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Oxfam is not in need of a workout

September 16th, 2010 by Posted in English

Oxfam CEO Barbara Stocking responds to a blog by Larry Elliott, It’s time to get tough on aid”, in which he suggests that aid agencies have gone “soft and flabby”.

Larry Elliott’s suggestion that agencies have become soft and flabby is wrong. We respect his vigilance in holding global agencies to account and share his concern that poor people’s voices must be heard now more than ever while they are vulnerable to global economic slumps. But believe me, Oxfam is in peak health.

We are proud to be front and centre in the global movement to end poverty. Last year our campaign on the human impact of climate change mobilised and raised the voices of one and a half million poor people around the world in climate change hearings. And who could forget the biggest climate change march in British history the UK agencies organised last year?

Raising voices: Climate change hearings were conducted in Malawi last year, where Caroline Malema (pictured here with her children) spoke about how her life has been affected by the changing climate. Photograph: Nicole Johnston/Oxfam

Raising voices: Climate change hearings were conducted in Malawi last year, where Caroline Malema (pictured here with her children) spoke about how her life has been affected by the changing climate. Photograph: Nicole Johnston/Oxfam

After decades of campaigning for governments to commit 0.7 per cent of national income to overseas aid, we have secured the UK Government’s welcome commitment. Oxfam is now campaigning to ensure that UK aid is focused on poverty reduction and kept separate from the National Security budget. We’ve made clear our dismay over leaked DFID plans to drop policies Oxfam and others have long pushed for such as the abolition of user fees in health and education. Oxfam’s campaign persists in France, Germany and the US where there is growing danger of these governments reneging on their overseas aid commitments. To imply that Oxfam is shouting from the sidelines also severely underestimates our parallel quiet diplomacy at country, national, regional and global levels.

Times are changing and so has the face of campaigning. Million man marches and petitions now need to be complemented with other tools in the box. Oxfam continues to harness people’s passion on global poverty using popular mobilisation but also uses tactics that recognise the reality of the global economic recession and fresh advocacy opportunities in an increasingly multi-polar world.

Facing the economic downturn head on, Oxfam has spearheaded a constructive funding alternative by taking the idea of a bankers tax, the Robin Hood Tax, from the economic wilderness to the mainstream of European and global politics. This tax on banks and the financial sector could raise at least £20bn in the UK to help poor people and protect services at home and abroad. And as the G20 nations gain a foothold in international negotiations, our global movement of dedicated individuals gives Oxfam the unique ability to focus our campaigning muscle in the increasingly influential BRICSAM countries of Brazil, India, China, South Africa and Mexico. With our help, bloggers from around the world are taking part in key summits, including next week’s MDG Summit, as citizen journalists.

We are as focused as we’ve ever been. Our ambition to raise the voices of poor people worldwide and save lives is steadfast. “Soft and flabby” is not the Oxfam I know.

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