Aid charities warned by Scottish Government: we’ll cut support


​Anything less than the "highest moral and ethical" standards will result in funding being withdrawn 

14th February 2018 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Scottish aid agencies are re-drafting their codes of conduct after being warned by the Scottish Government support will be withdrawn from any organisations involved in “abuse or malpractice.”  

It comes in the wake of the Oxfam sex abuse scandal which has rapidly escalated since revelations were first published last Friday.  

Fears the scandal will hit public confidence has led to the country’s international aid and development groups swiftly tightening foreign conduct policies for staff and contractors.

In a letter to all Scottish international development organisations, international development minister Dr Alasdair Allan said the Scottish Government expects the “highest moral and ethical standards from those we fund” and would not “tolerate any form of human rights abuses or misconduct, wherever they take place.”

He added: “The Scottish Government will not hesitate to take appropriate action whenever we suspect that any abuse has occurred, and we expect the same commitment from those working with us.”

Since the original report that Oxfam workers paid prostitutes while working in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, aid groups have struggled to avert a fast-moving crisis 

The UK government, the Charity Commission as well as funders are now demanding assurances all aid agency staff are properly vetted and procedures are in place to deal with any suggestion of abuse.

Jane Salmondson, chief executive of Scotland's International Development Alliance, said that while recognising that recruitment in disaster settings is particularly difficult to conduct, she welcomed action being taken by humanitarian agencies to improve vetting procedures. 

She added: “The recent publicity of morally and professionally reprehensible activity is understandable. 

“However it would be even more tragically reprehensible if we allowed it to diminish the extraordinary efforts we collectively make, as members of the public who give and as humanitarian agencies who act, to help the people who most need our help.”

Edinburgh-based Mercy Corps, one of the biggest aid agencies in the world, said it made a strategic priority last year to assess and strengthen its culture, policies and procedures relating to gender diversity and inclusion, which also encompasses how it addresses sexual misconduct.

A spokesperson said: “This proactive self-audit and improvement initiative is currently underway with the support of outside experts and reflects Mercy Corps’ ongoing commitment to building an inclusive and safe workplace where our team members are inspired to do their best work.

The Scottish Government will not hesitate to take appropriate action - Alasdair Allan

“We know there remains room for growth and improvement, and this is a priority for us. 

“We take swift action in response to all allegations. We aim to do all we can to prevent this type of behaviour in our organisation and, as we do in all aspects of our work, we continuously look diligently at ways to improve.”

And Alistair Dutton, Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund's (SCIAF) director, condemned the behaviour of staff involved in the scandal.

"We take sexual misconduct and the safeguarding of children, young people and vulnerable adults extremely seriously and do not tolerate any misconduct of this kind," he said. 

"Like everyone else who devotes themselves to tackling extreme poverty and injustice, we feel profoundly betrayed by cases like these, which we deplore."

Pressure is now mounting on Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s chief executive, who will be summoned to appear before a committee of MPs to be questioned about his response to the scandal.

Oxfam’s deputy chief executive, Penny Lawrence, resigned this week and the charity was warned that it could lose £30 million of government funding unless it can prove it is adequately tackling claims men have use the organisation as a cover for sexual abuse.

It has also been reported the sex scandal has led to more than 1,200 people cancelling their monthly donations to Oxfam.

In just three days a total of 1,270 direct debit payments were withdrawn as the crisis deepened.

An Oxfam spokesperson said: “We are grateful for the support of people during this difficult time for Oxfam, some of whom have expressed that they are deeply saddened by the repercussions of the appalling actions of a few – they are determined that the millions of people that Oxfam helps worldwide don’t suffer as a result.”