Oxfam

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Oxfam International
Oxfam International logo
Founded1942
TypeInternational organization
FocusPoverty eradication, disaster relief, advocacy, policy research
Location
Area servedWorldwide
MissionWorking with thousands of local partner organizations, we work with people living in poverty striving to exercise their human rights, assert their dignity as full citizens and take control of their lives
Websitewww.oxfam.org
 
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Oxfam International
Oxfam International logo
Founded1942
TypeInternational organization
FocusPoverty eradication, disaster relief, advocacy, policy research
Location
Area servedWorldwide
MissionWorking with thousands of local partner organizations, we work with people living in poverty striving to exercise their human rights, assert their dignity as full citizens and take control of their lives
Websitewww.oxfam.org

Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organizations working in approximately 94 countries worldwide to find solutions to poverty and what it considers as injustice around the world.[1] In all Oxfam’s actions, the ultimate goal is to enable people to exercise their rights and manage their own lives. Oxfam works directly with communities and seeks to influence the powerful, to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them. Each organization (affiliate) works together internationally to achieve a greater impact through collective efforts.

Oxfam was originally founded in Oxford in 1942 as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief by a group of Quakers, social activists, and Oxford academics; this is now Oxfam Great Britain, still based in Oxford, Oxfordshire. It was one of several local committees formed in support of the National Famine Relief Committee. Their mission was to persuade the British government to allow food relief through the Allied blockade for the starving citizens of occupied Greece. The first overseas Oxfam was founded in Canada in 1963. The organization changed its name to its telegraph address, OXFAM, in 1965.

Oxfam's mission and values[edit]

"Make Trade Fair Campaign" parade organized by Oxfam during the 2005 WTO Hong Kong Ministerial Conference.

Oxfam's programmes address the structural causes of poverty and related injustice and work primarily through local accountable organizations, seeking to enhance their effectiveness. Oxfam's stated goal is to help people directly when local capacity is insufficient or inappropriate for Oxfam’s purposes, and to assist in the development of structures which directly benefit people facing the realities of poverty and injustice.[citation needed]

Values[edit]

In November 2000, Oxfam adopted the rights-based approach as the framework for all the work of the Confederation and its partners. Oxfam recognizes the universality and indivisibility of human rights and has adopted these overarching aims to express these rights in practical terms:

Oxfam believes that poverty and powerlessness are avoidable and can be eliminated by human action and political will. The right to a sustainable livelihood, and the right and capacity to participate in societies and make positive changes to people's lives are basic human needs and rights which can be met. Oxfam believes that peace and substantial arms reduction are essential conditions for development and that inequalities can be significantly reduced both between rich and poor nations and within nations.[citation needed]

Oxfam's work[edit]

Though Oxfam's initial concern was the provision of food to relieve famine, over the years the organization has developed strategies to combat the causes of famine. In addition to food and medicine, Oxfam also provides tools to enable people to become self-supporting and opens markets of international trade where crafts and produce from poorer regions of the world can be sold at a fair price to benefit the producer.

Oxfam clothing and shoe bank in the United Kingdom.

Oxfam's programme has three main points of focus: development work, which tries to lift communities out of poverty with long-term, sustainable solutions based on their needs; humanitarian work, assisting those immediately affected by conflict and natural disasters (which often leads in to longer-term development work), especially in the field of water and sanitation; and lobbyist, advocacy and popular campaigning, trying to affect policy decisions on the causes of conflict at local, national, and international levels.

Oxfam works on trade justice, fair trade, education, debt and aid, livelihoods, health, HIV/AIDS, gender equality, conflict (campaigning for an international arms trade treaty) and natural disasters, democracy and human rights, and climate change.

