Oxfam hit by abuse scandal

Oxfam workers have been accused of sexually abusing women in Haiti. The aid organisation is said to have long been aware of accusations that the men demanded sex from vulnerable women in return for help. How can Oxfam win back the trust of society and donors?

Open/close all quotes
La Repubblica (IT) /

The hush-up is the real problem

The international organisation Doctors Without Borders has made accusations against its workers public. This kind of transparency is the right approach, La Repubblica writes:

“The world of aid organisations is not defined by abuse. The work of these giants of solidarity is in many cases - in wars, in natural disasters and famines - irreplaceable. To reduce it, or worse still annul it, would only make the world a more unjust, cruel and unfair place. ... The crucial aspect is the lack of transparency in the way Oxfam dealt with the exposed cases of abuse. It tried to hush them up for fear of losing donors' support. This strategy backfired. So now other organisations like Doctors Without Borders are taking the right approach and voluntarily making such cases public.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Sexual offenders have it far too easy

Aid organisations need new structures to crack down on offenders in their own ranks, The Guardian argues:

“There is the reputational damage from the realisation that when it comes to powerful predatory men exploiting vulnerable women and children, development charities are not really any different from other walks of life. ... Charities have to recognise that they are all polluted by the Oxfam revelations, and work collectively to make it harder for abusers to operate. That means a passporting system for humanitarian workers linked to a regularly updated central register. It also means training workers in vulnerable areas, so that there is less need for volunteers to be brought in from overseas in the event of an emergency.”

De Morgen (BE) /

NGO workers aren't saints either

To place all aid organisation workers under general suspicion would be wrong, John Vandaele, a journalist with the development aid magazine MO, writes in De Morgen:

“Trustworthiness is a valuable asset for any organisation that maintains it is working for a better world. NGO aid workers are ordinary people with ordinary weaknesses, and they don't always act in accordance with the lofty ideals of their organisation. ... No one expects NGOs to employ no one but saints. But we can expect NGOs to assist their employees, to be transparent, and finally to take the necessary steps to prevent such cases. ... An NGO can only retain its credibility with a realistic and firm strategy.”