Exploitative 'aid agencies' roasted by Conservatives

June 04, 2018

Anger is growing worldwide about the sexual exploitation scandal rocking international non-governmental organisations - some of which have previously received Australian foreign aid.

In February this year, Conservatives leader Senator Cory Bernardi asked Foreign Minister Julie Bishop:

“Australia has contributed considerable amounts to UNICEF Australia. On 13 February UNICEF Netherlands admitted its shortcomings in its humanitarian support to children who allege they were raped and sexually abused by French peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. Furthermore, the same former chief executive of Save the Children mentioned earlier was until recently the deputy executive director of UNICEF. Will the government also freeze funding and decline to fund UNICEF instrumentalities in future until satisfied that they, too, have adequate management practices in place to prevent misappropriation of funds, sexual harassment, and transparency regarding & prevention of sexual misconduct in future?”

And opinion piece by Jennifer Oriel in today’s The Australian asserts:

“The high priests of political correctness have been found with their pants down. They publicly ridicule the citizen who wants secure national borders but use open borders to abuse women and children in disaster zones. Such open-border zealots are trans­national misogynists.”

Last November Greens leader Richard Di Natale took to his PC perch in the Senate. He lectured conservatives on true conservatism in a motion on left activist group GetUp! put by Cory Bernardi. “There was a time when upholding the democratic principles was the key tenet of conservative thinking,” he said, “but not any more.” What followed was bound to be amusing. It didn’t disappoint. “What we’re seeing is an unprecedented attack on civil society not just from Senator Bernardi but, indeed, from the conservatives in the Liberal Party.” Do go on. “We’ve seen the attack on civil society organisations in the ban on foreign donations — for example, organisations like Oxfam, who would be prevented from advocating for more aid to poorer countries. This is an assault on democracy.”

Let’s talk about an assault on democracy. Senior Oxfam staff have allegedly preyed on the world’s most vulnerable women and children. Sexual predators in international NGOs have reportedly used their power as aid ­workers to exploit women and children in fragile states.

Less than a year ago, Oxfam was Di Natale’s choice for a model of a civil society organisation. He argued against government ­attempts to curb foreign donations, partly on the basis that Oxfam would be “prevented from advocating for more aid”. To him, curbing donations to civil society organisations like Oxfam is “an ­assault on democracy”.

London’s The Times has exposed transnational sexual exploitation by civil society organisations such as Oxfam. Early this year it reported that the national director of Oxfam in Haiti had joined senior aid workers to prostitute local women. The alleged aid workers lived in a rented guesthouse they called “the whorehouse”. According to the newspaper’s source: “Girls were wearing Oxfam T-shirts … It was unbelievable. It was crazy. At one party there were at least five girls and two of them had Oxfam white T-shirts on. These men used to talk about holding ‘young meat barbecues’.”

To be clear, Di Natale spoke in glowing terms about Oxfam before the allegations went to print. But for many years the sexual exploitation of highly vulnerable women and children by international NGOs has been common knowledge. Decades ago, feminist international-relations theorists were exposing the problematic behaviour of UN peacekeepers. UN staff were implicated in the cross-border transmission of HIV to citizens of fragile states.

A lack of democratic accountability has given NGOs the opportunity to exploit vulnerable women and refugee children. In the absence of accountability, the system of international governance that many consider a virtuous alternative to the nation state poses a substantial threat to the world’s most vulnerable women and children.

For many years, Australians have endured moral posturing from NGOs on everything from capitalism to secure border policy. In February Foreign Minister Julie Bishop pulled the plug on Oxfam funding. National governments must find a way to hold international NGOs accountable for their systemic abuse of women and children. Consider treating NGOs with the same scrutiny reserved hitherto for the Catholic Church".

Senator Bernardi previously said, regarding Oxfam:

 “We welcome the Australian Government suspending foreign aid to Oxfam Great Britain on the same day we asked questions about the Haitian sex abuse scandal involving that organisation.

It is good to see the Australian government ensuring that where it gives aid, it is not misappropriated and – in particular – that we do everything in our power to protect women and the vulnerable from depraved exploitation.”

To read Jennifer Oriel’s full article, click here.

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