Oxfam

Definition

Oxfam is a confederation of 17 nation-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that work directly with local communities and partner organizations in 92 countries. Oxfam provides disaster relief and develops programs to overcome poverty and promote sustainable development and social justice.

Purpose

Oxfam is one of the major deliverers of emergency relief for both manmade and natural disasters around the world. Because of its network of local community partners, Oxfam is sometimes able to provide disaster relief in regions where foreign-aid workers have been expelled, such as during the 2011 drought and famine in southern Somalia.

Although Oxfam's initial focus was providing food aid for the relief of famine, over the years its focus has grown to encompass strategies for combating the causes of hunger and famine. Thus, in addition to providing food and medicines to the poorest people on Earth, Oxfam works with other organizations and communities around the world for the implementation of sustainable development programs to overcome global poverty and social injustice. In particular, where possible, Oxfam follows up humanitarian disaster relief with programs to provide communities with sources of clean water and sanitation. It also works to provide the tools that enable communities to become financially self-supporting and to open national and international markets to produce and other products from poverty-stricken regions.

Because of its long-term goals for worldwide sustainable development, Oxfam is often viewed as having a more politically oriented agenda than many other international humanitarian organizations, with strong advocacy and lobbying arms and popular campaigns for influencing policy decisions at local, national, and international levels. In addition to preventing and relieving famine, malnutrition, and preventable diseases caused by poverty, Oxfam advocates for health care and education for all, an end to gender inequalities, an end to unfair trade rules and practices, and the combating of climate change.

Along with its local partner organizations and communities, Oxfam's work focuses on:

Demographics

Oxfam International is headquartered in Oxford, England. It has advocacy offices in Brussels, Belgium; Geneva, Switzerland; Brasilia, Brazil; and New York City and Washington, DC. Its semiautonomous NGOs include:

Description

Origins

Oxfam originated in Oxford, England, in 1942, as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief. Its purpose was to campaign for food relief for the starving people of World War II Axis-occupied Greece, which meant shipping food through the Allied naval blockade. The original Oxford organization was expanded in 1963 by a Canadian affiliate. In 1965, the organization adopted its telegraph address, OXFAM, as its name. In 1995, a group of independent NGOs formed Oxfam International, with the goals of more effective delivery of emergency relief and a more significant impact on reducing global poverty and injustice.

Principles

Oxfam operates on the principle that all people have certain basic human rights:

Humanitarian aid, security, and development issues

Every year 500,000 people are killed in wars and more than 30 million are driven from their homes by conflict and natural disasters. Oxfam responds to emergencies in more than 30 countries, with the immediate goals of reducing death and disease by providing access to food, shelter, and hygiene, and the longer-term goal of helping communities rebuild. Oxfam lobbies governments and other NGOs for more and faster relief aid in humanitarian crises, as well as for more effective international aid focusing on preventing death during pregnancy and childbirth, childhood vaccinations, and access to quality education. Oxfam advocates for international aid that supports local and national programs for eradicating poverty, rather than aid that imposes conditions such as spending cuts, opening up markets, privatization, or deregulation. Oxfam campaigns for cancellation of debt repayment by developing countries, so that the countries can focus on healthcare and educational services. It demands the honest, accountable, and transparent use of aid by recipient communities and governments.

Agriculture and climate change are major Oxfam issues. Oxfam lobbies governments and NGOs to invest in agriculture to promote food security through crop diversification and sustainable water management and to counteract environmental degradation, climate change, and soaring energy costs. Oxfam is particularly concerned with issues of land distribution and access to agricultural markets. Poor people in developing countries are expected to be particularly affected by climate change. Changing rainfall patterns will exacerbate water problems, both droughts and floods, encourage new pests, and lead to more serious natural disasters, an inequality known as “climate poverty.” In addition to calling for global reductions in climate-warming greenhouse gases, Oxfam is working with communities to better adapt and build resilience to climate change, as well as to protect their natural resources, through environmentally and socially responsible development.

Issues of equality

Oxfam has demanded that transnational corporations improve their policies and practices for the benefit of the developing countries in which they operate. Oxfam successfully lobbied the World Trade Organization to stop subsidizing the dumping of cheap exports on developing countries. In 2007, Oxfam was instrumental in brokering an agreement between Starbucks Coffee and the Ethiopian government for fairer prices for Ethiopian coffee-bean farmers.

Oxfam uses youth outreach to fight inequalities throughout the world, with programs to develop youth leadership, foster youth involvement in initiatives, and develop local and international networks. The Oxfam International Youth Partnership is a global network of youth in 150 countries working for initiatives to fight poverty and injustice.

