The recent reports regarding the conduct of staff working for international humanitarian and development charities, focusing on Oxfam, is a crucial reminder of the importance that charities should place on ensuring effective policies and practices in safeguarding, including commitments to recognise and uphold the dignity of local communities that the sector works with.
It is also a lesson on how unequal power relations can permeate the charity sector and replicate the kind of discriminatory and harmful behaviours that we see present in other sectors and in broader society.
Part of this picture is the very methodology of the traditional charitable approach to humanitarian crises and development in the global South – an approach where workers are brought in from largely Western countries to carry out and oversee humanitarian and development projects in communities that are very often living in extreme poverty, marginalised and seen as beneficiaries, as opposed to equal partners with agency, power and the ability to bring about their own change.
Throughout its history War on Want has focused on the structural causes of poverty and inequality rather than traditional aid projects. Our work with partners is what shapes the work that we do. These long-term partnerships ground our work in the aspirations of democratic social movements, ensuring that War on Want’s politics remain true to the hopes of those on the front line in the struggle. Our programmes are partnerships of equals, based on full respect for the ambitions and politics of all we work with.
Violence against women is a fundamental and systematic abuse of women’s human rights. It is an issue that War on Want works on together with women’s rights organisations, as part of our ongoing work to address the root causes of poverty and human rights abuses. Many of War on Want’s programme partnerships are directly focused on the empowerment of women as agents of change. We work in support of women challenging the dominance of male workers in national labour movements, striving to enable a new generation of women to break through the barriers of social and economic exploitation and take their place as leaders in the struggle. We work with women in the informal economy, fighting for equal recognition of their rights in the face of threats and violence at work and in the home.
We understand clearly our responsibility to ensure best practice from staff, trustees and volunteers alike in the work that we do, which includes exposing the ways in which traditional approaches to international development and aid reinforce unequal power relations. This applies to all of our relationships, including as trusted partners working with women’s groups, who have been at the forefront of fighting for justice on these issues for many years, often with very few resources.
We have in place policies and procedures regarding staff and trustee conduct including whistle-blowing, fraud and safeguarding policies, and we operate a zero tolerance approach. This is the case whether our staff are working in the office or elsewhere, including on overseas trips. We regularly review our policies to ensure that they are consistent with best practice and are clear with our staff, trustees and partners of the values, principles and conduct that we expect from them.
This issue should be a priority for the charity sector, and we commit to ensuring that for our part, we endeavour to model best practice policies, approaches and behaviour.
By War on Want
Oxfam forced to suspend Ebola response in DR Congo following pre-election violence
Oxfam has been forced to suspend its work in the Ebola ravaged areas of Beni and Butembo, due to vio..
Oxfam has been forced to suspend its work in the Ebola ravaged areas of Beni and Butembo, due to violent protests following the announcement that people in these areas wont be able to cast their votes for a new president, when the rest of country goes to the polls this Sunday.
Raphael Mbuyi, Oxfams acting Country Director in the DRC said: “This is an extremely worrying situation, as every time the Ebola response has been suspended before weve seen a big spike in the number of new cases. This could mean Ebola spreading to even more people and potentially other countries in the region, putting many more lives at risk.
“However, its not surprising that people who have had their votes taken away at the last minute are frustrated and going to the streets. These people deserve to have their say as well.
“All parties need to find a way for people who have been devastated by Ebola and have lived through decades of violent conflict, to cast their vote.
“Whatever the outcome, there needs to be an end to the years of misery people in this country have had to endure. Just because elections are being held does not mean there will be peace.”
Notes to editors
Spokespeople available for interview in Kinshasa, DRC and in the UK.
For more information or to request an interview, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1865 472498.
For updates, please follow @Oxfam.
Gaza’s water crisis is ‘a ticking time bomb’
Reporter Sandy Tolan – In the Middle East’s Gaza Strip, a narrow piece of contested land where three..
