After Oxfam Haiti Sexual Misconduct Scandal, Actress Minnie Driver Withdraws Support for the Charity

February 14, 2018 Updated: October 5, 2018

British actress Minnie Driver has left her role as a celebrity ambassador for Oxfam, after a leaked internal report sunk the charity in a sexual misconduct scandal.

“All I can tell you about this awful revelation about Oxfam is that I am devastated,” Driver tweeted on Tuesday, Feb. 13. “Devastated for the women who were used by people sent there to help them, devastated by the response of an organization that I have been raising awareness for since I was 9 years old.”

In a statement to the Telegraph, the actress said: “I am nothing short of horrified by the allegations against Oxfam International.”

In 2011, Oxfam said its country director in Haiti, Roland Van Hauwermeiren, resigned because an internal investigation was launched into the misconduct of a “small number” of its workers in Haiti and he felt he should take “managerial responsibility,” the Independent reported at the time.

But The Times recently reported that it obtained an internal confidential 2011 report on the “misconduct” that alleged some staffers, including Hauwermeiren and another two in management, were hiring prostitutes in the country devastated by a 2010 earthquake. They acted with a “culture of impunity” the report stated.

View of the entrance of the Oxfam offices in the commune of Petion Ville, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Feb. 13, 2018. (HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)

The paper talked to several “Oxfam insiders” who said some senior staffers were holding parties at Oxfam-rented guest house with as many as five prostitutes at a time. Three sources were concerned that some of the girls were only 14-16 years old.

Oxfam told the paper the allegations of underaged prostitutes were ”not proven.”

But the sources said the internal investigation was watered down to only uncover enough to sack the people implicated.

In addition, Hauwermeiren, 68, admitted to having prostitutes brought to a villa in Haiti rented for him by Oxfam, the internal report stated.

In the end, Hauwermeiren and the two staffers from management were allowed to resign. Four others were fired. Even though prostitution is illegal in Haiti, none of their conduct was reported to Haitian authorities because Oxfam assumed no action would be taken anyway in the decimated country.

The charity withheld specifics of the allegations from public to avoid scrutiny, based on what its chief executive, Mark Goldring, told BBC.

“I don’t think it was in anyone’s best interest to be describing the details of the behaviour in a way that was actually going to draw extreme attention to it when what we wanted to do was get on and deliver an aid programme,” he said.

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 Feb. 12, 2018. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Oxfam didn’t give the specifics of what happened even to the UK government, UK’s international development secretary Penny Mordaunt said, according to The Guardian. Mordaunt threatened to cut government funding to Oxfam — a total of almost $45 million last year.

Similar allegations were raised against Oxfam staffers in Chad, The Guardian reported. Moreover, 87 Oxfam workers have been accused of sexual misconduct just last year, the paper reported. Oxfam employs over 5,000 people around the world.

Oxfam said it now had a dedicated safeguarding team, a confidential whistleblowing hotline, and safeguarding contact point within countries, but Mordaunt said that doesn’t matter if “the moral leadership at the top of the organisation isn’t there.”

Mordaunt’s predecessor Priti Patel told BBC the issue goes beyond the Oxfam scandal as there is “a culture of denial in the aid sector about the exploitation and sexual abuse that has taken place historically for decades.”

Oxfam deputy chief executive, Penny Lawrence, resigned over the scandal, but Patel called for Goldring’s resignation too in a talkRADIO interview.

 

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