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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  February 21, 2018 4:30am-5:00am GMT

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the so—called "bump stock" mechanism, which turns a rifle into something close to a machine gun. guns fitted with the mechanism was used in last year's mass shooting in las vegas that left 58 people dead. 250 people — including 50 children — are reported to have been killed in the rebel—held enclave of eastern ghouta, as syrian government forces step up their bombardment. the un warns the situation is "spiralling out of control". activists say it's the worst violence in the region since 2013. oxfam is investigating 26 allegations of sexual misconduct, which have been reported since allegations were made against some of its workers in haiti. the charity's leaders were questioned in the parliament in the uk on tuesday. it has just it hasjust gone it has just gone half past four in the morning. it is now time for hardtalk.
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welcome to hardtalk. i am stephen sackur. there is something distressing about the revelations of sexual explication and gross misconduct inside one of the world's best known humanitarian aid organisations. oxfam is at the centre of a storm of investigations. now the entire aid sector is under scrutiny for safeguarding failures which appear to go back decades. my guess is amira malik miller. she is an experienced aid worker who experienced misconduct first hand and is now prepared to speak out. so what went wrong and why? —— my guest. amira malik miller, welcome
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to hardtalk. thank you. you work for the swedish government. but how expensive is your experience of aid work in the field? i worked in the humanitarian assistance sector for over 15 years. i have been based in liberia and west africa. i have done a lot of work in sudan. i have travelled extensively. i have had a lot of experience and travelled extensively and covered some of the world's biggest humanitarian crises over the past 15 years. now you know there is a huge amount of scrutiny on the humanitarian aid sector
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because of revelations, allegations of serious sexual misconduct, harassment, exploitative behaviour, and the revelations focused on haiti. but now we're hearing of other allegations in other places. when this story broke in few days 90, when this story broke in few days go, were you surprised?” when this story broke in few days go, were you surprised? i was shocked when i first saw the headlines, because i recognise the man who was on those photos. and i felt it was very unfair the way that oxfa m felt it was very unfair the way that oxfam was betrayed. because i knew that i had part one and part two of that i had part one and part two of that story. and ifelt that i had part one and part two of that story. and i felt it was unfair. but i was not shocked. i knew that this was going on and so i felt that i needed to say something. many aid workers have actually found it very difficult to speak out. many have spoken anonymously. you have chosen to go public with us. so i think we need to go into a little
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bit of detail about your experience with one particular individual who, as you say, has now been named. the allegations surrounding him and his work with oxfam in haiti. but let's go back to liberia. was it 200a? go back to liberia. was it 200mm was 200a. this was really my first job. i was excited and grateful. i had been out before previously on trainee positions in sudan. but this was my first real job trainee positions in sudan. but this was my first realjob after graduating and is doing a masters. i'd been working in development and human rights. they really want to get into human rights— the humanitarian assistance sector. i got a job with miller, an agency in britain. -- merlin. how old were you at the time? i was 24 at the time, i think. so you go out and meet your
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collea g u es think. so you go out and meet your colleagues from merlin. what they generally older, and where they generally older, and where they generally male? not all of them, but the senior management team absolutely were. but not all of them. there were other female staff, others in my age group, as well, but i was others in my age group, as well, but iwas in others in my age group, as well, but i was in the mostjunior position. i had gone out after having been briefed in london. i heard it a few whispers of things happening in liberia. i made it clear during those chats that that was not something that i would be ok with if it happened, and if it was to do with sexual misconduct. i went out and was met by this individual at the airport. and i think we need to name him, he is a belgian national, called roland van hauwermeiren. right. now, it was he the director of operations in liberia at the time? it was the country director.
