Caroline Thomson
Caroline Thomson

Charity Commission Report

On 11 June 2019, the Charity Commission published a report on Oxfam's conduct in Haiti and our safeguarding policies and procedures up to February 2018. What happened in Haiti was shameful and completely unacceptable.

We are deeply sorry. Our Chair of Trustees, Caroline Thomson, responds to the report and outlines how we will go further and work harder to keep the people we serve safe.

How we are changing

Following the events in Haiti, we made improvements to better protect the people we serve. But we recognise we should have gone further and faster.

That's why, over the last year, we have made bigger changes. We have tripled our investment in safeguarding, created a new Director of Safeguarding role who reports directly to the CEO, and rolled out mandatory safeguarding training for 10,000 Oxfam employees worldwide.

We won't stop there. Abuse - in all its forms - has no place in what we do, and we will work hard to make our organisation safe and secure for everyone.

Our Action Plan

The Charity Commission completed their inquiry into Oxfam Great Britain in June 2019

They then asked us to submit an Action Plan showing what we'd learned from Haiti and the events afterwards, and to address the problems uncovered. 

The Action Plan was agreed in July 2019 and the actions need to be completed by March 2020.

The plan will see us improve further: from doing country risk assessments to make sure we're keeping people safe to external audits of our Safeguarding Team's work. This action plan is a helpful step on our journey and we're also dedicated to deeper, broader and lasting changes to our structure and culture that we'll continue to develop over the long term.

Further information

Caroline's statement in full

For anyone who cares about Oxfam and the work we do, the report published by the Charity Commission will make for difficult reading. It describes serious sexual misconduct by some of our staff in Haiti in 2011, and it criticises the way we investigated and reported on the case at the time.

These are very uncomfortable findings for Oxfam Great Britain. But we accept them.

What happened in Haiti was shameful and we are deeply sorry. It was a terrible abuse of power that goes against everything we stand for. I want to again apologise to all those who personally suffered. To the people of Haiti, and to our donors and supporters here at home. We let you down.

After the events in Haiti, we made improvements to our safeguarding - but we accept that should have gone further faster. We are already acting on the recommendations of an independent review which informed the Commission's work - including by looking again at a number of past safeguarding cases.

As Chair of Trustees, it is my role to ensure that Oxfam GB learns the lessons of past. We must put victims and survivors first, and ensure that 'zero tolerance' for perpetrators means just that. In particular, having long campaigned for the rights of women and girls, we must always hold ourselves to the standards we demand of others - something I feel particularly strongly about.

Oxfam is changing. As the Commission notes, we've tripled our investment in this area - creating a Director of Safeguarding position, and training over a hundred investigators, covering every country in which we operate. We've appointed a new Chief Executive, Danny Sriskandarajah, to ensure that we do even more.

As I have seen for myself, Oxfam's work - whether fighting famine, helping communities protect themselves from Ebola or giving people the tools they need to escape poverty - is as vital as ever. But we must deliver it in a way that is safe and secure for all those we serve - so that HOW we operate is every bit as important as WHAT we do. Anything less would be a betrayal of our mission.

I'm the first to acknowledge that our journey of change and improvement is far from complete. But I am also convinced the steps we have taken, and are taking, have put Oxfam on the right path for the future.

Thank you

Caroline Thomson, Chair of Oxfam GB Trustees