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Charity boss urges victims to come forward

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Oxfam’s most senior figure is urging victims of abuse to come forward as she promised “justice” and announced an independent commission to “root out” sex offenders.

Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International’s executive director, offered an apology over a sex and prostitution scandal that she described as “a stain” on the charity.

A series of allegations, first published by The Times a week ago, has seen senior Oxfam workers accused of soliciting prostitutes while overseeing aid operations around the world.

The charity has also come under fire for its initial response after concerns about sexual exploitation were raised years ago, although it has denied covering up allegations in Haiti in 2011.

Posting on Twitter, Ms Byanyima said: “I am inviting anyone who has been a victim of abuse to come forward.

“My message to women who have suffered: I’m fighting this abuse. I’m with you. We are going to do justice.

“Oxfam will be a standard bearer of safety and dignity for all who interact with us.”

:: How Oxfam sexual misconduct scandal unfolded
:: How Oxfam makes and spends its millions

Oxfam
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Oxfam is ‘very hurt’, admitted Ms Byanyima

The charity chief has also announced a “high-level independent commission” made up of women’s rights experts, to “look into our culture and our practices and make recommendations to make us stronger at protecting our people”.

“We are going to root out, we are going to create a vetting system that will help us,” she told the BBC.

Ms Byanyima admitted Oxfam has “a problem” but said she “cannot know” how deep the problem of sexual exploitation is within the charity until the independent investigation is complete.

“I know that we have almost 10,000 staff around the world working in more than 90 countries,” she said.

“The majority of those are doing the right thing, are people of values who care about humanity, who are saving lives.

“We do have, I know, a porous system that has brought in people who do not share our values and that’s my challenge.”

Ms Byanyima said Oxfam was “very hurt” but insisted the charity would survive the scandal.

She said: “There is no way this organisation can die. The world needs it.”

A former member of Uganda’s parliament, Ms Byanyima also offered a guarantee British taxpayers’ money and cash from donations would continue to help the world’s poor.

“If you just look at the work Oxfam has been doing in the last four years alone, 90 million people we reach every year, and these are people who are desperate, who need help,” she said.


TIMES STILL roland van hauwermeiren



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Oxfam’s shamed ex-Haiti chief Roland van Hauwermeiren hits back at ‘lies’

Alongside the commission, which will be able to access charity records and interview staff around the world, Ms Byanyima announced a series of reforms within Oxfam.

This includes a new global database of accredited referees designed to end the use of forged, dishonest or unreliable references by past or current Oxfam staff.

The charity will not be issuing any references until this is in place.

Oxfam will also double the number of staff within its safeguarding processes and triple annual funding to more than $1m (£700,000).

Announcing the measures, Ms Byanyima said: “What happened in Haiti and afterwards is a stain on Oxfam that will shame us for years, and rightly so.

“In my language ‘Okuruga ahamutima gwangye, mutusaasire’. It means ‘From the bottom of my heart I am asking for forgiveness’.”

On Thursday, Roland van Hauwermeiren, the former Belgian aid worker at the centre of the Oxfam sex scandal, broke his silence to deny allegations he used prostitutes or held sex parties while working for the charity.

On Friday, The Times reported a different aid worker sacked over the Haiti allegations was rehired two months later to work on another relief operation.

Crisis-hit Oxfam is facing a statutory inquiry by the Charity Commission while the Government has threatened to remove the charity’s £31.7m annual funding.

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Tokyo Olympics: Opening ceremony was ‘respectful, hopeful but sombre night’ | World News

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Olympic opening ceremonies are something of a unique art form. Playing to a global audience but with the host nation wanting to make the night their own.

Japan chose sombre. It was a respectful, hopeful but above all sombre night. They didn’t want to show off when everyone has lived through such hardship – and while so many people continue to do so.

Their display using 1,824 flying drones combining like a swarm of giant worker bees to create a giant globe stood out.

Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch after lighting the Olympic cauldron
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Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch after lighting the cauldron

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There were no Team GB fans at the 2021 summer olympic opening ceremony in Tokyo due to COVID-19 but Japan put on a stunning visual show regardless

So too Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka who was given the honour of firing up the hydrogen-fuelled Olympic cauldron.

But it was their courteous bow towards the pain of the pandemic that defined the evening.