Through programmes like "Saving for Change", Oxfam is working to help communities become more self-sufficient financially. The Saving for Change initiative is a programme whereby communities are taught how to form collective, informal credit groups. Through these mutually beneficial groups, members who tend to be mostly women, pool their savings into a fund which is used to give loans for activities such as paying for medical care and paying school fees, in addition to using the loans to fund small-scale business ventures. Ultimately, the goal of the programme is to leave the community with a self-sustaining organization where people who otherwise would not qualify for formal bank loans can go for financial assistance. In doing so, borrowers can start businesses which benefit not only themselves but also their communities.[3]

Additionally, Oxfam has provided relief services during various global crises, including the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, North Korean famine, 2011 East Africa drought and 2012 Sahel drought. The Bosfam NGO was also founded in May 1995 by women participating in an Oxfam GB psycho-social 'radionice' project to support internally displaced women during the Bosnian war. Oxfam has become a globally recognized leader in providing water sanitation to impoverished and war torn areas the world over. In 2012, Oxfam became one of the humanitarian groups that comprise the UK's Rapid Response Facility to ensure clean water in the wake of humanitarian disasters.[4]

History[edit]

Plaque commemorating first meeting of Oxfam in the Old Library, the University Church, Oxford.

The original Oxford Committee for Famine Relief was a group of concerned citizens such as Canon Theodore Richard Milford (1896–1987), Professor Gilbert Murray and his wife Lady Mary, Cecil Jackson-Cole and Sir Alan Pim. The Committee met in the Old Library of University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, for the first time in 1942, and its aim was to relieve famine in Greece caused by Nazi Germany military occupation and Allied naval blockades. By 1960, it was a major international non-governmental aid organization.

The name Oxfam comes from the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, founded in Britain in 1942 and registered in accordance with UK law in 1943. Oxfam International was formed in 1995 by a group of independent non-governmental organizations. Their aim was to work together for greater impact on the international stage to reduce poverty and injustice. Stichting Oxfam International registered as a non-profit foundation at The Hague, Netherlands.

Oxfam's first paid employee was Joe Mitty, who began working at the Oxfam shop on Broad Street, Oxford on 9 November 1949. Engaged to manage the accounts and distribute donated clothing, he originated the policy of selling anything which people were willing to donate, and developed the shop into a national chain.[5][6]

Oxfam affiliates[edit]

Oxfam GB (Great Britain)[edit]

David Cameron at Oxfam headquarters in Oxford.

Oxfam GB had 5,955 employees worldwide in 2008,[7] and a total income of £299.7 million. Oxfam GB's head office is located in Cowley, Oxford and has offices and programmes in over 70 countries in 8 regions.[7]

From 2007 to 2009, Oxfam GB was recognized as one of Britain's Top Employers[8] by CRF.[9]

Oxfam Ireland[edit]

Oxfam Ireland works with local partner organizations in developing countries to develop effective solutions to poverty and injustice. It is a registered charity in Ireland and Northern Ireland, with headquarters in Dublin and Belfast.

Funds[edit]

Funds are raised via three different sources:

Structure Oxfam Ireland is the public title of the two, separate, legal bodies registered in the respective jurisdictions as Oxfam Northern Ireland and Oxfam Republic of Ireland. Oxfam Ireland operates coherently on an all-island basis by means of a single management structure and shared membership of associations and councils.

Oxfam Canada[edit]

Main article: Oxfam Canada
Countries with Oxfam members.

Oxfam Canada traces its history to 1963, when the British-based Oxford Committee for Famine Relief sought to establish a Canadian branch. Oxfam Canada was independently incorporated in 1966; the first Board of Directors included 21 distinguished Canadians. In 1967, Oxfam Canada became a key organizer of the successful Miles for Millions fundraising walks across the country. In that year, Lester Pearson (then Canadian Prime Minister) led Oxfam's first Miles for Millions March. With its revenues, Oxfam began to provide educational materials to schools and undertake advocacy work in public policy development.

