability of women’s movements in Canada and around the world.  The Government of Canada announced that it would provide CAD$300 million in funding to the Equality Fund – the largest announcement of funding for women’s organizations in history. Oxfam Canada will support the Equality Fund by providing technical program support, expertise in feminist grant-making and long-standing experience in feminist monitoring, evaluation and learning. After years of advocacy by Oxfam Canada and a small group of women’s rights allies, the Government of Canada also announced major new funding of CAD$1.4 billion for maternal, newborn and child health, with CAD$700 million over ten years specifically ring-fenced for sexual and reproductive health and rights. The announcement at the Women Deliver Global Conference is particularly noteworthy because of its commitment to fund programs in neglected areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights, including advocacy. Oxfam Canada, together with inspirational women’s rights partners from Bangladesh, Rwanda and Vancouver, also organized several discussion sessions on care economy as well as a session with women’s human rights defenders from Yemen. Oxfam Canada also participated in discussions on the importance of women-focused civil society organizations in humanitarian action. 
     
  • Oxfam Intermón is a member of a Working Group of Catalonian NGOs, leading the development of feminist and inter-sectoral policies to respond to violence in the workplace. It is also part of an NGO network in Spain, a platform that has allowed them to raise issues related to the visibility of women and address issues related to safeguarding. Oxfam Intermón also met with the Board of Directors of AECID, the Spanish Government’s Cooperation Agency for Development, to share the 10 Action Plan in June 2019. 
     
  • One of Oxfam Novib’s priority projects – the co-creation of a program proposal for Strategic Partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs – partnerships with Women’s Rights Organizations (WRO) have been explicitly sought. These WROs will be co-applicants and have decision-making power over the design and implementation of the program. 
     
  • Oxfam IBIS has amplified information on safeguarding and complaints mechanisms on its webpage so that partners and allies are aware of these mechanisms and Oxfam Italia is working with partners of its domestic program to train and build learning about child safeguarding. 
     
  • In West Africa, Oxfam in Burkina Faso has launched a Women’s Voice and Leadership project together with 15 WROs. This is funded by AMC and will last for five (5) years, with implementation beginning October 2019. In Ghana, the People and Culture Manager is working with focal points in organizations including Women in Law and Development in Africa and WACAM (an organization that supports women engaged in the mining industry) to mitigate the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse. The Ghana team also brought in a safeguarding expert to work with 13 partners to develop safeguarding policies and processes to strengthen their internal systems and this work will continue in 2019-20 to ensure that all active partners develop policies on safeguarding and child protection. Two safeguarding training courses were held in Accra and Tamale for 26 representatives of partners who are in the process of developing action plans to engage their organizations and communities. A WhatsApp platform for these focal points to continue the conversation and share best practice has been created.  
     
  • In the Horn and Central Africa (HECA) active engagement with partners, and especially WROs, has also been made a priority. Oxfam in DR Congo’s gender program involves collaboration with UNFPA, UN Women, and Oxfam affiliates to raise awareness and sensitize communities to issues about violence against women. The team also works with WROs involved in theatre productions to disseminate information about safeguarding. In Uganda, safeguarding policies have been shared with WROs and youth organizations with a women’s rights focus have also been identified as potential partners. Active participation of all partners is being promoted beginning with a regional meeting in Nairobi with HECA and affiliate staff, development partners, and national and local government officials to review and discuss Oxfam’s organizational strategy for Uganda. Oxfam in Niger is supporting partners to develop Codes of Conduct for their organizations and has included discussions about gender in partner assessments. Priorities for 2019-20 include training for partners and communities, and a plan to support and build the capacity of WROs. Oxfam in Rwanda and Kacyiru Hospital have conducted a survey on the status of sexual and reproductive health and service provision for victims of gender-based violence and will share the findings with government and other decision-makers. The team in Rwanda has also facilitated the establishment of a CSO coalition on women’s rights, sexual and reproductive health rights and GBV. Additionally, Oxfam was also asked by several WROs to provide insight into reasons for the need for representation of women in local governance and provide recommendations to address this issue. 
     
  • Southern Africa’s regional platform and countries have made strenuous efforts to communicate, manage relationships and provide feedback to partners, especially in relation to media coverage about Oxfam. They have continued to support partners and WROs in strengthening their safeguarding policies through on-site mentoring and the incorporate of safeguarding as part of partner reporting and accountability.  
     
  • Efforts have been made by all affiliates to actively engage in partnerships. To this effect, the team in Central African Republic will deliver a training session for partners on safeguarding and Oxfam’s Code of Conduct in 2019, while Chad’s partnership strategy places particular focus on building the influencing and leadership capacity of WROs to meet the challenges of safeguarding and gender justice. Liberia is also actively engaging partners on safeguarding issues and building relationships with WROs, with focused work with partners starting in Monrovia in this quarter. 
     