Reporter Sandy Tolan – In the Middle East’s Gaza Strip, a narrow piece of contested land where three out of four people are refugees, unsafe drinking water has led to a worsening health crisis. Gazan children suffer from diarrhea, kidney disease, stunted growth and impaired IQ.
Twenty years ago, 85 percent of Gazas drinking wells were too contaminated for human consumption. Today, that figure is 97 percent.
Local tap water is too salty to drink because the aquifer below Gaza has been over-pumped so severely that seawater is flowing in. Two-thirds of Gazans get water delivered by truck. Desalinated water is pumped into rooftop tanks via hoses. But the desalinated water is unregulated and because this water has virtually no salt, its prone to fecal contamination. When children drink this water, they get diarrhea.
Repeated bouts of diarrhea can lead to stunting and developmental problems, including a measurable impact on IQ. Late last year a British medical journal found an “alarming magnitude”of stunting among Gazan children.
Children drink and fill water jugs at a mosque in Gaza City.
Credit: Abdel Kareem Hanna/The World
“If you really want to change the lives of people, you have to solve the water issue first,” says Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesperson for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. “Otherwise, you will see a huge collapse of everything in Gaza.”
“It’s a ticking time bomb,” agrees Gidon Bromberg, director of EcoPeace Middle East, based in Tel Aviv. “We have a situation where two million people no longer have access to potable groundwater. When people are drinking unhealthy water … disease is a direct consequence. Should pandemic disease break out in Gaza, people will simply start moving to the fences of Israel and Egypt, and they won’t be moving with stones or with rockets. Theyll be moving with empty buckets, desperately calling out for clean water.”
Assigning blame for the plight of Gazans is not exactly simple. Take the fact that only three percent of Gazas drinking water wells are actually drinkable. Is that because Gazas citrus farmers pumped too much? Or because Israeli agricultural settlers depleted a deep pocket of fresh water before they left Gaza in 2005? Or the simple fact that Gazas population quadrupled in a matter of weeks when towns and villages fell to Israel in 1948?
Food- and water-borne diseases have also been a concern — the power is shut off for 20 hours a day. Are Israel and Egypt to blame for withholding fuel deliveries? Or Israel, for bombing water and sewage infrastructure in Gaza during the 2014 war? Or the fight between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which deprives Gazans of critical medicines? Israels economic blockade of Gaza contributes to worsening poverty, skyrocketing unemployment and child malnutrition, according to several human rights groups.
A peace deal could have connected Gaza to the West Bank, where the vast Mountain Aquifer is big enough to end Gazas water crisis. As it is, there is no peace. The two Palestinian territories are splintered. And Israel has effective control over all the water.
Critics say Israel could solve the whole problem by simply implementing power lines into Gaza. But Israeli officials say they are already sending water to Gaza and to do more would be rewarding Gazas bad actors.
“What’s going on in Gaza is a real catastrophe,” says Ori Shor, spokesperson of the Israeli Water Authority. “The situation there is unbearable. But it’s also frustrating, at least from our point of view, because it’s a bit difficult to help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. The problem in Gaza is really that Hamas does nothing to try even to solve the problem.”
Shor says Israel is providing more than twice the amount of water they are obligated to provide based on current agreements. But that amount is just a fraction of the clean water Gazans need every day.
Fifteen members of the Nimnim family at home in the Beach refugee camp.
Credit: Abdel Kareem Hanna/The World
As the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate, humanitarian groups estimate that Gaza will become uninhabitable by 2020 — barely a year from now. To avoid that, international relief agencies and the Palestinian Water Authority are working on a network of big sewage and desalination plants.
Donors have pledged $500 million to build out this network. But one large obstacle remains: On most days, Gaza has electricity for only four hours, which makes running these projects almost impossible.
“At this time, we dont have [enough electricity], but we hope,” says Kamal Abu Moammar, manager of the Southern Gaza Desalination Plant. “Many of our ministers say they will solve this problem. But we don’t know when. Or how.”