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my time? it was the country director. myjob was time? it was the country director. my job was partly time? it was the country director. myjob was partly to be his assistant but also to be a grants manager. i shared an office with them and so i knew his schedule and so on. them and so i knew his schedule and so on. he picked me up from the airport, which apple was a little bit odd. but it was a nice chat and so on. bit odd. but it was a nice chat and $0 on. “— bit odd. but it was a nice chat and so on. —— which i thought was. he did a phone call and i thought they we re did a phone call and i thought they were talking about me. there was something said about a green light. idid not something said about a green light. i did not reflect so much on that at that particular moment, but i have since. ifelt that particular moment, but i have since. i felt that he was checking out, see what kind of person i was, and would i be a problem... a problem in what sense? taking exception to his behaviour? possibly. because i think we need to talk about what the heavies you saw from him and other members of the merlin ngos staff on the ground in liberia. because this individual has
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since been connected to events in haiti. —— merlin ngo. since been connected to events in haiti. -- merlin ngo. what i saw was not him. it was another member of staff. and we were living in two different compounds then. i was living in one called london. in most of the staff were living there. he was living in another compound with one or two other staff members, roland van hauwermeiren. i got up one morning and went into the kitchen. there were other people around as well. i went into the kitchen and found one of the senior staff members there with quite young liberian girl. —— quite a young labour and gold. liberian girl. —— quite a young labourand gold. i liberian girl. —— quite a young labour and gold. i do know she was over16 labour and gold. i do know she was over 16 or 18, but possibly. what i saw was something i was uncomfortable with and i did not think was appropriate. and i confronted a person there. —— quite
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a young liberian girl. there was a lot of touching and so on. i thought that was inappropriate and went against our code of conduct. and thatis against our code of conduct. and that is why i confronted that men straightaway, and why i then, the following monday, broke into head office and said " this has happened andi office and said " this has happened and i am not coupled with this, and i expect you to do something". —— i am not comfortable with this. and they did. they got back and checked on itand they did. they got back and checked on it and said somebody was coming back quickly, and somebody did. i felt supported. it took about ten days to come down with a team from london hq to investigate it. at that point, well previous... did you confront your direct boss, roland van hauwermeiren. what did you say to him? i did us anything to him at
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that time. there were about three or four men involved in this, i thought. they suspected that i had reported it, but they went short. they knew that a team was coming down from london. did you believe the local girls were prostitutes that you saw? i believed that there was some sort of something that was definitely an imbalance of power. i don't think there would have been there just out of wanting to be there. i think that they were expecting something. whether it was paid sex or not, i have no proof. i certainly felt that it was inappropriate and went against the rules, our code of conduct, our security rules and so on, at that point. it was still very strict, then. in liberia, this wasjust after the civil war, of course. what i wanted to say is that the time that it took the london team to come down, these individuals absolutely worked on me. i was under
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surveillance, almost. someone was almost always with me, and they had private chats to me, and try to make out that this was not something odd, that it was normal, and that they had not done anything wrong, and so on. did you feel from that moment that there was a sense of entitlement? that they were in a tough location, doing a toughjob, and consorting that as i would sound flippant, but i don't know the right word. but having sex with young women on location, could be seem to feel that they were entitled to do that? hard to tell. but they try to make it sound normal and something to expect and something that i was being silly to react against. absolutely. you were a whistleblower ina absolutely. you were a whistleblower in a way. did you feel intimidated that they were with these members of staff and they were clearly worried
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that you were blowing the whistle on their activities back to head office? was that intimidating?‘ little bit. i neverfelt afraid, but is because i was so young. i don't know. but i didn't. ifelt watched. but there were other people around that i could confide in that have later become so because —— that have later become so because —— that have later become so my closest friends. idid not later become so my closest friends. i did not feel that way, but i definitely felt that i had to — well, i felt that they were trained to convince me that nothing had happened, and that i was overreacting. —— they were trying to convince me. so where to buy time and waited for the investigation team. there was no huge drama, but as the result of the team coming in to liberia, mr roland van hauwermeiren was removed from the location, i believe. ithink he ended his work with merlin at that
