N-VA wants to take away NGO subventions in sexual harassment cases
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    N-VA wants to take away NGO subventions in sexual harassment cases

    N-VA wants to propose a new charter to take away subsidies in case of sexual misconduct. Credit: Oxfam

    The rightwing N-VA party has submitted a proposal for a law to step up the fight against sexual abuse cases within development cooperation, Het Nieuwsblad reported on Sunday. 

    An integrity charter for NGOs has already been established at the request of minister Alexander De Croo (Open Vld – liberal), but the N-VA wants to go even further by introducing sanctions. 

    In November, new allegations of sexual abuse against a Belgian priest while on a mission in the Central African Republic with the charity organisation Caritas surfaced. The man had been convicted of sexually abusing minors before, in 2012.

    Earlier in 2019, in June, the Oxfam charity organisation was severely criticised by the Charity Commission for the way it dealt with claims of serious sexual exploitation of the earthquake victims by its staff in Haiti, following the 2010 earthquake, which came to light in 2018.

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    “We need to do everything we can to protect vulnerable people,” politician Kathleen Depoorter said in reference to the Oxfam and Caritas scandals. 

    She has submitted a proposal for a new law that would establish a national code to standardise the behaviour of organisations that work in development cooperation and receive government subsidies.

    Among other things, the charter would oblige NGOs to draw up a code of ethics, carry out regular checks and set up a confidential advice and contact point. “The ethical code would also be enforceable,” Depoorter said.

    “We must be able to recuperate all or part of the subventions given to organisations where there are too many irregularities. We also want to set up a neutral and centralised telephone line that victims can call to submit complaints without worrying about losing their aid,” she added. 

    Minister De Croo and NGOs will hold meetings in the Chamber to determine how the current charter will be adapted. 

    Sarah Johansson
    The Brussels Times