Tuesday 13 February 2018

Much Ado about OXFAM

I am rather surprised that the unfortunate activities of a group of OXFAM Aid workers  in Haiti has been headline news for the past four days and, it seems, still counting.  In case you've missed it, the group made use of prostitutes, and in a property rented by OXFAM, while they were there to provide aid and assistance after the earthquake in 2010.  The furore has revealed that there may have been similar unsavoury incidents by other aid workers, not just OXFAM,  in other situations.

Full disclosure: I have been a financial supporter of OXFAM via a regular Standing Order, for decades, along with Christian Aid, the World Development Movement, Fair T raid and other similar causes, and  have been an aid worker for two years with VSO in Malawi..   I did not, however, use any prostitutes.
As far as I know I never actually met any, and wouldn't have known where to find them. But  then, I've led a sheltered life

It would be nice to think that all aid workers were Simon Pure and filled with saintly virtue, and I expect a few are, but most are fallible humans, as are most clergy, nuns who look after orphans, "Brothers" who teach in schools,other teachers, entertainment stars,  press reporters and. . . .  er. . .  politicians.

In an incident regarding sex outside the norm reported in the Bible Jesus invited  "him who is without stain" to "cast the first stone."

What is surprising to me is that it is not just the right-wing press who are having a field day over these unfortunate incidents, but also the BBC and, alas, the Guardian.  I wonder if they, along with the Daily Express and Daily Mail, are confident that all their staff behave impeccably and with due concern for moral virtue, especially when overseas. (Or at home, for that matter).

It may be just coincidence, but it is odd that this incident, now seven years old, should hit the headlines just at the same time as Jacob Rees-Mogg, now favourite to be the next Tory leader, presents a petition demanding cuts to the UK's Aid Budget.

Mr Rees-Mogg make much of his religion which causes him to oppose, among other things, abortion and same sex marriage.  As indicated above, the Bible is fairly relaxed about prostitution.  I'm sure it says something somewhere about abortion but I'm not sure where.  It is certainly very relaxed about same sex relationships (eg David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi)

It also has a lot to say about caring for the sojourner (economic migrants, refugees, asylum seekers?)  "feeding the hungry" and "clothing  the naked."  As with the Brexit negotiations, I think Mr Rees-Mogg should consider the whole package rather than pick and choose.

One of the few things for which I admire David Cameron is his unrelenting stance in support of Overseas Aid.  As he said recently:  

it is not only a moral obligation that the better-off countries have to tackle poverty in our world when we still have over a billion people living on less than a dollar a day, but it's also in our interests that we build a more prosperous world.

 It is clear that the Tory hard right and the prurient press will milk the OXFAM scandal  for all it's worth.

Both the government and aid lobby should stand up for decent values and not allow OXFAM to be "fined" for its undoubted and unfortunate shortcomings, nor use the incident to fuel the campaign for a cut in the Aid Budget.

The Tories surely do not want to confirm the image Mrs May detected as  the "nasty party": nor does the nation as a whole wish our reputation, currently good in this area. to be further tarnished as selfish and inward-looking has-beens


  1. I am rather surprised that the unfortunate activities of a group of OXFAM Aid workers in Haiti has been headline news for the past four days

    Surely it's not that surprising — we've just had the President's Club scandal, which was pretty much exactly the same thing, and it went on for a similar amount of time. It seems like about five days is now the standard news time allotted to a 'powerful men behaving despicably' scandal.

    1. You may be right. Pity, with so much else of importance going on. (or, in in some key areas, not going on)

    2. Unfortunately the five day limit has been well over-run: we're now (Saturday 17th February) into day eight, and. according to the BBC's morning review of the papers, still headline news in both the Mail and the Express, as well as a full feature in the Guardian. Again, "let him who is without stain (or is it sin) cast the first stone."

      One thing that is laughable is the accusation that OXFAM failed to give full details of the Haiti incident at the time. We are in the age of "crisis management" and "damage limitation." Which of the organisations throwing stones has not used precisely that approach? And it was a civil servant, on a mission to minimise the culpability of the British government, who popularised the phrase "economical with the truth."