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time. yes. and then other people stepped out and said that what they had seen and came forward with that information, and so what happened was, unfortunately, he was — he could go on his own. he probably offered to resign and could go quietly. the others could stay. one had to — the wonder they confronted had to — the wonder they confronted had to — the wonder they confronted had to give me a personal, face—to—face apology, but then could continue his contract and go on. so i guess at that point i was disappointed, and maybe starting to doubt that they had done the — not that i had done the right thing, but started to think that i had overa cted a little started to think that i had overacted a little bit, and this was something... but at that point did not think that they would get jobs again. interesting. because in essence, the degree to which mr roland van hauwermeiren was able to make a career in the international
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ngos world, despite having had this problem with merlin, at which point he had to leave a job under a cloud. -- ngo. but he had to leave a job under a cloud. —— ngo. but then we see that he appeared in chad working for oxfam, and ina appeared in chad working for oxfam, and in a strange quizzes, you were working for the development agency that were approached by oxfam for some funding. you saw that this belgian individual was in charge of the particular mission in chad, and you want your superiors that this was not selling that sweden should be putting their money into. and yet sweden did. £750,000. right. so what happened there is a lack of the proposal on my desk and i reacted because i saw very quickly that he was the country director. i went to my then boss, the head of the humanitarian assistance unit, who
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reacted immediately, and was appalled. he took me straight to the legal team, and i appalled. he took me straight to the legalteam, and i remember appalled. he took me straight to the legal team, and i remember several meetings with the legal team. they all reacted in the way that i would expect them to. they could very seriously and were appalled and wa nted seriously and were appalled and wanted to do something about it. again, ifelt wanted to do something about it. again, i felt listens to, wanted to do something about it. again, ifelt listens to, despite the fact that i was in a junior position and was new to the development agency. i felt that i was supported and listen to. by the reaction i got from both of my —— both my boss at the time and the legal department, ifelt both my boss at the time and the legal department, i felt that was reported. but i would not be surprised now if it was not. but they still divided to put money into they still divided to put money into the chad project. —— pistol decided. but here is an individual who is now establishing a reputation among some who have worked with him, and yet there is no red flag against his name. and so if we move on from chad
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and get to haiti, where this story, in recent days, has come to a head, here, again, is mr roland van hauwermeiren, who is now country director of oxfam's operations after the earthquake in 2011. they really big job and a huge amount of pressure. and again, what we now know is that oxfam were faced with a plethora of allegations of staff procuring prostitutes, parties in oxfa m procuring prostitutes, parties in oxfam accommodation, other allegations concerning pornography, harassment of staff, and bullying, with its individual at the centre of it, yet again. that is unfortunate, there are two different questions. is it wrong for donors to donate? in some respects, maybe, but it should be thoroughly assessed and reported, of course.
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but that programme could still have been a very vital programme. as merlyn's were in liberia, it was supporting half of the country ‘s healthcare and so i wouldn't argue for cutting funding to good critical humanitarian response programme. that is an interesting point. in haiti, what we have is oxfam, it the end, it appears, haiti, what we have is oxfam, it the end, itappears, covering haiti, what we have is oxfam, it the end, it appears, covering up the truth about what had happened in their mission to stop it again, i am interested to know whether all of this surprises you. whether this is what you might have expected, given your experiences in the sector? what you might have expected, given your experiences in the sector7m doesn't surprise me. i suppose there isa doesn't surprise me. i suppose there is a very strong weakness in hr practices, absolutely. ithink roland van hauwermeiren is a very interesting particular case study in
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that he has been able to manipulate the system for a very long time, he has obviously chosen to move around from different countries between organisations. he knows that it hasn't been tracked properly and he hasn't been tracked properly and he has manipulated that. it should be said that he denies these specific allegations of using prostitutes, he says yes, i did have sexual relations but with women who were honest, dignified women. said the allegations are there and they are multiple, he has denied the point about prostitutes. but in the end, this is terribly damaging, isn't it? it is damaging notjust for oxfam but the entire world of humanitarian aid. absolutely and that is what i think we have to recognise, he is a particular bad case that has been able to manipulate systematically but absolutely, it exposes a problem
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thatis but absolutely, it exposes a problem that is much bigger than that and is systemwide and it goes into our failure to protect and safeguard people and staff, actually. and one of the main challenges is to improve quite weak hr practices in- of quiteweal-zfifi practices; intesmszwé- how we recruit and how we vet staff and also in terms of how we pass on information. and i think there is a real issue there with ngos, and other organisations wanting and knowing that they will be condemned in the public and wanting to protect their image. also, a realfear of legal action in terms of defamation and so they give sometimes references, probably, that confirm that people had been employed in certain capacities at certain times and it has a much more than that. but they don't give stronger... they don't put the red warning flags out.
