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FOUNDED in 1942, Oxfam is one of Britain’s most recognisable global brands. The charity is the country’s fourth-largest, and the biggest working on overseas aid, with a presence in more than 90 countries. It is also one of the most respected; loved, even, judging by the 23,000 volunteers who turn out to staff its 630 shops, raising around £100m ($140m) a year in sales of second-hand books and musty mink coats.
Now, however, Oxfam has been hit by allegations of sexual misconduct, at home and abroad. The charity’s gleaming reputation has been severely tarnished. Other aid agencies are also becoming embroiled in a story that adds fuel to a debate about Britain’s international-development work.
...Proponents of Britain’s aid industry hope it will stay that way. For all Oxfam’s woes, experts like Owen Barder of the Centre for Global Development, a think-tank, argue that Britain’s aid is particularly effective and generally well-targeted. Oxfam may be bad at policing its staff, but, argues Dan Corry of New Philanthropy Capital, which assesses charities, it is one of the best at evaluating its projects.