Oxfam: Minnie Driver withdraws support over Haiti scandal
BBC World News February 13, 2018
Actress Minnie Driver has stood down from her role as a celebrity ambassador for Oxfam.
This follows claims that staff for the charity in Haiti and other countries paid vulnerable people for sex.
In a statement Driver said that she was “nothing short of horrified” by the allegations.
Oxfam said it was “grateful” for Driver’s commitment and that it was “more committed now than ever to learn from our mistakes”.
The British charity is accused of concealing the findings of an inquiry into claims staff used prostitutes while delivering aid in Haiti in 2011.
The actress, best known for the films Good Will Hunting, Grosse Point Blank and Hope Springs, said that although she could not continue her 20 years of involvement with Oxfam, she would work against “social and economic injustice”.
She added: “I certainly will not let the abhorrent mistakes of a troubling organization stop me or anyone else from working with good people in this space to support a population of human beings around the world that needs our help.”
The actress later said on Twitter that she was “devastated by the response” of Oxfam which she had been “raising awareness for since I was nine years old”.
All I can tell you about this awful revelation about Oxfam is that I am devastated.Devastated for the women who were used by people sent there to help them, devastated by the response of an organization that I have been raising awareness for since I was 9 years old #oxfamscandal
Driver had been to countries including Cambodia and Thailand in her role as a celebrity ambassador, and also performed at a fundraising concert for Oxfam.
The Charity Commission has launched a statutory inquiry into Oxfam – which denies a cover-up – but details of its scope have not yet been released.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt will give a speech on Wednesday where she will threaten to cut government funding to charities that fail to put robust safeguarding measures in place.
She is attending an event in Stockholm to find ways to end violence against children but is expected to use the opportunity to speak about the Oxfam scandal and say: “Unless you safeguard everyone your organisation comes into contact with, including beneficiaries, staff and volunteers – we will not fund you.
“And unless you report every serious incident or allegation, no matter how damaging to your reputation – we cannot be partners.”
Driver is the first of Oxfam’s celebrity supporters to publicly address the scandal.
Since the allegations came to light, Oxfam’s deputy chief executive, Penny Lawrence, has resigned over the charity’s handling of complaints.
In a separate blow for the charity, Oxfam’s international chairman, Juan Alberto Fuentes, was arrested in Guatemala as part of a corruption investigation relating to his time as the country’s finance minister.
Oxfam scandal: International chairman arrested in Guatemala corruption probe as pressure over sex allegations intensifies
The Independent 13 February 2018
Oxfam has been plunged into further chaos after the chairman of its international arm was arrested as part of a corruption investigation.
Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight, chair of Oxfam International’s board of supervisors, was detained in Guatemala amid a widening scandal in the UK over the alleged use of prostitutes and sexual exploitation by staff.
Dr Fuentes Knight, a former finance minister in the country, was held alongside the country’s former president as part of an investigation into a public bus deal.
Oxfam International’s executive director, Winnie Byanyima, said that no formal charges had yet been announced.
She added: “He has been entirely open with his Oxfam board and executive that he has been among former officials being investigated as part of a budgetary transaction made by the Guatemalan government while he was finance minister.
“He has assured us that he has cooperated fully with the investigation in the confidence he did not knowingly transgress rules or procedures.”
The investigation increased pressure on the charity as the British Government
suggested it was considering pulling public funding over abuses by staff and Oxfam’s alleged failure to properly respond.
The International Development Secretary said she would be guided by the results of a statutory inquiry into the organisation. Oxfam received £31.7m from the Government in 2016-17.
“I know people will be worried about the charity, they’ll be worried about the money, but we need to be guided by what the Charity Commission are doing and also I have made it very clear to Oxfam what we expect to see from them,” Penny Mordaunt said. “But these decisions shouldn’t be taken hastily, but I am considering them.”
She was speaking after the former Foreign Secretary, Lord (William) Hague, warned against cutting the foreign aid budget in the wake of the scandal.
He said there was an “overwhelming strategic, as well as moral, imperative to deliver aid to the world’s poorest people”, adding: “A reduction in aid would be a strategic blunder, ultimately damaging our own national interest and our ability to deal with one of the biggest problems heading our way.”
The Charity Commission was forced to defend its own investigations after Oxfam’s former head of safeguarding claimed she had told the watchdog of rape and sexual abuse long before last week’s revelations.
Helen Evans said she was “extremely concerned” by the response to concerns she raised while heading the charity’s global efforts to protect staff and beneficiaries between 2012 and 2015.
“There has been a lot of coverage about Oxfam and how shocking and surprising this is – it isn’t,” she told Channel 4 News.
“I went in 2015 to the Charity Commission, I went back again in 2017. Everything I’m saying today, the Charity Commission knew, so why is the Government saying this is a surprise?”
While appealing for more resources to deal with a rising number of allegations, Ms Evans recalled a single day where she was told of a woman being coerced into sex in exchange for aid, another aid worker having sex with a beneficiary and a member of staff being struck off for abuse.
Ms Evans had emailed Oxfam’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, warning that data “increasingly points to a culture of sexual abuse within some Oxfam offices” but a face-to-face meeting was cancelled in 2014.
Her reports also recorded alleged abuse and “inappropriate conduct” towards teenage volunteers working in Oxfam’s UK charity shops, which sparked expanded criminal record checks and new training.
A spokesperson for the Charity Commission said it took Ms Evans’s concerns “very seriously” and was told by Oxfam that the charity’s safeguarding processes were improving and developing.
“Recent revelations make clear that the charity has not been sufficiently open with us about safeguarding incidents,” she added.
The watchdog launched a new statutory inquiry into Oxfam earlier this week, saying it may not have “fully and frankly disclosed material details” about allegations of staff using prostitutes in Haiti in 2011.
Oxfam’s deputy chief executive, Penny Lawrence, resigned during crisis talks between the charity and Government, saying she took “full responsibility” for the alleged use of prostitutes by senior staff in Haiti and on a previous placement in Chad.