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Oxfam staff are more aware and challenging of unacceptable behaviors as the organization continues deep and wide-ranging reforms of its safeguarding work and culture, under its Ten-Point Action Plan. Oxfam publishes its fourth “quarterly progress” report today against this plan.
Oxfam’s new Standard Operating Procedures are improving the timeliness and consistency of its safeguarding reporting including to donors and authorities. Oxfam country teams are briefing governments, donors and other agencies about new systems and its affiliates are reconfirming their compliance with government and donor standards. In addition, Oxfam has:
- Agreed a new global Safeguarding Shared Service and single case management system to oversee and deliver safeguarding across the Oxfam confederation;
- Introduced child safeguarding, Protection against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, sexual diversity, ethical content gathering and gender identity policies, and is currently approving new youth and digital safeguarding policies;
- Driving culture change with an increased budget and new resources across its confederation; preparing workshops for staff self-reflection, discussion and action;
- Introduced new roles to address safeguarding and culture change, including an Oxfam International Safeguarding Associate Director;
- Rolling out an enhanced staff induction course with a greater focus on behaviors, culture and safeguarding;
- Introducing a new performance management process that emphasizes how we work as individuals and collectively, rather than primarily what we achieve, and has a focus on accountability;
- Agreed a confederation wide commitment to ensure that Oxfam’s 2020 Strategic Plan and ways of working are grounded in feminist principles and equality.
The Independent Commission that Oxfam set up in March 2018 to review its culture and safeguarding will publish its final report next month after commissioners visited country programs in the past three months (nine in total since its inception) and reviewed findings of both an expert case management investigation and a new community research project.
Oxfam ran its own Staff Culture Survey, answered by nearly 4,000 colleagues. This is intended to open up honest discussion and self-reflection about culture change. It will help to deepen Oxfam’s understanding of all the serious factors that contribute to staff having problems with work-life balance and well-being, speaking out in work settings and experiencing lack of accountability. It revealed:
- There is not a single simple truth about how staff experience Oxfam culture, but many different experiences. Most staff say they feel safe to report safeguarding issues through formal reporting mechanisms and discussing difficult issues with their manager.
- While only a minority of staff have negative experiences in these aspects, there are too many, and it is vital that Oxfam keeps working to improve. When staff have a negative experience, they said it is most likely to be related to hierarchy, gender, control of resources and race.
In its second disclosure of safeguarding data, as part of its commitment to transparency, Oxfam reports in the past year (April 2018-March 2019) there were 294 cases reported – 221 were closed and 73 remain open. This number has risen significantly compared to last year, which shows that people – particularly staff – have a greater understanding of their rights and trust in Oxfam’s improved systems. Oxfam expects case numbers to continue to rise, with a greater proportion coming from partners and community members, as their understanding improves of their rights and trust in Oxfam’s systems. 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 against the code of conduct);
- One case where information was not provided.
The investigation resulted in:
- 79 cases involving disciplinary action, including 43 dismissals
- 45 cases of non-disciplinary action e.g. training in safeguarding and code of conduct
- 58 cases where there was insufficient evidence and the allegation not upheld
- 10 resignations (two prior to the allegation being raised and eight afterward)
- Seven cases: no information available
- One case that was later identified as not related to safeguarding
- 21 cases: the complainant did not wish to go forward to an investigation.
Notes to editors
“Closed” safeguarding cases are where an allegation has been reviewed, investigated where necessary and acted upon, including where it 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 resolved for the current year, and the balance of 160 were historical cases that had been brought forward and closed within the year.
Oxfam offers support to survivors from the moment an incident is reported, during the investigation and once it is concluded. This support can include counselling, health care and legal support.
CORRECTION 20 MAY, 2019
In publishing out 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.