We failed the people we were supposed to help, Penny Mordaunt tells aid sector

The aid worker sex scandal has shown that charities became complicit in the grotesque exploitation of the people they are supposed to help, the International Development Secretary has said.

Penny Mordaunt said aid organisations had either protected the perpetrators, failed to grip the problem or turned a blind eye to abuse and exploitation.

Her address comes after Oxfam GB was temporarily suspended in Haiti pending an investigation into how the charity handled the case of former staff paying for sex.

She said charities and NGOs failed in their fundamental duty to prioritise the people who are supposed to benefit from their work.

And Ms Mordaunt suggested that the scandal may have developed from fundraising pressures, competition, and a belief that "reporting wrongdoing would do more harm than good".

In a speech to the aid sector at the Bond International Development Conference in London, Ms Mordaunt said: "How did those there to protect, support and serve the most vulnerable people on earth, become complicit in their exploitation - by protecting the perpetrators, by failing to grip the problem or turning a blind eye?

"Because we failed to put the beneficiaries of aid first.

"How did we lose sight of that fundamental duty, for all the good people, many in this room today, and all the good works done? For be in no doubt that is what has happened.

"It may have started with an attitude born of fundraising pressures, fierce competition for bids or work, guarding an organisation's reputation to maximise its reach and offer.

"That attitude found a justification, via the chaotic and complex situations we operate in, the belief that reporting wrongdoing would do more harm than good, that we've so many other things to worry about, or that peacekeeping troops are doing far worse.

"And then any nagging doubts that lingered, as predatory individuals moved to another organisation's payroll, were banished, in order to avoid any criticism of the sector.

"Maybe that's how it happened. Maybe.

"However it did, the result was the grotesque fact of aid workers sexually exploiting the most vulnerable people, and threatening whistle-blowers if they protested."

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