20 February 2018
Oxfam boss apologises to MPs
Mark Goldring tells MPs that thousands have cancelled Oxfam donations over Haiti scandal
The head of Oxfam, Mark Goldring, has apologised to MPs for the actions of some of its aid staff who sexually exploited female victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, acknowledging that their behaviour has damaged the wider aid sector.
He also told the House of Commons International Development Committee that 7000 people have cancelled their regular donations to the charity in the past ten days, since the scandal broke. Mr Goldring added that Oxfam’s corporate sponsors were “reserving judgement”.
He said that the charity had received 26 new reports of recent and historic allegations since the story emerged – 16 of them were outside the UK. There was now a helpline and a safeguarding team at Oxfam and the charity was seeking more support, he added.
Mark Goldring, along with other senior Oxfam executives, were facing urgent questions from MPs, in response to reports earlier this month in The Times that the aid organisation had covered up allegations of sexual misconduct by senior staff, including the use of prostitutes, in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake.
Oxfam, which has 10,000 staff worldwide, has denied a cover-up, but it is being investigated by the Charity Commission.
Mr Goldring, who joined the charity in 2013 said: "I am sorry, we are sorry, for the damage Oxfam has done both to the people of Haiti but also to wider efforts for aid and development by possibly undermining public support."
He also apologised for appearing to downplay the significance of the scandal by saying Oxfam had not “murdered babies in their cots” in an interview with the Guardian newspaper given last week.
“I should not have said those things. It is not for Oxfam to judge issues of proportionality or motivation,” he said.
Goldring said that Oxfam was wrong to allow Roland van Hauwermeiren, the official at the centre of the Haiti sex scandal, to resign.
Mr van Hauwermeiren has admitted to having a sexual relationship with a woman he helped in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, but has denied paying for sex with prostitutes or abusing minors.
Following his resignation, Mr van Hauwermeiren was provided with a statement of service by the charity, Mr Goldring told MPs. Oxfam gave him no reference, however the charity did not raise any concerns regarding his behaviour with his future employers.
In a summary at the close of the parliamentary hearing, Committee chairman Stephen Twigg, said it was striking how often Goldring apologised. There was “a lot to apologise for”, he said. But he added that the committee accepted that this is an issue for the whole sector, not just Oxfam.
Mr Twigg said his committee would conduct a full inquiry into sexual misconduct in the aid sector in the wake of the scandal.
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