Oxfam crisis cannot become weapon against aid sector


Jane Salmonson says powerful and vocal elements of society can't be allowed to use Oxfam crisis as an excuse to cut aid UK budget

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21st February 2018 by TFN Guest 3 Comments

Listening to the First Minister’s speech from the SCVO Gathering this morning was the most heartening moment I have experienced since the recent revelations of abuse in the international aid and development sector began. Thank you First Minister for not climbing on to the bandwagon of moral outrage. 

It takes something a bit more reasoned and rational, to take a step back from the collective disgust, to talk about the distorting effects of the barrage of negative media coverage. 

As the First Minister said in her speech, the Scottish Government has been contacting all its partners involved in the delivery of its international development programmes. For our part, at Scotland’s International Development Alliance, we have been collecting up examples of best practice in safeguarding, whistleblowing, reporting and compliance with statutory and donor requirements, to make available online and to offer in training and information events to our members.  

Jane Salmonson

Jane Salmonson

I am fearful for the future of the UK’s aid and development work as I watch how this episode is being weaponised

There is a paramount and urgent need now to support our members and their implementing partners overseas, to create a genuinely do-able set of practices that will realise an organisational culture of zero tolerance. What I would like to be able to say at this stage is never again. Unfortunately, I can’t. People are people and the human species has some flaws. We employ people not robots. 

What I can say is that the current crisis in our sector, caused by some disgraceful and inexcusable actions, can leave us all better equipped in the months and years ahead to identify abuse and deal with it quickly and correctly.

The First Minister also talked about the use that can be made by elements of the right wing in press and in politics for their own political ends. She is right and I am fearful for the future of the UK’s aid and development work as I watch how this episode is being weaponised. 

There is a powerful and vocal element in society calling for a reduction in our aid and development budgets and work, epitomised for me by the photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg standing smiling in front of Number 10, holding a copy of the newspaper that generated 100,000 signatures for its Stop the Foreign Aid Madness campaign.

Many aid and development agencies share the widely felt shock at the recent horrible stories of gross misconduct.  I think the time has now come to move out of shock and accept that these stories tragically distort the true picture, which is one of many thousands of our employees, volunteers and partners around the world, quietly working away meeting the needs of some of the world’s most disadvantaged people. 

The world is a big place but Scotland is a small one. The First Minister referred to this in her speech this morning. She said our smallness actually brought some advantages. The big challenges we face across the world can be cracked and resolved and we will do it best if we do it together. 

I look forward to seeing the international aid and development sector in Scotland step back up to the place, with confidence, to take its part in meeting those challenges.

Jane Salmonson is chief executive of Scotland’s International Development Alliance

22nd February 2018 by Rose Burn

There is no evidence at all that this government is planning to cut the aid budget. If less money is given to some charities or even to the UN then more is available for other charities or countries to use. The commitment to spending 0.7% of GDP is very clear, and indeed an example to many other countries in the world who do not reach that figure.

23rd February 2018 by Lok Yue

Two points: firstly, the constant demonisation of detractors, referred to as 'Right Wing'. Oxfam and others have been caught (no other term really suffices) covering up what in some cases is criminal behaviour. Surely all 'wings' and 'the centre' to pursue the ridiculous phraseology, should be outraged. Secondly, why has the Deputy CEO resigned whilst the CEO and chairman remain in place, the former making thoroughly tasteless and ill advised remarks concerning 'not killing babies in their cots'.

23rd February 2018 by lok yue

If the 'forces of the right' are to blame for negative reporting, do we assume that those who behaved appallingly are part of the 'left'? Or should we assume the press, regardless of inclination, is picking up on a story where people in positions of trust abused that trust in shameful fashion?