  • Oxfam Australia’s Partner Working Agreement template has been updated with clauses outlining the expectations around PSEA and the Partner Code of Conduct and will be rolled out to EA country teams for use with all funded partners in July 2019. 
     
  • Oxfam in Papua New Guinea is piloting the use of Oxfam’s new One Oxfam Partner assessment tool and country teams in Latin American have analyzed the results of the Partner Integrity Survey and developed joint action plans with partners. Work on establishing partner Codes of Conduct is progressing. Partner Forums have now been established as a key part of Oxfam’s annual meetings and safeguarding, while Codes of Conduct and feminist principles are agenda items for meetings planned in Honduras and Bolivia in 2019-20. The LAC regional platform has reviewed its women’s rights agenda and will reinforce future alliances as part of the Oxfam International strategic planning process. 

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 in 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. 

Progress August 2019

  • Oxfam Canada’s Executive Director wrote a blog on the final IC report and Oxfam’s commitment to accountability, learning and change. This blog was sent to all Oxfam Canada supporters through the summer e-newsletter in June 2019 and information about the progress against the 10 Point Plan was also shared with Canadian journalists.  
  • Oxfam Germany posted a video message by its Executive Director and links to all relevant documents. A newsletter was sent to all supporters and the entrepreneur network urging them to continue their support for Oxfam while major donors were contacted in-person where appropriate. From more than 100,000 contacts, Oxfam Germany received positive comments about the steps that Oxfam has taken to transform as an organization and 12 negative responses that were responded to in line with the 10 Point Plan.  
  • Oxfam Intermón’s safeguarding teams advised staff engaged in face-to-face communication with supporters and the public on best practices, and listening channels were implemented in volunteer training spaces. Oxfam IBIS has begun participating in public debate and forums on safeguarding, and is communicating with the public using social media and through its magazine to demonstrate that Oxfam is in the process of changing its culture and ways of working.  
  • In West Africa, Oxfam in Ghana has shared posters on PSEA through partner focal points for their offices and communities. Oxfam in Liberia has reached out to other country teams to learn and build capacity to engage with the public. Additionally, in Southern Africa, Oxfam in Zimbabwe activated Safeguarding and Gender information points during the response to Cyclone IDAI so that communities could report any incidences of misconduct and abuse. Community feedback boxes were put in place in all cyclone response countries and Oxfam’s toll-free phone line was shared with all partners.  
  • Oxfam in Rwanda is using Twitter, Facebook and community radio to challenge and change public attitudes to gender-based violence while in DR Congo, the Oxfam team is seeking funding to recruit a Feedback and Complaints Officer responsible for engaging with communities. The Oxfam in Niger hotline for receiving complaints is now accessible online, enhancing the potential for generating reports from June 2019.  

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 guaranteed that 15% of all program funding will be used specifically for gender justice programs. This budgeting is now formally part of the 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 thought-leadership, political influencing, effective programming, knowledge sharing and resource mobilization on gender justice and women’s rights issues.  

Progress August 2019

  • A reference guide of feminist thinking was shared throughout the confederation in May 2019. Two members of Oxfam’s Gender Justice Platform are also participating in Oxfam’s Strategy Development Core Team and Oxfam’s global Guide to Feminist Influencing will strengthen Oxfam’s expertise of feminist principles in policy, advocacy and campaigns. 
     
  • All affiliates have initiated activities to enhance understandings of gender and feminist principles. To this effect, Oxfam America is expanding and deepening Gender Justice work internally as well as programmatically. During this reporting period, significant steps were made towards Oxfam America becoming a Gender Just Organization. Gender Justice will now be a cross-functional department to match commitment, vision, and the work happening in real-time across all Global Programs. It will strengthen gender integration in existing Oxfam America thematic investments, while also investing in standalone gender programs. Particular focus will be on accountability, including the development, measurement of and quarterly reporting on, key indicators to assess performance on Oxfam America’s commitment to Gender Justice. The Gender Justice department has allocated around $500,000 to support these goals, and safeguarding will be integrated into this work. Investments made to standalone gender programs will focus on Ending Violence against Women and Girls; Promoting Transformative Leadership for Women’s Rights; and Strengthening Women’s Economic Empowerment. This work will complement Oxfam’s commitments to women’s rights with a feminist, intersectional approach. 
     
  • Oxfam Germany is also in the process of developing a Gender Action Plan to raise awareness and influence structural and cultural change. The leadership team is currently reviewing a comprehensive gender data analysis (based on salary scales, gender gap and gender parity in staffing) with the Works Council, and senior managers, after participating in facilitated sessions on tackling ‘feminist leadership and power’ and are sharing their learning with staff through team workshops. 
     
