In light of recent accusations of sexual misconduct, the British aid organization Oxfam said on Friday it would set up an independent commission to look into the charity’s culture and practices.
Last week, The Times newspaper published an expose that revealed that some Oxfam personnel had paid for sex with prostitutes, some underage, in Haiti after the country’s 2010 earthquake that claimed thousands of lives.
Oxfam, which is one of the biggest disaster relief charities in the world, confirmed that an internal investigation into the alleged sexual misconduct had occurred but has not denied or confirmed the specific allegations surrounding paid sex work.
Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam’s International Executive Director, said in a statement: “What happened in Haiti and afterwards is a stain on Oxfam that will shame us for years, and rightly so. In my language ‘Okuruga ahamutima gwangye, mutusaasire.’ It means “From the bottom of my heart I am asking for forgiveness.'”
The charity said it would be publishing a 2011 internal investigation that looked into the staff involved in the sexual and other misconduct in Haiti as soon as possible but would first ensure the identity of innocent witnesses would be protected.
“Names of the men involved have already been shared with the authorities in Haiti,” the organization said.
In a statement Oxfam outlined that its its High-Level Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change would be made up of women’s rights professionals who would be granted access to Oxfam staff, record, partners and communities it supports.
Furthermore, the charity added that it would invest in resources in its safeguarding process and said that “a global database of accredited referees” would be created “to end the use of forged, dishonest or unreliable references by past or current Oxfam staff”.
On Wednesday Britain’s development minister, Penny Mordaunt, said it would end funding to overseas aid charities and agencies if they did not learn from Oxfam’s sexual abuse scandal.