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Oxfam UK chief executive quits amid sexual abuse scandal

Oxfam UK has announced its CEO will step down at the end of the year in the wake of sexual misconduct by Oxfam staff in disaster zones.

CEO Mark Goldring, who was at the helm of Oxfam UK when news broke of the sexual abuse of victims of the 2010 earthquake, previously resisted pressure to resign amid outcry aid workers had sexually abused women and children.

Announcing his decision to resign, Goldring said: “Following the very public exposure of Oxfam’s past failings, we have redoubled our efforts to ensure that Oxfam is a safe and respectful place for all who have contact with us.”

Following revelations Oxfam staff had used prostitutes in Haiti in 2011, Goldring provoked further anger when he claimed the public reaction was “out of proportion” and added: “The intensity and the ferocity of the attack makes you wonder, what did we do? We murdered babies in their cots?”

At the time, Goldring and colleagues made a full apology, saying the remarks were “grossly inappropriate” and adding, “I should not have said those things, it is not for Oxfam to judge issues of proportionality or motivation.”

Oxfam’s former Deputy Chief Executive, Penny Lawrence, was the first to resign, saying she took full responsibility for the alleged use of prostitutes by senior staff.

The scandal deepened following The Independent’s investigation that revealed Oxfam and other charities were warned that aid workers were raping children in Haiti a decade ago and cited the fresh cases that were emerging.

Amid allegations the organisation had wrongly told authorities the abuse in Haiti did not involve beneficiaries or potential criminality, a statutory inquiry was launched by the Charity Commission. The government has barred Oxfam from bidding for new funding until it ensures the safeguarding of staff and people seeking aid.

“What is important in 2019 and beyond is that Oxfam rebuilds and renews in a way that is most relevant for the future and so continues to help as many people as possible around the world build better lives,” Goldring said in a statement.

“I think that this journey will best be led by someone bringing fresh vision and energy and making a long-term commitment to see it through.”

Chair of Oxfam, Caroline Thomson, said, “Mark faced the test of a lifetime managing the crisis which hit us in February and related to events before he joined. He rose to the immense challenge and his leadership has been invaluable through it.

“Mark’s decision today is in keeping with his work over the last five years. His top priority has always been to ensure that Oxfam has a great future, focused on the people we are here to serve, helping them to escape the dirty water, hunger and other daily realities of life in poverty now and for good.”

Goldring will continue to lead Oxfam UK until a successor is recruited and in post.

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