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Holding aid-related misconduct accountable: civil and administrative remedies

Sally Junsong Wang (University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK)

Journal of Money Laundering Control

ISSN: 1368-5201

Article publication date: 11 November 2020

Issue publication date: 31 July 2021




The purpose of this paper is to provide an empirical analysis on aid-related misconduct and sectoral regulatory failures. Via a series of Oxfam revelations, this paper aims to highlight potential civil and administrative remedies to rectify wrongdoings and increase accountability in aid organizations.


Chronicling recent revelations of misconduct by aid workers, this paper begins with an overview of moral and legal responsibilities of the entrusted; then it illustrates how the Oxfam misconduct violates those moral and legal responsibilities in aid delivery. The author draws upon legal and administrative dilemmas on regulating the aid sector and aid workers’ behavior. Finally, this paper offers practical civil remedies for the harmed and administrative remedies for long-term institutional reforms.


The damage – across a broad spectrum of interests, caused by aid workers engaging in exploitative conduct – not only is a betrayal of the trust reposed by vulnerable people in these individuals but also a failure with far-reaching implications on the part of the donor organizations. The use of the criminal law in aid-related misconduct is highly problematic, assuming a specific offense is committed (which, in many cases, it may not have). There are jurisdictional limitations on the ability of donor countries and international regulations other than in regard to peacekeepers are almost nonexistent. Given such context, civil and administrative remedies provide a viable alternative for the harmed who seek justice.

Research limitations/implications

Legal remedies can be highly jurisdictional contingent. Depending on the specific jurisdiction where misconduct takes place, there are potentially other suited remedies not mentioned in this paper to address aid workers’ unethical behavior.

Practical implications

This paper provides tips on using existing legal channel (the civil law) and available pro bono resources to hold transgressors and their employers accountable.

Social implications

Effective regulating aid-related conduct prevents further harm on vulnerable people and restores public trust in the aid sector.


This paper addresses the regulatory blind spot on aid workers’ exploitative conduct through the context of Oxfam revelations. Second, it provides practical policy recommendations for navigating legal and administrative dilemmas on regulating aid workers’ behavior.



Wang, S.J. (2021), "Holding aid-related misconduct accountable: civil and administrative remedies", Journal of Money Laundering Control, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 596-606.



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