  • All of Oxfam Canada’s long-term development programs focus on women’s rights and gender justice. Over the last quarter, Oxfam Canada continued to launch four new programs focused on sexual and reproductive health and rights, women’s economic empowerment and strengthening WROs in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Guatemala and HECA/SAF (Ethiopia, Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi), representing an investment of CAD $ 45 million. During this period, Oxfam Canada also prepared for the launch of two new women’s rights programs in Nicaragua and Guatemala (for an investment of CAD $4 million). Lastly, Oxfam Canada also worked on a number of women’s rights program development initiatives – including one that intends to build the capacity and provide core funding to WROs in Latin America; one that focuses on dismantling barriers preventing women and girls from accessing education in conflict settings; and one that promotes women’s agency and gender in emergencies in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. 
     
  • Gender Justice continues to be one of Oxfam Novib’s main priorities for stand-alone programming as well as mainstreaming. The Gender Justice team has participated in a number of international events with a focus on the necessity of changing negative social norms that perpetuate and even encourage discrimination and abuse against women and girls. In March 2019, Oxfam Novib organized a learning day on the theme of changing social norms and brought together researchers and practitioners to discuss best practices for achieving attitude and behavioral change including how to measure these changes. Oxfam Novib and Oxfam’s regional platform in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have created a program framework to further develop Oxfam’s approach and a strategy to work towards empowerment of Refugee and IDP women and girls, especially in the areas of (Sexual) Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. Countries involved include Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and OPTI. Currently, engagement with donors is being pursued to explore opportunities for collaboration and financial support. Gender equality is one of the key criteria in the proposal for a Strategic Partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs that is currently being formulated with gender specialists and will be presented at the end of December 2019 and gender integration and capacity building for Oxfam and all of its partners is a requirement for all strategies and budget design. 
     
  • Oxfam Germany has identified Gender Justice as one of four key focus areas and an intersectional priority for all teams. A dedicated gender officer is currently being hired and Oxfam Germany supports numerous women’s rights projects. 
     
  • Debates about feminist principles have intensified within Oxfam Intermón and training materials along with any qualitative and quantitative data that do not include a gender perspective are being challenged. Oxfam Intermón has also published a feminist blog in ’20 Minutos’, an online newspaper about the importance of women becoming ‘at least half-visible’. 
     
  • Oxfam IBIS (Denmark) has invested in programs that combat violence against women and girls, exemplified in two large multi-country programs. It also runs several programs counteracting violence in schools. Actively liaised with Oxfam’s Enough campaign, they are providing support to countries engaging in the campaign along with co-financed global surveys and other innovative initiatives as part of this campaign. 
     
  • Oxfam Italy, in collaboration with specialists in organizational change, Methodos, has commenced dialogue on the themes of diversity and inclusion with Italian organizations and enterprises. 
     
  • Oxfam in Burkina Faso has also conducted a gender analysis of its staff and the team encourages job applications from women and young people. The team in the Central African Republic has scheduled Gender Justice training with two partners. Oxfam in Ghana has joined the Enough campaign and is now implementing a project urging women, girls and boys to take positive action to end sexual and gender-based violence in Ghana, Liberia and Mali. There is also a strong expectation that all four (4) pillars of Ghana’s country program will identify and work with WROs. 
     
  • In Mauritania, Oxfam’s Gender & Protection Officer has supported capacity-building initiatives to strengthen women's participation in international conflict mediation bodies. The network of peacekeeping operations, targeting 25 women leaders, funds this training. Oxfam in Niger celebrated International Women’s Day with a community in Niamey and all programs have reviewed their practices on gender equality. Additionally, Oxfam staff and partners took part in Gender Justice training in Dosso in May 2019; and 35 participants took part in a training session to learn how to use Oxfam’s Gender Action Learning System. 
     
  • Oxfam in Uganda convened a campaign workshop on fiscal justice for women and girls that focused on the health sector. It addressed the need for increased public funding for blood transfusion services to ensure availability of supplies in hospitals and health centers to reduce the country’s high maternal mortality rates. This campaign will run for a year. The team also convened a campaign strategy meeting for the Enough Campaign to draft campaign strategy, participated in an Oxfam meeting in Bangkok, Thailand to share experiences about EVAW/G and attended a training of trainers event on gender leadership that will be rolled out to other colleagues. 
     
  • Oxfam in Rwanda is developing economic interventions for victims of gender-based violence and, to mitigate the impact of this, they are working with couples in conflict to tackle their behavior and build their capacity and confidence to become agents of change. The team has continued to provide technical support to the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion working through a Technical Advisor on Women’s Economic Empowerment. Oxfam in DR Congo aims to achieve 30% of job applications from female candidates and to encourage gender equality one post was ring-fenced for application by internal female staff only. 
     
  • In Southern Africa, Oxfam in Zambia commemorated International Women’s Day and supported WROs through the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe’s community-based commemorations and a regional learning event on violence against women and girls (VAWG) as part of the Enough Campaign was held in Zambia. 

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.