The South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has become the latest high-profile personality to end his ties with Oxfam after the charity was his with sexual misconduct claims.
He is stepping down from his role as an ambassador for the charity.
“The Archbishop is deeply disappointed by allegations of immorality and possible criminality involving humanitarian workers linked to the charity,” said a statement from his office in South Africa.
Revelations over the past week have prompted the British government to re-evaluate its relationship with the charity.
Oxfam staff in Chad are alleged to have used prostitutes in the charity’s premises in 2006, according to UK newspaper The Observer, claims that Oxfam said it could not corroborate.
Oxfam says it will set up a commission to investigate past and present allegations of exploitation by staff.
Oxfam International’s executive director Winnie Byanyima said it would “do justice” and “atone for the past”.
She invited victims to come forward “for justice to be done” for them, saying she was “here for all the women who have been abused”.
The British charity has faced criticism over the way it handled claims staff hired prostitutes in Haiti in 2011.
She said the organisation was “hurt”, but added: “There is no way this organisation can die… the world needs it.”
Ms Byanyima, the most senior Oxfam executive to speak on the issue, said she first heard of the controversy after news reports last week.
In an interview with the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Landale, she switched to speaking in her native Luganda to make an apology: “From the bottom of my heart forgive us, forgive Oxfam.”
She admitted she could not guarantee there were not sex offenders currently working at the organisation but vowed Oxfam would “build a new culture that doesn’t tolerate that behaviour”.
She explained that the reforms that will take place at Oxfam will include:
- setting up a high-level independent commission that will look into culture and practices at the organisation, with a mandate to investigate past and current claims of sexual exploitation
- doubling the budget for the charity’s safeguarding team, and tripling the number of staff working in the department
- setting up a global database of accredited referees to ensure sex offenders cannot falsify references and reoffend at other charities
- making the organisation’s “whistleblowing mechanism” external, safe and confidential
Earlier this month news reports said that during a humanitarian mission in Haiti in 2011, the charity’s country director Roland van Hauwermeiren hired prostitutes at a villa paid for by Oxfam.