Oxfam probes new sexual misconduct cases as MPs grill bosses

Oxfam's chief executive Mark Goldring (L) and Oxfam's chair of trustees Caroline Thomson leave the Department for International Development (DFID) in central London on February 12, 2018. (AFP/Daniel Leal-Olivas)
Updated 20 February 2018
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Oxfam probes new sexual misconduct cases as MPs grill bosses

LONDON: Oxfam revealed Tuesday it was investigating 26 new cases of sexual misconduct since the crisis erupted over its handling of a 2011 prostitution scandal in Haiti, which the British charity called a “wake-up call.”
Chief executive Mark Goldring told a parliamentary committee in London that the cases varied in their seriousness, while 16 related to its international operation.
“They range in time frame from more recent events to long historic events where people did not report them at the time,” he said.
Goldring added he believed the latest cases had emerged as “a direct response to the publicity” around the Haitian scandal.
“We really want people to come forward,” he added.
The Oxfam chief was unable to provide further details on the cases when pressed by British lawmakers.
The committee said it would be conducting its own inquiry into abuses in the foreign aid sector.
Three of Oxfam’s most senior leaders repeatedly apologized for the charity’s handling of an internal investigation into the use of prostitutes by staff in Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Caroline Thomson, chair of trustees, said: “It’s right to admit this has been a real wake-up call.”
The charity revealed 7,000 regular donors had been lost since the scandal emerged following reporting by The Times newspaper.
It said safeguards had been put in place following the 2011 probe, but admitted they had not gone far enough.
Thomson vowed to take “personal responsibility” for ongoing reform: “I have decided that we need to have more focus on safeguarding.”
Last week, Oxfam unveiled an action plan to tackle sexual harassment and abuse, including creating a new vetting system for staff.
The charity formally also apologized to Haiti on Monday over the scandal and for failing to report the matter adequately.
“Oxfam should have reported the matter to the Haitian authorities,” Goldring told lawmakers.
“It was not for Oxfam to decide whether a crime had been committed ... that was the wrong decision.”


US reviews report of imports from forced labor in China camp

Updated 19 December 2018
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US reviews report of imports from forced labor in China camp

BEIJING: The US government said Tuesday that it is reviewing reports of forced labor at a Chinese detention camp where ethnic minorities must give up their religion and language and may be subject to political indoctrination.
US Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that reporting by The Associated Press and other media “for the first time appears to link the internment camps identified in Western China to the importation of goods produced by forced labor by a US company.”
The AP tracked shipments from a factory in a detention camp in China’s Xinjiang region to Badger Sportswear in North Carolina. The company ships clothing to universities, colleges and schools around the United States.
Following the reports, Badger said that it had suspended business with the Chinese supplier and was investigating.
The Washington-based Workers Rights Consortium, which has agreements with many educational institutions to make sure the products they sell on campus are ethically manufactured, said that “forced labor of any kind is a severe violation of university codes of conduct.”
It’s against US law to import products of forced labor. Customs and Border Protection said it is part of its mission to enforce “both laws to protect individuals from forced labor and our Nation’s economy from businesses profiting from this form of modern slavery.”