Belfast Telegraph

Irish boss of Oxfam hit by sex scandal to work to restore faith

By Adrian Rutherford

The head of Oxfam in Ireland has promised to rebuild trust which has been lost in the charity locally in the wake of the Haiti sex scandal.

Jim Clarken was speaking after the head of Oxfam International pledged a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct.

Oxfam has said it will set up a commission to investigate past and present allegations of exploitation by staff.

The charity has faced criticism over its handling of claims that staff hired prostitutes in earthquake-stricken Haiti in 2011.

Announcing plans to try to stamp out abuse in the organisation yesterday, Oxfam International's executive director Winnie Byanyima said the sexual exploitation allegations it faces were a "stain" on the charity "that will shame us for years".

She pledged to root out any wrongdoing at the charity and provide justice for anyone abused by its staff.

The wide-ranging reform plan, which includes an independent commission involving women's rights experts to urgently review Oxfam's culture and practices, has been agreed with Oxfam GB chief executive Mark Goldring.

Mr Clarken welcomed the review, saying it underpins the charity's shared commitment to enforce a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct.

He said: "I feel great responsibility in the trust our supporters across the island of Ireland put in us, and I'm dedicated to rebuilding any trust lost.

"This review marks the beginning of change for Oxfam as an international organisation - Oxfam Ireland is 100% committed to playing our part and to working with others in government and across the sector to implement urgent reforms that enable us to do more and do better for the world's poorest."

The reforms include more than doubling the number of people working in Oxfam's safeguarding processes, while more than tripling the annual funding to £720,000.

It is also planned to set up a global database of accredited referees to ensure sex offenders cannot re-offend at other charities, and to improve the organisation's "whistleblowing mechanism".

Oxfam also vowed to quickly publish its 2011 internal investigation into staff involved in sexual and other misconduct in Haiti. The names of the men involved have already been shared with the authorities in Haiti.

Mr Goldring, who is to implement the changes in the UK, said the scandal has shown that Oxfam has "betrayed" the much-needed trust that people have put into the organisation.

Belfast Telegraph

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