Oxfam – Did We Kill Babies?


Dearly beloved, please sit still and stop that knee jerking for a minute whilst I tell you a tale of saints becoming sinners and sinners so sure they are saints, though who is who you will need to decide for yourself.

Doesn’t your dear heart just reach out to Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s CEO, as he loses his cool during an interview and faced with a full-on media monstering of the charity, instead of repeating yet again how sorry Oxfam is and all the steps they had taken to improve, he expresses his bewilderment at the scale of the onslaught it faces. I am sure he knew immediately he was so going to have to apologise for that – you can’t attack the way the media goes hysterical and win.

There is no calm at the eye of this storm it will rage on and every ill-advised thing this organisation has ever done will be resurrected and exaggerated until it blows itself out. And now here comes Save the Children and UNICEF into the maelstrom. So, it is not just one organisation and sadly some people given the opportunity to behave appallingly will do so unless the checks are there, the organisational culture is maintained, and justice is close at hand for both the perpetrators and the abused.

Quite rightly the media takes people and organisations to task when they fall short of accepted moral behaviour in their conduct, but I would have been more impressed if they had brought this up in 2011 when it occurred, and if they kept to what actually happened (which was bad enough) without repeating speculation about what may have happened, or repeating the speculation of people eager to damn without any real knowledge. This is not journalism but a gleeful witch hunt.

Eamonn Holmes interrupting and shouting at Tim Hunter on This Morning was one of the least edifying episodes of this saga. It is almost as if Trump and the hate press has given leave for anyone to shout and stamp their little feet whenever they feel aggrieved about anything. Whatever happened to going higher?

Let us face it, Oxfam staff broke the law in Haiti and behaved in a dreadful fashion and were quite rightly sacked and disciplined. Oxfam then tightened its code of practice and is now going through the kind of critical internal analysis that should probably have taken place a long time ago. This should result in better practice in the field and higher standards for staff in future. As old accusations are brought to light to feed the 24-hour news cycle it will appear to the casual reader that Oxfam is a serial offender; but I would venture to suggest that if you read carefully and look closely at what actually happened, rather than the speculation, you will see an organisation – certainly not perfect – but not the very devil either.

We are humans that err, and humans that try to prevent error, and we are unfortunately not perfect; which is no reason to forgive the error or accept poor management practice. Justice for the victims and justice for the criminals is as important, as the steps to prevent it happening again.

Let me fess up, I used to work for Oxfam and travelled to Zimbabwe for them in the early 1980s and found their staff impressive in their work and exemplary in their conduct. I would not hesitate to donate to them today. Their work in the field is outstanding and there is sadly a huge need for their services.

And now, dearly beloved, we come to the most important part of my tale. Oxfam and the others have brilliant records for their work in the field and if we stop giving to punish them it is the poor and vulnerable, yet again, who will become poorer and more vulnerable as a result.

Let us not add to the pool of human suffering by stopping our donations.

John Baguley, Chair, Group IFC