Oxfam training 119 staff to become investigators to strengthen safeguarding worldwide

Oxfam has held initial training courses for 119 staff to become new safeguarding investigators as part of its “Ten-Point Action Plan” launched in February, following criticism of the way it handled cases including sexual abuse by some former staff in Haiti.

Oxfam invited ten other international NGOs and partner organizations to its training courses in six cities around the world, part of its commitment to contribute to improve safeguarding work across the humanitarian and aid sector as a whole.

Oxfam has invested more than €2m globally into safeguarding including toward a new International Associate Director of Safeguarding and Culture and safeguarding leads in each of its seven regional teams. It has established an Independent Commission and is extending safeguarding and gender justice training to all its 10,000 staff around the world.

Oxfam has set up a central contact system to deal with all requests for all staff references and now has accredited referees in every Oxfam affiliate. Cases of gross misconduct, including sexual abuse, will be clearly marked in staff references where this is lawful. Oxfam is improving its pre-employment checks and has made safeguarding a mandatory part of staff recruitment and inductions.

From October 2018, every six months Oxfam will publicly disclose consolidated global anonymized data of all the safeguarding investigations that it has closed out in that period across all members of its confederation. It has established an Independent Commission which is currently investigating Oxfam’s safeguarding practices; the Commission will publish its findings by May 2019.

Oxfam has revamped its whistle-blowing systems ensuring there are reporting lines in five languages and has openly encouraged all staff to use them in confidence. It has met with more than 20 institutional donors to better understand their expectations of disclosure of data and has developed a central database for all finalized safeguarding investigations. It has held trainings and team discussions on gender justice, safeguarding, safety and its code of conduct across all its teams around the world.

“Our ten-point plan is how we are matching our apology for what happened in Haiti with action,” said Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. “We’re beginning to see the results but we’re only at the start of a long journey.”

“I’m proud of how staff have reacted with such determination to improve the ways we can make Oxfam a safe place where there will be no tolerance for sexual misconduct and abuse of power toward women, nor indeed toward any person in our workplace,” Byanyima said.

“We’ll never be perfect and we’ll stumble along the way but we’ve committed our future on getting it right,” she said. “We will continue to cooperate, listen and learn. We will continue – and will never stop trying – to build on the progress we’ve made so far on our ten-point plan.”

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