Oxfam sees aid funding suspended over DRC abuse allegations

Melanie May | 8 April 2021 | News

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will not consider any applications for funding from Oxfam until the charity has dealt with allegations of abuses of power by staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it has stated.

Oxfam recently confirmed that it has suspended two members of staff as part of an investigation into abuses of power that include bullying and sexual misconduct.

Its announcement came after it was reported across the media that more than 20 whistleblowers had signed a letter to Oxfam’s leaders in the UK urging immediate action to address claims of senior managers abusing their powers in the charity’s offices and projects in the DRC.

An investigation into this began in November last year and the Charity Commission notified, but has not yet been completed.

In a statement, Oxfam said:

“We can confirm we have suspended two members of Oxfam staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of an ongoing external investigation, which we set up last November, into allegations of abuses of power, including bullying and sexual misconduct. The Charity Commission were notified at the start of the investigation and we have kept them informed about its progress.

 

“We are acutely aware of our duty to survivors, including in supporting them to speak out safely. We are working hard to conclude the investigation fairly, safely and effectively.”

In the latest development, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office announced yesterday (Wednesday 7 April) that it was suspending aid funding until the new allegations were resolved. In a statement, it said:

“All organisations bidding for UK aid must meet the high standards of safeguarding required to keep the people they work with safe.

 

“Given the most recent reports, which call into question Oxfam’s ability to meet those standards, we will not consider any new funding to Oxfam until the issues have been resolved.”

Oxfam has confirmed that it is aware of the FCDO’s statement, saying:

“The steps we are taking in the Democratic Republic of Congo reflect our commitment to tackle abuses of power. We are aware of the FCDO statement and are seeking further information. The Charity Commission and FCDO have been notified appropriately and we will continue to keep them informed as the investigation concludes its work.”

Oxfam GB was recently returned to statutory regulatory oversight by the Charity Commission. The regulator announced in February that the charity has significantly strengthened its approach to keeping people safe since its 2019 inquiry, which called for ‘significant systemic and cultural’ change.

The Commission’s statutory inquiry into Oxfam GB opened in February 2018, to examine the charity’s governance, including leadership and culture around safeguarding matters, and its management, policies and practices. It examined the charity’s handling in 2011 of the complaints about its staff in Haiti, as well as its wider approach to safeguarding, both historically and at that time, which included supervising an independent review around safeguarding in the charity.

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