Early life and education
Goldring was educated at Churcher's College. He has a bachelor's degree in law from Keble College, Oxford, and a master's degree in Social Policy and Planning in Developing Countries from the London School of Economics.
After leaving University, with little idea of what he wanted to do next, Goldring volunteered with VSO. Goldring volunteered as a teacher in a small town in Borneo for two years.
After leaving VSO, Goldring worked as a legal researcher for BP for nine months, before rejoining VSO, this time as an employee, first in Barbados and then Bhutan, where he set up its operation, and lived for three years.
On returning to London, Goldring completed an MA in Social Policy and Planning in Developing Countries from the London School of Economics. Goldring then moved to Bangladesh to run the United Nations' development programme. Goldring later described how he 'hated' the experience, and noted that 'The combination of UN bureaucracy and the Bangladesh infrastructure brought out the worst in everything'. As a result, Goldring took a job as Oxfam's country director in Bangladesh, while his wife, Rachel, worked for UNICEF. Goldring later moved to Fiji and ran the British government's South Pacific development programme.
Following his time in Fiji, Goldring was appointed chief executive of VSO, a role that he held from 1999-2008. During his time as chief executive, Goldring introduced a number of new initiatives, most notably Business Partnerships, whereby large multinationals, such as Shell and Andersen Consulting, agreed to second staff to VSO as volunteers.
In May 2013, Goldring was appointed chief executive of Oxfam. While working in this role Goldring took part in the TV documentary Undercover Boss – a long-running series in which chief executives work incognito with the rank and file for two weeks. While taking part in the programme, Goldring spoke with a member of the public who complained about 'people at the tops of these charities who give themselves huge payouts'. Goldring was wearing a wig at the time and was unable to address the issue directly without blowing his cover. During a later interview with Third Sector magazine, Goldring agreed that pay is 'a very significant public issue', but argued that 'You've got to have a hierarchy of salaries, and if you've got as many people with very highly developed skills, as Oxfam has, you've got to pay lots of people quite a reasonable salary. So you pay your chief executive slightly more, on that scale'.
Goldring was awarded a CBE in 2008 for services to tackling poverty and disadvantage.
Allegations of sexual misconduct by Oxfam staff
In February 2018, an investigation by The Times newspaper found that in 2011, prior to Goldring being appointed chief executive, Oxfam allowed three men to resign and sacked four for gross misconduct after an inquiry concerning the behaviour of staff in Haiti, in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. A confidential report produced by Oxfam concluded that children may have been among those sexually exploited by aid workers. In response to the story, Goldring and his colleague Caroline Thomson, Oxfam Chair of Trustees, meet with the Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt. During the meeting, Goldring and Thomson made a full and unqualified apology for the way that Oxfam had responded to the behaviour of some of their staff in Haiti.
Following the meeting, Goldring published an open letter of apology regarding misconduct in Haiti and Chad, in which he said: 'I know that this apology is by no means enough but I want to offer it unreservedly … I am so sorry.'
During a follow up interview with the Guardian, Mark Goldring repeated his apology for the way that Oxfam responded to the behaviour of some of their staff and acknowledged that major reforms were needed. Goldring claimed, however, that the attacks which had been made against Oxfam, in light of the Times's report, were 'out of proportion to the level of culpability' and were motivated by an anti-aid agenda. Goldring explained that prior to the story published by the Times, he had never even heard of the nine men involved in the original scandal.
Goldring explained that when he joined Oxfam as Chief Executive he was informed that there had been incidents in Haiti in 2011, and understood that Oxfam had subsequently made changes. During the interview Goldring accepted that Oxfam's decision not to tell the public why staff in Haiti were dismissed 'was wrong', but he added that it this decision was not motivated by a desire to protect men, 'I believe it was done in good faith to try to balance being transparent and protecting Oxfam’s work ... I don’t think [Oxfam] wanted to promote a sensation and damage the delivery of that programme. With hindsight, we should have said more. I’ve been clear about that right since this broke'.
During the interview Goldring remarked that 'The intensity and ferocity of the attack makes you wonder, what did we do? We murdered babies in their cots?'. The following week, while being questioned by MPs on the International Development Committee, Goldring apologised for these remarks and explain: 'I was thinking under stress, I'd given many interviews, I'd made many decisions to try and lead Oxfam 's response to this, I was thinking about the amazing work that I had seen Oxfam do across the world, most recently for refugees ... coming from Myanmar , I should not have said those things, it is not for Oxfam to judge issues of proportionality, or motivation'. Goldring went on to repeat a broader apology, and a personal apology, for the damage that Oxfam had caused 'both to the people of Haiti but also to wider efforts for aid and development by possibly undermining public support'.
Reaction from former colleague
Following Goldring's meeting with the Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt, Helen Evans, Oxfam's global head of safeguarding from 2012–15, alleged that Goldring and his leadership team cancelled a meeting to discuss concerns that she had about widespread abuse involving Oxfam workers. In response to Evans's comments, Goldring argued that she should not have gone public with her concerns and added: I think [her criticism] was very unbalanced, and ironically didn’t give enough credit to the very work that she promoted. I don’t think she gives either herself or Oxfam enough credit for what was actually steady improvement'.
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