Oxfam apologizes for incident at UN climate meeting

Published: 28th July 2010

International agency Oxfam has apologized to the Government of Saudi Arabia and to the Bureau, secretariat and members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for an offensive incident that occurred at a meeting in Bonn in June.

An Oxfam employee was part of a discussion with two people from WWF that eventually led to one of the WWF employees taking the nameplate of Saudi Arabia. The nameplate was broken, put in a toilet bowl and photographs of it circulated around the convention center. The Oxfam employee did not take part in the act but was in the room when the nameplate was taken.

"The act itself was offensive, inexcusable and inappropriate. It broke UN rules that govern NGO behavior," said Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs. "Oxfam has apologized to the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and to the UNFCCC and its members. Proper staff procedures broke down and we were too slow to respond. We have commissioned an independent review of our internal controls and management systems to ensure nothing like this happens again."

Oxfam has been in contact with the UNFCCC and members and has requested time at the UNFCCC meeting in Bonn next week (Aug 2-6) to formally apologize to the plenary in a public session. Oxfam understands the meeting may discuss possible penalties that the UN could take against the individuals and the NGOs concerned.

Oxfam has suspended the staff member pending the results of a investigation. Mr. Hobbs said that Oxfam is fully committed to the rules and procedures of the UNFCCC and will take whatever action is proposed by the independent review. "We hope that the UNFCCC and its members will accept our apologies and draw a line under this incident and not let it become a distraction to the job at hand."

Contact information

For further information:
Matt Grainger, Oxfam International Head of Media, +44 (0)7730 680 837
Tricia O'Rourke, Oxfam GB Head of Media, +44 (0)7920 596 358