Finding lasting solutions to poverty and injustice.
Present in 98 countries worldwide.
In many ways, Oxfam encapsulates in one organization the various functions of a modern NGO. It engages in humanitarian work, assisting those immediately affected by conflict and natural disasters. It implements development programs, seeking to lift communities out of poverty with long-term, sustainable solutions. It lobbies and advocates, in a bid to affect policy decisions on the causes of conflict at local, national, and international levels. It undertakes in-depth and rigorous research into best practices and structural challenges. And it does all of these things effectively and to the highest standards.
Though Oxfam International was founded as recently as 1995, when a group of independent NGOs came together to achieve greater impact on the international stage in reducing poverty and injustice, the organization traces its roots to the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, established in Britain in 1942. This group campaigned for food supplies to be sent through an allied naval blockade to starving women and children in enemy-occupied Greece during World War II, but by 1960 had already grown into a major international actor.
Today, Oxfam has a presence in nearly 100 countries, working closely with thousands of local partner organizations. A single-minded commitment to the eradication of poverty worldwide underpins all activities it pursues, whether relief, development or advocacy oriented. Within this framework, the organization has recently identified four key ‘change goals’, to guide its work up to 2012: economic justice, essential services, rights in crisis and gender justice.
These priorities are evident across a number of recent Oxfam activities. In Nepal, the organization is working with people from the Dhola community to build their first-ever community seed and grain bank, addressing long-term food security and enabling them to better take advantage of fluctuating market prices. In Haiti, Oxfam responded to the devastating earthquake by providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene training, temporary shelter and seeds, and organizing cash for work and cash grants programs – reaching over 300,000 people. On the humanitarian front, Oxfam has set a goal of becoming the leading international NGO working on water, sanitation and hygiene promotion.
Perhaps the most ambitious recent initiative the organization has launched is its worldwide campaign for a ‘Financial Transaction Tax’. Known variously as the ‘Robin Hood tax’ or ‘tax against poverty’, this small levy on bankers would be used to fund poverty relief and other programs globally. With its combination of passion and practicality, the initiative captures in a nutshell the qualities that have led to Oxfam’s success.
(Photo © Oxfam)