CHS Alliance statement in response to UK Charity Commission and Independent Inquiry reports into Oxfam

The reports released this week from the UK Charity Commission and the Independent Inquiry into Oxfam provide a sobering reminder of the critical work needed across the sector to improve our accountability to the people we serve.

Tanya Wood, Executive Director of the CHS Alliance, says:  

“While these reports do not always make for comfortable reading, they highlight the failings and the actions that must be taken – and in many cases are now being taken by Oxfam - to build a culture that puts safeguarding at the heart of the organisation. 

“There are valuable lessons here for the whole humanitarian sector about the importance of building organisational culture that are committed to protecting people from sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment.

“As the Charity Commission report states ‘Ultimately being a charity is more than just about what you do, it is also about the way in which you do it’. The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) provides the critical framework for improving how aid is delivered to people affected by crisis. The CHS Alliance is committed to embedding this standard throughout the sector.”

The CHS sets out 9 commitments that provide the essential elements of principled, accountable humanitarian action.  CHS Alliance members are asked to verify themselves against these commitments – and work towards continuously improving how they meet these commitments. 

Verification data from organisations who have assessed their performance against the CHS shows us that commitment 5 is systematically scoring low, meaning that populations associated with the delivery of aid do not have access to functioning, responsive and safe complaints mechanisms. This is a key area where we support our members and other organisations to improve their policies and practices.

Furthermore, these reports show that organisations need to pay greater attention to commitment 8 of the CHS, which focuses on organizational culture, including the need for staff to be supported to do their job effectively, and to protect their wellbeing. 

We are currently working with our members and other experts across the sector to develop new guidance on protection from sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. Aligned with the CHS, this will help organisations looking to improve their policies and practice on key issues including whistleblower protection and safeguarding vulnerable people.

The CHS Alliance offers investigations training on how to conduct fair, thorough and confidential investigations into complaints of staff misconduct, with particular focus on allegations on sexual exploitation and abuse of people from affected populations. We also run a complaints mechanism where people can report complaints about any of our members, or ourselves, in a safe environment.