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you indicated to me that you felt this was systemic and this is a much wider issue then oxfam. i believed in recent days, then you chief has said they had put his six more reports of what individuals regard as unacceptable behaviour inside the organisation. we have had other ngos, also now, it seems, involved in unacceptable exploitative de gea is. is this the metoo moment for the aid industry? i think it is, and i hope it is for our sector. again, as isaid, hope it is for our sector. again, as i said, rowland hope it is for our sector. again, as isaid, rowland is hope it is for our sector. again, as i said, rowland is a particular case and perhaps we need that to start the discussion. but from what i have heard from talking to friends working in the sector and former collea g u es working in the sector and former colleagues and so many accounts over the past week, this is a real problem, it is systemic at it
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happens on all levels in this industry, as it does in other sectors as well. but we need to challenge this and it needs to come to light and this is the opportunity to light and this is the opportunity to do that. are there today still individuals acting with impunity in countries where women and children are extraordinarily vulnerable? absolutely there is. maybe not of the kind that this particular case has shown, but absolutely. it is a widespread and systemic issue, some call it even endemic. how depressing. for all of those people who routinely give money to aid organisations, you're telling me that actually these organisations have an endemic problem with abuse. yes, but still keeping in mind that this is the vast majority of people
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working in this sector, whether international or local staff, are not doing this. and so we eat to really shine a light on this problem now, raise it and really find out what is the problem and how do we best address it? i would absolutely not argue for cutting any funding, i hope that this media coverage and donor reaction does not lead to a further distrust within the sector because it is so important that we don't undermine the response capacity that we have. there has to be consequences. the uk government is reconsidering whether it will give its £32 million per year to oxfam, ricky patel said that all future funding must be subject to the aid sector, in commenting the highest standards of child protection, investigating all allegations and securing prosecutions of those responsible and if they don't make the grade, they shouldn't get the aid.|j and if they don't make the grade, they shouldn't get the aid. i think it is important to recognise that a lot has been done. this has come to
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light several times over the past ten yea rs light several times over the past ten years and a lot has been done. there are policies and procedures and guidelines in place, there is code of conduct. but both in terms of whistleblowing and safeguarding both staff and beneficiaries. i think this knee—jerk reaction, that this media coverage and maybe some donor responses as well give the public, in terms of undermining the confidence in humanitarian assistance work, which is critical for many many people around the world, is unfortunate and i think we need to be ensured that our action is actually motivated why a real, kind of, emphasis and change and change that is needed. are you implying to me that you believe some people might be playing politics with this? those in political circles who think that actually
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giving 0%% or whatever it is of gdp to international aid is too much and it isa to international aid is too much and it is a mistake and it gets misused? i think there is a risk that this all adds up supporting an anti— aid agenda, absolutely. iwould all adds up supporting an anti— aid agenda, absolutely. i would say that we need to be careful not to go in that direction and instead try to see what we can really do to address this systemwide approach. and actually, any other response to this issue would continue that kind of culture of impunity and a lack of transparency because it kind of shows that organisations when they come out and are accountable, which they should do, they are punished for it. i have been working for acid donorfor a long time and i think when alarm bells should be ringing is when you get zero cases, zero incidents. a final point. we are
