February 14, 2018 / 12:13 AM / 8 months ago

UK to aid groups - no more cash if you don't come clean on abuse

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s government will tell aid agencies on Wednesday it will withdraw funding if they cannot show they are preventing abuse by staff following allegations of sexual misconduct involving British aid organisation Oxfam.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt arrives in Downing Street in London, February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

The Times newspaper reported on Friday that some Oxfam staff in Haiti after the country’s 2010 earthquake had paid for sex with prostitutes. Oxfam has neither confirmed nor denied that specific account but has said an internal investigation in 2011 had confirmed sexual misconduct had occurred and has apologised.

“Unless you safeguard everyone your organisation comes into contact with, including beneficiaries, staff and volunteers – we will not fund you,” Britain’s development secretary Penny Mordaunt will say, according to excerpts of a speech she is due to give at a gathering of development agencies in Stockholm.

“Unless you create a culture that prioritises the safety of vulnerable people and ensures victims and whistleblowers can come forward without fear – we will not work with you,” Mordaunt will say.

“And unless you report every serious incident or allegation, no matter how damaging to your reputation – we cannot be partners.”

On Monday the deputy head of Oxfam resigned over what she said was the charity’s failure to respond adequately to the allegations of sexual misconduct by some of its staff in Chad as well as in Haiti.

Oxfam faced fresh pressure on Tuesday after a former senior member of staff said her concerns about “a culture of sexual abuse” were not taken seriously by the charity’s bosses.

Mordaunt has previously threatened to withdraw government funding from Oxfam unless it gave the full facts about events in Haiti. Oxfam receives around 32 million pounds of British government funding a year.

She has also called on all British charities active outside the country to provide moral leadership and transparency about their operations.

Only five out of 10 global aid agencies were willing to disclose the extent of sex abuse by their staff in a survey conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The scandal has bolstered critics of the British government’s commitment to spend the equivalent of 0.7 percent of economic output on foreign aid, making it one of the world’s most generous donors.

Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Gareth Jones

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