Tuesday 27 February 2018

Overkilll at OXFAM et al

Although he was speaking in another context the Chief Rabbi, in this morning's Radio 4 "Thought for the Day" made a point very pertinent to the sanctimonious indignation presently surrounding the flaws in the behaviour of some of the operatives in OXFAM and other aid agencies.

 His point was  that many if not most of the heroes of the Bible were flawed characters. Among others he cites Jacob, who deceived his father, and King David, who was an adulterer.

Yet the present indignation seems to expect every single one of those engaged in what has sadly developed into the "aid industry" to live a life of  Simon purity. Some 7 000 former supporters of OXFAM have expressed their indignation by cancelling their subscriptions.

I have been an OXFAM  donor for decades and have no intention whatsoever of cancelling my standing order.

I do worry, however, that this bad publicity may bounce OXFAM and other aid agencies into an over-reaction.  I contribute to finance humanitarian aid in tragic circumstances and, equally, to establish sustainable long-term development projects; not to finance  over-intrusive inspection regimes which are unwilling to take anything on trust. 

I was a teacher for 50 years from 1959 and know full well that all inspection regimes and oversight come a cost. During my own career I  estimate that 95% of my time and energy went into educating my pupils, and, I hope, occasionally inspiring some.   I get the impression that today’s teachers spend a good half of their time and energy proving to OFSTED that they’ve done what they are dedicated to doing: - teaching and inspiring the young..   I should not like the present embarrassment to similarly distract OXFAM and other aid agencies from  their  true purposes.

OXFAM has some 5 000 workers in the field world-wide and so the number of reported incidents affects only a small  percentage of them.  Yes, there must be safeguards, but an over-reaction will mean that not only will OXFAM's  true purpose be hampered by the loss of the donations of the 7000 , but also some of the usefulness of the subscriptions of those of us who remain loyal and committed to its  purposes if too much is diverted to ensuring that absolutely everyone involved in their operations is squeaky-clean.


  1. OXFAM has some 5 000 workers in the field world-wide and so the number of reported incidents affects only a small percentage of them

    Right, but how many unreported incidents are there? How we will ever know, if there isn't some kind of investigation?

    Your attitude is precisely what got us to the situation where numerous sports coaches and teachers were able to rape their young charges, because people simply took it on trust that they were doing what they claimed to be doing.

    Personally, I stopped donating to Oxfam when it became clear it was not a charity at all but an anti-capitalist campaign group that just happened to distribute some food as a sideline.

    1. Sorry it's taken so long to respond, but I've been "off line" for a while - something to do with a fault in my router.

      Your comment that bad things happened becasue people took [other people] on trust misunderstands my point. I'm not arguing that there there should be no checking of appointments, no supervision and no investigations: just that there needs to be balance.

      For example, I once had three separate but current CRB-checked certificates - one for a school where I did some temporary work, one for the Scouts, where my only contact with the young was to supervise the chocolate foundation once a year on the Beavers' Fun Day, and one for the church where I sang in the choir because that made me an "authoritative figure," though I don't remember many, even any, children attending the church.

      Each certificate cost the organisation concerned £60 I believe. I do not want to much of my continued contribution to OXFAM to be wasted in this way. As I said: avoid "overkill."

      Re your final point, yes that's a very good reason why the right wing press are salivating over Oxfam's and other good causes' discomfort. But it makes sense to do it: see

      Hélder Câmara

      “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

  2. There definitely seems to be an agenda from the right-wing press concerning sexual harassment. The view seems to be that this mainly concerns the BBC (Bolsheviks, wasting taxpayers' money), Hollywood (left-wing luvvies) and charity organisations (foreign aid being another obvious waste of taxpayers' money).

    1. I find the attacks on the foreign aid budget deeply shaming. This is one area (like public broadcasting) where we do have a very good international reputation, and the right wing, allegedly so proud of our reputation, can't wait to ruin it.