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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

UK Oxfam Director resigns for sexual abuse scandal

Por Jade

The CEO of Oxfam GB, Mark Goldring, announced his resignation on Wednesday to allow the NGO to take a new direction after the scandal of sexual abuse committed by some of its employees in Haiti. Goldring said in a statement that he will remain in office until the end of the year, and that it was better for the NGO to rebuild itself "with someone who brings a fresh vision, energy and a long-term commitment."

Oxfam was in the eye of the hurricane and lost thousands of donors after revealing, last February, the abuses committed in Haiti by certain employees of the NGO after the earthquake of 2010. A young Haitian woman told the British newspaper The Times that she had a relationship with Oxfam's former director in Haiti, Roland Van Hauwermeiren, when she was 16 and he was 61. Other employees were accused of harassment and intimidation. A witness claimed to have been physically threatened. An internal investigation conducted in 2011 on the humanitarian mission in Haiti led to the departure of seven Oxfam employees. Four were dismissed for "serious misconduct" and three others resigned, including Van Hauwermeiren, who admitted hiring prostitutes.

However, he continued his career in the humanitarian sector, becoming head of mission of Action Against Hunger (AAH) in Bangladesh between 2012 and 2014. Oxfam had not informed AAH of the reasons for his resignation. To try to recover its image, Oxfam had announced a series of measures, among which the creation of an "independent" commission to review the culture and practices of the NGO.

The NGO and other agencies have lost private donors and state aid as a result of the scandal. The current director of Oxfam GB has always denied that he had tried to "cover up" the sexual incidents that occurred two years before his appointment to the British headquarters. The executive considers that he has to give the reins so that his successor "leads the way" of reform and necessary redefinition, working with the rest of the confederation of charities. "I feel anger at the impact of the abominable abuse of power of those individuals in Haiti in 2011 and the failure of Oxfam to protect the women we were there to protect," the letter said.

Goldring, who in the 1990s worked as head of the organization in Bangladesh, assumed the position of executive director in the United Kingdom in 2013. In his five years in office, he has "overseen the growth of Oxfam's work to tackle poverty and its root causes" and "it has ensured that Oxfam improved its protection practices after abuses of former workers in Haiti," according to the note. The president of the NGO in the United Kingdom, Caroline Thomson, thanked Goldring for his "dedication and leadership" and announced that she "accepts" his decision to resign. "Mark has faced the biggest test of his life managing the crisis that hit us in February," Thomson said. On February 20, Goldring appeared before a commission of the House of Commons and apologized for the "damage that (Oxfam) has done to the people of Haiti" as well as to the NGO sector. Goldring also expresses his "sadness" for the negative impact of the scandal on the entire humanitarian sector.