The early 1970s was a critical period of growth as Oxfam began its own programming overseas in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and established a network of staff and volunteers across Canada to support its work.The original idea was born with Oxfam shops, Luk Moltten Professor at the University of Oxford. During this same period, Oxfam Canada began to analyze its role in the development process, moving from a traditional model of charity (one-time grants) towards long-term development programming (working with communities to effect lasting positive change). Deeply involved in the international movement against apartheid in South Africa and Central American solidarity through the 1970s and '80s, Oxfam Canada sought to address the fundamental, underlying causes of poverty. This in turn led to Oxfam's role as a major advocacy organization in the 1990s, to mobilize public support for changing the policies that perpetuate poverty.

Oxfam Canada is a founding member of Oxfam, the federation of Oxfams worldwide. Today, Oxfam Canada works with over 100 partner organizations in developing countries, tackling the root causes of poverty and inequity and helping people to create self-reliant and sustainable communities. In Canada, Oxfam is active in education, policy advocacy and building a constituency of support for its work.[citation needed]

Oxfam America[edit]

Oxfam America President Raymond C. Offenheiser with Rupert Murdoch at the 2006 Oxfam/MySpace Rock for Darfur event.

In 1970, Oxfam America became an independent non-profit organization and an Oxfam affiliate in response to the humanitarian crisis created by the fight for independence in Bangladesh. Oxfam America's headquarters are located in Boston, Massachusetts with a policy and campaigns office in Washington, D.C. and seven regional offices around the world. A registered 501(c)3 organization, Oxfam America campaigns for climate change adaptation, food security, aid reform, access to medicines, and fair trade.

Oxfam-Québec[edit]

In 1973, Oxfam-Québec became an independent member of the international Oxfam movement. Carried by the popularity of Yvon Deschamps, Oxfam-Québec has become a cherished organization among the Québécois. Its mission is to get the francophone population involved in the situation of developing countries.

Oxfam Australia[edit]

Main article: Oxfam Australia

Oxfam Australia is an independent, not-for-profit, secular, community-based aid and development organization, and an affiliate of Oxfam International. Oxfam Australia's work includes long-term development projects, responding to emergencies and campaigning to improve the lives of disadvantaged people around the world. They aim to give disadvantaged people improved access to social services, an effective voice in decisions, equal rights and status, and safety from conflict and disaster.

Oxfam Australia's activities are mainly funded by community donation. Oxfam's development and advocacy programmes use 73% of donated funds, 16% is used for fundraising and promotion, and the remaining 11% for administration. In the case of emergency appeals, 85% of funds are used directly for emergency response purposes.

In 2009, Oxfam Australia's work reached 4.64 million people in 28 countries. This was made possible by the support of more than 310,000 donors and campaigners.[citation needed]

Oxfam Novib (Netherlands)[edit]

Main article: Oxfam Novib
Oxfam Novib at Lowlands 2007.

Oxfam Novib is the Dutch affiliate of the international Oxfam organization. The organization is based in The Hague.

Oxfam Novib was founded under the name Novib in 1956. Novib, an abbreviation standing for Nederlandse Organisatie Voor Internationale Bijstand (Dutch organization for international aid), was later changed to Nederlandse Organisatie voor Internationale Ontwikkelingssamenwerking (Dutch organization for international development cooperation) due to a change in approach of the organization's development work.[citation needed]

In 1994, Novib became an affiliate of Oxfam and the organization changed its name in 2006 to Oxfam Novib.

In 2008 the organization changed its voluntary policy towards a network-based approach. They set up a so-called participation network or tribe[clarification needed] named www.doenersnet.nl with the aim of creating a campaign for a just world without poverty.

Oxfam-in-Belgium[edit]

Oxfam in Belgium is a co-ordinating body of the Belgian components of the Oxfam movement, namely, Oxfam Solidarity, Magasins du Monde Oxfam and Oxfam Wereldwinkels.

Oxfam Solidarity incorporates the activities of Oxfam Belgium (founded in 1964) and those of Oxfam Projects (created in 1976).

