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Minnie Driver cuts ties with Oxfam over sex scandal

The Guardian logo The Guardian 13/02/2018 Nicola Slawson

Video provided by Wochit

Minnie Driver has become the first celebrity patron of Oxfam to step down in the wake of the sexual misconduct scandal.

The 48-year-old actor, who was one of the charity’s 16 ambassadors, said she was “in no uncertain terms” withdrawing her support for the charity despite working with it for more than 20 years.

On Twitter, Driver said: “All I can tell you about this awful revelation about Oxfam is that I am devastated.

“Devastated for the women who were used by people sent there to help them [and] devastated by the response of an organisation that I have been raising awareness for since I was 9 years old.” 

The development came as the international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, is to pledge £5m in government funding to help protect vulnerable children across the globe. Mordaunt is set to announce the funding following a speech in Stockholm heavily criticising abuse in the aid sector on Wednesday.

Driver had attended previously attended high-profile fundraising events for Oxfam in Los Angeles and New York, and travelled to Cambodia and Thailand for the Make Trade Fair campaign.

Her profile on the charity’s website said she had been a spokesperson on trade justice and making world trade rules work for developing nations.

In a statement, Driver further explained her decision, saying she was “nothing short of horrified” by the allegations against Oxfam International.

The statement continued: “In no uncertain terms do I plan to continue my support of this organisation or its leaders. And though it is unfortunate that after 20 years I am no longer able to advocate and defend through this specific framework, social and economic injustice is more globally prevalent than ever.

“I certainly will not let the abhorrent mistakes of a troubling organisation stop me or anyone else from working with good people in this space to support a population of human beings around the world that needs our help.”

Actress Minnie Driver: Minnie Driver had travelled all over the world as an Oxfam spokesperson. © Reuters Minnie Driver had travelled all over the world as an Oxfam spokesperson. In a statement, Oxfam said: “Minnie Driver has been a devoted Oxfam supporter for many years, and we are grateful for her commitment to ending global poverty.

“Her decision to step down as an Oxfam Ambassador saddens us deeply, but we also understand and respect her choice.

“As an organisation, we are ashamed by the actions of some of our staff and are more committed now than ever to learn from our mistakes and ensure we uphold the highest levels of safeguarding standards in our work around the world.”

On Wednesday representatives from international aid agencies and ministers from more than 20 countries will be present at the Agenda 2030 for Children: End Violence Solutions Summit when Mordaunt is expected to call the allegations about Oxfam staff “horrifying”.

She will say: “I know that everyone here today, and decent people across the international development sector, share my disgust at these appalling violations. And share my determination to lead a full, comprehensive and systematic response to them.

“The sexual exploitation of vulnerable people, vulnerable children, is never acceptable. But when it is perpetrated by people in positions of power, people we entrust to help and protect, it rightly sickens and disgusts. And compels us to take action.”

She is also expected to say: “Unless you safeguard everyone your organisation comes into contact with, including beneficiaries, staff and volunteers – we will not fund you. Unless you create a culture that prioritises the safety of vulnerable people and ensures victims and whistleblowers can come forward without fear – we will not work with you. And unless you report every serious incident or allegation, no matter how damaging to your reputation – we cannot be partners.”

She will add: “Sexual abuse and exploitation is an issue the entire development sector needs to confront.”

The £5m from the aid budget will go to the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children – a network of governments, aid agencies, foundations and researchers working to stamp out child abuse across the globe.

In 2016, the organisation pledged to work together to end “violence against children in every country, every community and every family”.

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