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talked about the trust lost with donors, but what about the trust lost on the ground with the people that aid organisations are meant to help. a final thought on this. this is what the haitian minister said the other day: these people, from the other day: these people, from the international aid groups, today they look like mercenary is. that is an extraordinarily gaming thing to hear, isn't it? after 20 years in the age business. it is and it is sad andi the age business. it is and it is sad and i don't think it is the case for the sector as a whole. i really think that this is the time to start to listen, to bring everything to light, to listen to our staff, our beneficiaries, our local organisations that are working in partnership with us. bring it to light now and make it a priority to address it throughout the sector and see what solutions we can come up to. there is a lot that has been done, a lot that has been said already. we need tojust
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done, a lot that has been said already. we need to just prioritise giving the last bit. we have to end it there. amira malik miller, thank you so much for being on hardtalk. thank you to having the. thank you. —— thank you for having me. thanks forjoining me. time we updated you on the weather prospects for the whole of the british isles over the next few days or so. fairly slow change, i would've thought, over the next few days, simply because we are developing an area of high pressure, which has rather strangled the life out of the old weather front, which provided quite a veil of cloud sometimes through eastern parts of the british isles through tuesday, but with the development of the high pressure close by to the british isles, that, as i say, has the effect
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of killing off that front. a veil of cloud, not much more than that. maybe the odd drib and drab of rain, but essentially, it's a dry pattern, and, increasingly, we'll be talking about high pressure linked to the one over scandinavia as we go through the weekend and indeed into next week. the veil of cloud doing its stuff to keep temperatures above freezing across england and wales for the most part. scotland and northern ireland, a different kettle of fish, someone's going to get to —4 or —5. so here we are on the new day. a little bit of mist and fog around, particularly in scotland and northern ireland, but that will soon pop away. essentially, it's a dry day. maybe the odd spot of rain passing by, maybe a shower coming in on the north—easterly breeze towards kent and essex. those temperatures, not too bad when you compare them to what's to come, and i'll show you those in just a second. here is thursday. just the first signs of us wanting to pick up something a little bit sort of continental in origin. certainly, that wind coming in from a pretty cool continent at the moment, and you'll feel the like of that in norwich, for example, 4 degrees only, and generally across
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the british isles, despite the fact there's a lot of sunshine around, variable amounts of cloud, temperatures just beginning to tick away from where we were at the start of the week. so as we move towards the tail end of the week, things beginning to settle down. notice temperatures around the 5, 6, 7—degree mark or so. the forecast in edinburgh rather caught my eye. that's the second big fixture of saturday when we get round to the next round of the six nations rugby. i don't think the weather will get in the way in dublin or, indeed, in edinburgh. as i say, once we get towards the weekend, our high pressure begins to become amalgamated with a big area of high pressure over scandinavia. now, that's really quite important, because, if you follow the isobars around the eastern and southern flanks, then we begin to look away, up towards siberia, for the source of the air that comes towards us as we start the new week, and that's really quite crucial. we haven't seen that sort of setup for quite a while,
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but there's no doubt about it. next week, yes, there will be some sunshine, there will be some chilly nights around. a bitter wind in from the east and the chance of snow as temperatures tumble. this is the briefing. i'm sally bundock. our top stories: president trump says he wants to ban bump—stock devices that turn rifles into rapid—fire weapons. is that enough for survivors of the florida school shooting? controlling the nile — at a cost. concerns that africa's biggest hydroelectric dam could provoke a regional conflict. no thaw in relations between the us and north korea. washington says pyongyang pulled out of high level talks in seoul at the last minute. and a front row seat at london fashion week. the queen makes
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a surprise appearance. in business briefing, south korea signs trade deals
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