Oxfam Solidarity supports approximately 200 projects and programmes in the South totalling around 10 million Euro, thanks to co-financing by the Belgian government and the European Union. The income of the organization comes from recycling activities, from the support of donors and as a result of campaigns.

Oxfam Wereldwinkels (founded in 1971) and Magasins du Monde-Oxfam (founded in 1975) remain autonomous organizations, focusing on fair trade. With more than 220 outlets, as many groups and 7000 volunteers, they form a movement which, guided by the principles of fair trade, pursues objectives similar to those of Oxfam Solidarity.

Oxfam France[edit]

Oxfam France was founded in 1988 under the name “Agir ici pour un monde solidaire” (Act here for a unified world). Its work was already based on campaign and advocacy, both of which were rare in France at the time.

Agir ici became an observer member of Oxfam in 2003, and a fully-fledged member in 2006.[10]

Based in Paris, Oxfam France claims its missions are to inform, increase public awareness & mobilize citizens. Oxfam France’s work in advocacy and research focuses on Economic Justice (especially tax revenue in developing countries, ODA, tax heavens and innovative financing), Agriculture (speculation and food prizes, biofuels, land grabbing, trade rules), protecting civilians, and health.

Oxfam France is funded mostly by public donations and by institutional donors.[11]

It has five second-hand shops:[12] three bookshops (two in Paris, one in Lille), a clothes shop in Lille and a shop in Strasbourg.

Oxfam Germany[edit]

An Oxfam outlet in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Oxfam Germany has its beginnings in an initiative by concerned private citizens who in 1986 opened a secondhand shop in Bonn modelled on the idea of the British charity shops. While not officially associated with Oxfam, the shop was staffed by volunteers and sold donated goods, with all proceeds given to projects run by Oxfam GB. A second shop, following the same model, was opened in Cologne in 1991.[13]

Oxfam officially came to Germany in 1995 with the foundation of the charitable Oxfam Deutschland e. V. and its commercial subsidiary Oxfam Deutschland Shops GmbH. Oxfam Germany became a full affiliate of Oxfam International in 2003.[14]

As of March 2013, Oxfam was operating 42 charity shops in 28 German cities, including five Oxfam bookshops and three fashion boutiques. According to Oxfam Germany website, there are 2,400 volunteers in those shops.[15]

Oxfam Hong Kong[edit]

Oxfam Hong Kong began in 1976, when volunteers came together, opened a second-hand shop, and raised funds for anti-poverty projects around the world. Some of the first actions in the 1970s and '80s were to advocate for justice in the Vietnamese Boat People/Refugee crisis in Hong Kong, and to help save lives in Ethiopia during the 1984 famine. To date, Oxfam Hong Kong has assisted poor people in more than 70 countries/states around the world.[16]

Oxfam India[edit]

Oxfam's involvement in India began when money was granted in 1951 to fight famine in Bihar. Bihar at the time was one of the poorest and most populated states in India. Bihar and famine would bring Oxfam back to India in 1965 to address drought due to bad monsoons. Bihar held a population of 53 million, of which 40 million relied on subsistence farming to live.[17][page needed] This would compound for India in the future; production of food had not been parallel to its exploding population. It is estimated that, over the course of the droughts and famines, 2,400 tons of milk was bought by Oxfam and at the height of this was feeding over 400,000 starving children and mothers.[18]

In 1968 Oxfam's first Field Director in India, Jim Howard, created the Oxfam Gramdan Action Programme, or OGAP.[18] This would be the first joint rural development programme in Oxfam history and the first step to a new 'operational' Oxfam.

Oxfam India was established on 1 September 2008 under section 25 of the Companies Act, 2005 as a non profitable organization with its head office in Delhi and is now a member of Oxfam International Confederation. This was marked by Oxfam's 60th year in India.[19]

Oxfam International[edit]

Oxfam International awareness raising event on climate change (2007).

The Oxfam International Secretariat (OIS) leads, facilitates, and supports collaboration between the Oxfam affiliates to increase Oxfam's impact on poverty and injustice through advocacy campaigns, development programmes and emergency response.

