Compulsary ethical codes for all NGOs
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo asks the three Belgian Oxfam organizations to reinforce their integrity management on a number of issues. An external audit following the sexual abuse scandal in the British branch of the organization lies at the origin of his initiative. He announces an integrity charter for the whole NGO sector which will oblige every NGO to draw up an ethical code, to install a confidential contact point and to organize integrity formations.
Following the abuse scandals within the British Oxfam branch, Minister De Croo ordered an external audit of the 3 Belgian Oxfam organizations.
What can be done better?
The audit makes clear that the three organizations recognize the importance of integrity monitoring and have been working on a whole series of preventive and enforcement measures.
A certain number of issues require more:
- The existing code of conduct has to be applied to the volunteers working with the three Oxfam organizations.
- More information has to be made available on to where whistleblowers can go with their story. The Belgian Oxfam organizations don't have their proper whistleblowing procedures for moral integrity violations, but are cuurently using the whistle blowing line set up by Oxfam International.
- The three Belgian Oxfam organizations are disposing of a risk management system in whichcorruption and fraud is clearly incorporated. Moral integrity should get a more important place in it and detailed internal control measures should be put in place.
- The audit rightly questions the fact that all integrity efforts are being managed by the three Belgian Oxfam organizations seperately instead of being more centralized. Minister De Croo asks the three Oxfam organizations to work thoroughly on the recommendations of this external audit.
Stricter integrity rules
Minister De Croo has decided now to make the integrity rules for all NGO's stricter, after consultation with the sector. All other Belgian development cooperation organizations such as Enabel, Bio and the directorate general for development cooperation and huminatarian aid (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) will have to sign the charter. The charter will force all organizations to adopt an ethical code and to invest in raising awareness and in formation on integrity.
Long before the scandals emerged, Minister De Croo had stressed the importance of integrity. In 2016, the principle of integrity was included into the new rules for non-governemental cooperation. In 2017 a policy management guideline on integrity was issued and in January 2018 an Integrity Task Force was set up, with all Belgian Development Cooperation actors represented.
Meanwhile, this Integrity Task Force has worked on a plan for common formations, on the creation of a central contact point, and on a framework contract for integrity advice available for all actors.