Video montages of empty cities during lockdowns, and athletes cobbling together training regimes in their back gardens – it all made for an understated opening ceremony.

Outside, the protests in the streets continued among those still vehemently against the Games taking place while Tokyo remains in a state of COVID emergency.

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There were also people outside who just felt drawn to the Olympic stadium – to come and wave to the very select numbers of VIPs and media going inside. It was as close as they could get to the Games that they had waited almost a decade for.

While these Olympics will feel unusual there were reminders too of the magic they can create.

There was a towering Tongan taekwondo player who strode into the stadium with his bare oiled chest puffed out as he carried his island nation’s flag like a warrior on a mission.

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Protests held outside Olympic stadium

The Olympics can still produce special moments like that and there will be plenty more over the coming weeks.

There will be more COVID-19 disruption too but the Games of 2020 are finally open, just one year late.

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Business leaders have ‘obligation to speak up’, ex-Unilever boss says amid Ben & Jerry’s row | Business News

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Unilever’s ex-boss has said business leaders have an “obligation to speak up” after his former company became embroiled in a row with Israel over its Ben & Jerry’s business.

Paul Polman mounted a defence of the need to “fight for what is right” in remarks to Sky News after the ice cream brand said it would stop selling its products in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Ben & Jerry’s is owned by consumer goods giant Unilever – whose array of brands ranges from Marmite spread to Dove soap – but has an independent board to take such decisions.

Alan Jope, Unilever chief executive
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Current boss Alan Jope has spoken to Israel’s prime minister about the matter

Its announcement is one of the strongest steps taken by a well-known company over Israel’s settlements, which are widely seen as illegal by the international community.

The move drew condemnation from the Israeli government, whose new prime minister Naftali Bennett said this week that Israel would “use the tools at its disposal – including legal – on this issue” and that those taking such action “need to know that there will be a price to pay”.

Mr Polman, speaking to Sky’s Ian King Live, said it would be inappropriate to say how he would have handled the issue had he still been in charge of Unilever.

But he added: “What is very important is if we want humanity to function for the long term we need to be sure that we fight for the basic values, the basic values of dignity, respect, equity, compassion.

“If we see these values being violated anywhere in the world I think we have an obligation to speak up.

“What we’ve seen in the US in the last few years – too few people, also from the business side, spoke up against things that then bit by bit moved the boundaries and put us in a very difficult situation.

Naftali Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years
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Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett said there would be a “price to pay”

“So, fight for what is right and one of the few things we should fight for always is, these basic human rights.”

Mr Polman was speaking a day after current Unilever boss Alan Jope, in a conference call to discuss latest results, said the company remains “fully committed” to doing business in Israel but gave no indication that Unilever would press Ben & Jerry’s to reverse the decision.

Mr Jope, who has spoken to Mr Bennett on the phone to discuss the matter, said that it was a “complex and sensitive matter”.

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Tokyo Olympics 2020: Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdraws to avoid facing Israeli competitor Tohar Butbul | World News

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An Algerian judo competitor has withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics after learning he could have faced an Israeli opponent.

Fethi Nourine said his political support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible to compete against Tohar Butbul.

He told Algerian TV he would not “get his hands dirty” and his “decision was final”.

“We worked a lot to reach the Olympics, and the news came as a shock, a thunder”, he added.

Tohar Butbul of Israel
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Tohar Butbul of Israel

The 30-year-old was drawn against Sudan’s Mohamed Asdalrasool on Monday for his first match in the men’s 73kg class. If he had won that match, he would have faced Butbul, who has a first-round bye, in the next round.

Nourine also withdrew from the world championships in 2019 for the same reason.

At the time, his coach Amar Ben Yaklif was quoted in Algerian media saying: “We were unlucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision.”

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Tensions between Israel and Palestinians flared in Jerusalem earlier this year causing the worst violence in the region since 2014.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Judo - Training Sessions - Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan - July 22, 2021. Technicians work on the mat in Nippon Budokan Arena, during training sessions. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
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Judo training sessions take place at the Tokyo Games

The conflict between the two sides has been going on for decades and has seen athletes from Iran and Egypt also previously refuse to compete against Israeli opponents.

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The opening ceremony for this year’s Olympic games took place on Friday, with fans not allowed in the national stadium for the event due to COVID-19 concerns.

Instead, around 1,000 dignitaries and members of the media were allowed the witness the spectacular event.

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