The OIS Board comprises the Executive Director, Chair of each Affiliate, and the OI Chair. The Affiliates’ Chairs are voting members and are non-remunerated. The Executive Directors and the OI Chair are all non voting-members. The Board also elects the Deputy Chair and Treasurer from among its voting members.

The Board is responsible for ensuring that Oxfam International is accountable, transparent, and fit for purpose. The constitution and Strategic Plan are also approved at Board level. The Board takes recommendations from Executive Directors and ensures that the Confederation is working to its agreed aims. The Board also agrees membership of the Confederation, selects the Honorary President, the Honorary Advisor, the Board Officers and the OI Executive Director. A number of subcommittees with expert members are also mandated by the Board to assist with specific issues.

Oxfam International's official language is English; English, French and Spanish are the working languages. In 2009–10 it had approximately 77 staff (including secondment placements and temporary staff e.g. for maternity cover). It is funded by contributions from affiliate organizations and has an operating budget of US$8.7M.

Activities[edit]

Oxfam has four main focuses for its resources. These are: Economic Justice, Essential Services, Rights in Crisis, and Gender Justice.

Economic Justice focuses on making agriculture work for farmers and agricultural labourers living in poverty and vulnerable circumstances, fairer trade rules for poor countries, and reducing the impact of climate change and energy shocks.

Oxfam relief supplies outside the Siginon warehouse in Nairobi, Kenya.

Essential Services focuses on; demanding that national governments fulfil their responsibilities for equitable delivery of good quality health, education, water, and sanitation, supporting civil society organizations and alliances to hold governments accountable for the delivery of these services, and ensuring better policies and more funding from rich countries and international institutions, as well as make sure they honour existing commitments on aid and debt reduction.

Rights in Crisis focuses on improving the ability to deliver better protection and greater assistance, through improving our competencies and capacities, working with and through local organizations, and particularly strengthen the role of women, changing policies and practices of the international humanitarian system to deliver better protection and greater assistance, and working within the framework of human security, with a greater focus on preventing conflict, peace-building, reconciliation and longer-term development

Gender Justice focuses on supporting women’s leadership at all levels to achieve greater power in decision-making and greater control over their lives, increasing the number of women receiving an education (two-thirds of all children denied school are girls), to acquire functional literacy skills so they can work.,[20] working to end gender-based violence by changing ideas, attitudes and beliefs of men and women that permit violence against women, and strengthening Oxfam’s own learning and capacities on gender to ensure that gender justice is achieved in all our work.[citation needed]

Oxfam's shops[edit]

See also: Oxfam bookshops

Oxfam has numerous shops all over the world, which sell many fair-trade and donated items. They opened their first charity shop in 1948,[21] although trading began in 1947. The proceeds from these usually get paid to different charities or are used to further Oxfam's relief efforts around the globe.

Plaque attached to the original Oxfam shop at 17 Broad Street, Oxford

Much of their stock still comes from public donations but they currently also sell fair trade products from developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America, including handcrafts, books, music CDs and instruments, clothing, toys, food and ethnic creations. These objects are brought to the public through fair trade to help boost the quality of life of their producers and surrounding communities.[22]

Oxfam has over 1,200 shops worldwide.[23] Some of them are in the UK with around 750 Oxfam GB shops including specialist shops such as books, music, furniture and bridal wear. Oxfam Germany has 45 shops including specialist book shops; Oxfam France shops sell books and fair trade products and Oxfam Hong Kong has 2 shops selling donated goods and fair trade products. Oxfam Novib, Oxfam Australia (with over 20 fair trade shops), Oxfam Ireland and Oxfam in Belgium also raise funds from shops.

Of the 750 Oxfam charity shops around the UK, around 100 are specialist bookshops or book and music shops. Oxfam is the largest retailer of second-hand books in Europe, selling around 12 million per year.