Other major Oxfam issues include:

Campaigns

Oxfam International's major campaigns included:

Land grabs

In October 2012, Oxfam issued a major report on the global land rush. Although the world's farms produce enough food to feed 12 billion people, nearly one billion people are going hungry because of lack of access to land to grow food or lack of income to buy food. Rising food prices and competition for available resources are making the situation worse. Wealthy countries are currently buying or leasing large swaths of productive farmland in poor countries—the so-called land grab—and exporting the crops for profit. The land that has been sold off in the past decade could feed the one billion people who go hungry. A large proportion of these land sales have been to European and U.S. hedge funds and sovereign wealth funds from countries such as China and Saudi Arabia. Because of these land sales, poor farmers are being evicted. Oxfam has called on the World Bank to freeze its own land investments and to review its lending policies to prevent these land grabs.

KEY TERMS
Biofuels—
Liquid fuels from biomass, especially ethanol made from corn or sugarcane, and biodiesel from vegetable oils and animal fats.
Climate change—
The ongoing increase in average global temperatures due to the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels for energy production.
Famine—
A humanitarian crisis defined as the most severe stage of food insecurity.
Food security—
Access for all people at all times to the food required to lead a healthy and active life.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)—
Relief and development organizations that work independently of governments.
Oxfam America

National Oxfam organizations have their individual issues and priorities. Oxfam America, headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, maintains a policy and campaign office in Washington, DC, as well as seven regional offices around the globe. As of 2012, Oxfam America's issues included community finance, private sector engagement, access to medicines, fair trade, equality for women, water, worker' rights, insurance and rural resilience, and hunger and food security. The CHANGE initiative trains college students to become active in Oxfam America's social justice initiatives, developing leaders and inspiring global awareness.

Oxfam America's campaigns include:

The organization Charity Navigator has awarded Oxfam America four stars overall, with 60.31 points out of a possible 70. Oxfam America also received four stars for accountability and transparency with a score of 67.00 and three stars for financial performance with a score of 56.64.

See also Climate change ; Famine ; Drought ; Sanitation .

Resources

BOOKS

Berry, Craig. Globalisation and Ideology in Britain: Neoliberalism, Free Trade and the Global Economy. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2011.

Cornwall, Andrea, and Deborah Eade. Deconstructing Development Discourse: Buzzwords and Fuzzwords. Oxford, UK: Oxfam, 2010.

Ilcan, Suzan, and Anita Lacey. Governing the Poor: Exercises of Poverty Reduction, Practices of Global Aid. Montreal, ONT: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2011.

Merino, Noël. Health Care. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven, 2012.

Oxfam International. “Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Protection Will Be Challenges.” In Are Natural Disasters Increasing?, edited by Stefan Kiesbye. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven, 2010.

Tomalin, Emma. Gender, Faith, and Development. Oxford, UK: Oxfam, 2011.

Wilson, David, Kirsty Wilson, and Claire Harvey. Small Farmers, Big Change: Scaling Up Impact in Smallholder Agriculture. Oxford, UK: Oxfam, 2011.

Wilson, Kim, Malcolm Harper, and Matthew Griffith. Financial Promise for the Poor: How Groups Build Microsavings. Sterling, VA: Kumarian, 2010.

PERIODICALS

Strom, Stephanie. “Oxfam Urges U.S. Women to Pursue Efficiency in Food Use.” New York Times, July 18, 2012.

WEBSITES

Geary, Kate. “‘Our Land, Our Lives’ Time Out on the Global Land Rush.” Oxfam Briefing Note. http://www.oxfamamerica.org/files/our-land-our-lives.pdf (accessed October 11, 2012).

Philpott, Tom. “How Not to ‘Feed the World.’” Mother Jones, October 10, 2012. http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/10/want-feed-world-first-stop-landgrabs (accessed October 11, 2012).

ORGANIZATIONS

Charity Navigator, 139 Harristown Rd., Ste. 201, Glen Rock, NJ, 07452, (201) 818-1288, Fax: (201) 818-4694, info@charitynavigator.org, http://www.charitynavigator.org .

Oxfam America, 226 Causeway St., 5th Fl., Boston, MA, 02114-2206, (617) 482-121, Fax: (617) 728-2594, (800) 77-OXFAM (776-9326), http://www.oxfamamerica.org .

Oxfam International Secretariat, 266 Banbury Rd., Ste. 20, Oxford, UK, OX2 7DL, 44 865 339 100, Fax: 44 865 339 101, http://www.oxfam.org .

Margaret Alic, PhD

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.