Oxfam chief says people are 'gunning' for his charity

In an interview with The Guardian, Mark Goldring says the charity should have spelled out why six Haiti staff left in 2011, but the reaction to the scandal has been out of proportion with the level of culpability

Mark Goldring
Mark Goldring

The chief executive of Oxfam says he feels people are "gunning" for the charity and the negative reaction to the revelations about some of its employees’ behaviour has been out of proportion with the level of culpability.

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Mark Goldring said he regretted the fact that the charity did not spell out why six Oxfam staff working in Haiti had left the charity in 2011.

He said the charity had not kept the details of the case quiet to protect the men concerned, but to protect Oxfam’s work.

The charity has been at the centre of a media storm since claims of sexual misconduct in the charity’s programmes in Haiti and parts of Africa emerged.

Asked if he thought an anti-aid agenda was at the root of the attacks on Oxfam, Goldring said: "The intensity and the ferocity of the attack makes you wonder, what did we do? We murdered babies in their cots?

"Certainly, the scale and the intensity of the attacks feels out of proportion to the level of culpability. I struggle to understand it. You think: ‘My God, there’s something going on there.’"

Goldring expressed surprise that Roland Van Hauwermeiren, who resigned as country director for Haiti when other staff were dismissed in 2011, had not been pursued more fervently by the media since the allegations about his conduct came to light last week.

"Why are they doorstepping me instead of him?" said Goldring. "They’re not looking for justice for him, you know.

"People are gunning for Oxfam, not for him. He’s almost irrelevant."

Goldring said anything the charity had been saying in response to the scandal had been prone to being manipulated.

"I said on TV ‘yes, we could have done some things faster', and all of a sudden we’ve got two former ministers calling for my resignation," said Goldring. "What I felt really clearly is many people haven’t wanted to listen to explanations."

He admitted he had considered his own position at the charity and would resign if asked to by the trustees, but he did not think he had let Oxfam down.

He said Oxfam America was conducting an investigation into why it subsequently hired as a contractor a man who was sacked by the charity after the 2011 investigation.

Goldring said it was inevitable that some of its corporate partners would cut ties with the charity, but there had been no conversations about Oxfam shutting down, which would not be "the right conversation to have".

He said: "We’ve got massive ongoing commitments. We’ve got the skill and scale that’s actually unparalleled in the UK.

"Even though we have been making steady improvements, we now understand that’s not been good enough. The challenges of the last week mean we have to take more dramatic steps."

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