In 2008, Oxfam GB worked with over 20,000 volunteers in shops across the UK, raising £17.1 million for Oxfam's programme work.[7]

Fundraising[edit]

Performers at the 2009 Oxjam fundraising event in Edinburgh.

Oxfam has a number of successful fundraising channels in addition to its shops. Over half a million people in the UK make a regular financial contribution towards its work, and vital funds are received from gifts left to the organization in people's wills. Many London Marathon[24] competitors run to raise money for Oxfam, and Oxfam also receives funds in return for providing and organising volunteer stewards at festivals such as Glastonbury. In conjunction with the Gurkha Welfare Trust, Oxfam also runs several Trailwalker events in Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Japan. Oxfam GB asks people to 'Get Together'[25] and fundraise by hosting events with friends and colleagues on International Women's Day, 8 March.

Christopher McCandless, the subject of the book and film Into the Wild, donated his life savings to Oxfam before leaving society for the Alaskan wilderness.

In August 2009 Arctic Monkeys released a 7-inch vinyl version of their new single "Crying Lightning" exclusively through Oxfam shops, with proceeds going to the charity. Recently Oxfam India is emerging as a successful fundraising unit, it is mainly with the help of always motivated team and the Resource Mobilization Heads.

Every October, Oxfam also holds the Oxjam music festival across the UK to raise funds for its activities.

Publications[edit]

Annual Report; Strategic Plan; Research and Policy papers[26]

Policy & Research page with all Oxfam publications (research reports, policy papers), which can be filtered by subject and/or by date[27]

Behind the brands[edit]

In 2013, Oxfam started the Behind the Brands-project, "to provide people who buy and enjoy these products with the information they need to hold the Big 10 [food and beverage companies] to account for what happens in their supply chains".[28]

The Scorecard consists of seven categories, being:[28]

The table below provides an overview of the evolution of the scores (in percentage):[29]

CompanyJanuary 2013September 2013
Nestlé54%61%
Unilever49%56%
Coca-Cola41%46%
Danone29%33%
Mars30%31%
PepsiCo31%31%
Mondelez29%30%
General Mills23%24%
Kellogg's23%23%
Associated British Foods19%19%
Average score32.80%35.40%

Campaigns[edit]

Make Trade Fair[edit]

Make Trade Fair is a campaign organized by Oxfam International that focuses on the elimination of several trade practices:

Criticism[edit]

Conflict with Starbucks on Ethiopian coffee[edit]

On 26 October 2006, Oxfam accused Starbucks of asking the National Coffee Association (NCA) to block a US trademark application from Ethiopia for three of the country's coffee beans, Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe.[34] They claimed this could result in denying Ethiopian coffee farmers potential annual earnings of up to £47m.

Ethiopia and Oxfam America urged Starbucks to sign a licensing agreement with Ethiopia to help boost prices paid to farmers. At issue was Starbucks' use of Ethiopia's famed coffee brands—Sidamo, Yirgacheffe and Harar—that generate high margins for Starbucks and cost consumers a premium, yet generated very low prices to Ethiopian farmers.

Robert Nelson, the head of the NCA, added that his organization initiated the opposition for economic reasons, "For the U.S. industry to exist, we must have an economically stable coffee industry in the producing world... This particular scheme is going to hurt the Ethiopian coffee farmers economically". The NCA claimed the Ethiopian government was being badly advised and this move could price them out of the market.[34]

Facing more than 90,000 letters of concern, Starbucks had placed pamphlets in its stores accusing Oxfam of "misleading behavior" and insisting that its "campaign need[s] to stop". On 7 November, The Economist derided Oxfam's "simplistic" stance and Ethiopia's "economically illiterate" government, arguing that Starbucks' (and Illy's) standards-based approach would ultimately benefit farmers more.[35] In conclusion of this issue, on 20 June 2007, representatives of the Government of Ethiopia and senior leaders from Starbucks Coffee Company announced that they had executed an agreement regarding distribution, marketing and licensing that recognizes the importance and integrity of Ethiopia's specialty coffee designations.[36] Financial terms regarding this agreement were not disclosed.

Starbucks, as part of the deal, also was set to market Ethiopian coffee during two promotional periods in 2008. Brandon Borrman, a Starbucks spokesman, said the announcement is "another development" in the relationship with Ethiopia and a way to raise the profile of Ethiopian coffee around the world.

Seth Petchers, an Oxfam spokesman, said the deal sounds like a "useful step" as long as farmers are benefiting, and it's a big step from a year ago when Starbucks "wasn't engaging directly (with) Ethiopians on adding value to their coffee."[36]

Commercial favours[edit]

In May 2013 Oxfam demanded Dole remove its 'Ethical Choice' labels from its bananas in New Zealand until it improved treatment of its workers in the Philippines.[37] A Dole spokesperson said Oxfam's report was a "commercial move" aimed at backing a rival supplier which backed Oxfam, and Oxfam was "trying to destroy the Dole brand".

Political neutrality[edit]

Oxfam Great Britain was strongly criticised by other NGOs for becoming too close to Tony Blair's New Labour government in the UK.[38]

In October 2011, complaints by a member of the public regarding Oxfam's campaign for a financial transaction tax resulted in Oxfam seeking an injunction to ban a pensioner, Barry Nowlan, from one of its shops. Mr. Nowlan claimed that he was expected to pay the costs of seeking the injunction, which was sought due to alleged "harrassment" and "intimidation" on the part of Mr. Nowlan after he complained about a poster which highlighted Oxfam’s call for a 'Robin Hood' tax of banks and financial institutions.[39][40] On 25 October 2011, the dispute was settled amicably in Taunton County Court.[41] Afterwards Mr Nowlan said: "The matter has been settled between Oxfam and myself on a mutually satisfactory basis." Oxfam declined to comment on the court case, saying simply: "It is a private matter."

Internal structures and political role[edit]

An Oxfam cholera awareness-raising campaign in Mbandanka, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Omaar and de Waal, in Food and Power in Sudan,[42] comment that "the 1990s have seen growing pressure for humanitarian institutions to become more accountable. There has been a succession of reviews of major operations, growing in independence and criticism." They quote an OECD report, The Joint Evaluation of Emergency Operations in Rwanda , which stated that its team "came across examples of Agencies telling, if not falsehoods, then certainly half-truths" and noted "a remarkable lack of attempts by agencies to seek the views of beneficiaries on the assistance being provided".[43] In this climate, Oxfam has faced a number of criticisms, some specific to the organization itself, others relating to problems said to be endemic to NGO aid agencies.

In response to these criticisms Oxfam and others launched the Sphere Project, an initiative which aims to "improve the quality of assistance provided to people affected by disasters", to "develop a set of minimum standards in cure areas of humanitarian assistance" and to introduce an element of accountability which had previously been lacking.

In 2005, the magazine New Internationalist described Oxfam as a "Big International Non-Government Organisation (BINGO)", having a corporate-style, undemocratic internal structure, and addressing the symptoms rather than the causes of international poverty – especially by acquiescing to neoliberal economics and even taking over roles conventionally filled by national governments.[44]

Similar criticisms[which?] have been voiced by Red Pepper magazine[45] and Katherine Quarmby in the New Statesman.[46] The latter article detailed growing rifts between Oxfam and other organizations within the Make Poverty History movement.

In an article for Columbia Journalism Review,[47] journalist Karen Rothmyer accused NGOs in general and Oxfam in particular of being unduly influenced by the priorities of the media, of providing inaccurate information to the press ("stories featuring aid projects often rely on dubious numbers provided by the organisations") and of perpetuating negative stereotypes which "have the potential to influence policy." She drew on earlier work by journalist Lauren Gelfand, who had taken a year away from journalism to work for Oxfam; "A lot of what Oxfam does is to sustain Oxfam" and Linda Polman, author of the Crisis Caravan; "Aid organisations are businesses dressed up like Mother Theresa."

Bookshops[edit]

Oxfam shop in Cirencester, England

Oxfam has been criticized[48][49] for aggressively expanding its specialist bookshops, using tactics more often associated with multi-national corporations. The charity has been criticized as some claim this expansion has come at the expense of independent secondhand book sellers and other charity shops in many areas of the UK.

Fair trade coffee[edit]

On 28 April 2007, two academics in Melbourne, Australia, representing a think tank lodged a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission accusing Oxfam of misleading or deceptive conduct under the Trade Practices Act in its promotion of Fairtrade coffee.[50] The academics claimed that high certification costs and low wages for workers undermine claims that Fairtrade helps to lift producers out of poverty. The complaint was subsequently dismissed by the Commission.[51]

Israeli–Palestinian conflict[edit]

Oxfam endorses the two-state solution, and has called for Israel to lift the partial blockade of the Gaza Strip.[52]

Oxfam UK is partnering with the Board of Deputies who represent the Jewish Community of the UK. The project, Grow-Tatzmiach, includes sending 25 people to an activist training programme to help fight global hunger. In exchange for partnering, Oxfam has agreed not to "call for a boycott of Israeli goods or to support groups that do so, and will not partner with organizations that advocate violence or oppose a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Despite this agreement, there are still those on both sides who object to this project.[52]

In October 2009, Oxfam was accused by Israeli NGO Regavim of aiding Palestinians in illegal activities in Kiryat Arba, including water theft. Oxfam has denied its participation.[53]

In response to a 2012 Oxfam report which laid the blame for poor economic development in the Palestinian territories solely with Israel, a spokesman for the Israel Embassy in the UK said, "Oxfam's latest report on the situation in the Palestinian territories puts a clearly political agenda above any humanitarian concern. Far from advancing peace, such an approach undermines the prospects of reaching a negotiated resolution to the conflict."[54]

Oxfam UK cancelled an exhibition "Gaza: Through my Eyes" which had been due to take place at East London Mosque on 17 January 2014 after Left Foot Forward presented information to the charity detailing homophobic and potentially anti-semitic comments by one of the organizers, Ibrahim Hewitt. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was reported as welcoming the event's cancellation but to have said of Oxfam UK, "it is hugely disappointing that it did no proper checks on him [Mr Hewitt] before agreeing his presence".[55]

On 29 January 2014 actress Scarlett Johansson resigned as an international spokeswoman for Oxfam after appearing in a TV ad for SodaStream, a company that has a presence in the West Bank of Israel. The announcement from her publicist stated that Johansson "respectfully decided to end her ambassador role with Oxfam after eight years... She and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement."[56]

Confrontation with Population Matters[edit]

In December 2009 Duncan Green, head of research at Oxfam, attempted to discredit the PopOffsets initiative of Population Matters, (formerly known as the Optimum Population Trust), under which individuals can offset their carbon emissions by funding family planning services in the developing world. Green wrote in an op-ed in the New Statesman that assumptions such as those in the OPT report equating population growth and environmental degradation are a "gross oversimplification".[57]

In response, OPT described the response of parts of the development lobby to the initiative as "frankly disgraceful", adding: "The world badly needs a grown-up, rational discussion of the population issue… without blame, abuse and hysteria."[58]

Oxfam accused of hypocrisy[edit]

Private Eye magazine is critical of Oxfam because, while Oxfam actively campaigns against corporate tax avoidance as part of the If Coalition, Oxfam counts former Pearson CEO Dame Marjorie Scardino among its trustees. Private Eye points out that during Dame Marjorie's 'reign' at Pearson, 'the company was a prolific tax haven user...routing hundreds of millions of pounds through an elaborate series of Luxembourg companies (and a Luxembourg branch of a UK company) to avoid tax.'[59]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ About, Oxfam .
  2. ^ Oxfam strategic plan
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]