Oxford Committee for Famine Relief

Oxford Committee for Famine Relief - Comments

1) The mission

-From emergency to development, Oxfam-UK offers multidisciplinary services. While SCF specialised in the health sector, the organisation is well known for its expertise in water and sanitation. Since the beginning of the 1990s, Oxfam-UK also got involved in peace building and some mediation procedures, for instance in Kenyan pastoral areas, where it tries to settle conflicts, and Chigorodó, a war-torn municipality in Colombia where it helps Indian displaced farmers to create “peace communities”. Likewise, Oxfam-Australia intervenes between rival groups in the Solomon Islands and manages an ombudsman to defend the rights of third world populations against mining companies.
-Generally speaking, Oxfam-International’s movement deals with the promotion of civic, political, social and cultural rights in developing countries. In Great Britain, for instance, the organisation does advocacy work and is close to Amnesty International, from which 12% of the British section members give money to Oxfam-UK according to Grant Jordan and William Maloney. In the beginning of the 1970s, the Oxford Committee even faced an internal crisis on the issue because it gave up most of its relief operations in order to raise the awareness of developed countries about third world problems. Likewise, CAA decided in 1973 to give 10% of its financial resources to such educational programmes, especially for the youth in Australia. Since then, the movement does not focus any more on needs only, but on rights as well, especially with NOVIB and Oxfam-Solidarité. In many cases, the promotion of human rights consists in supporting specialised NGOs, such as CODEH (Comité para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de Honduras) in Honduras, CALDH (Centro de Acción Legal para Derechos Humanos) in Guatemala, ADHOC (Association des Droits de l’Homme et du Développement du Cambodge) in Cambodia or LDH (Lembaga Bantuan Hukum) in Indonesia. The latter, for example, defends individuals who are selected according to their low revenue and to the nature of the prejudice they suffered from public institutions or companies: torture, physical insecurity, sexual discrimination, economical exploitation, destruction of housing, land expropriation, environmental damages, violations of the freedom of speech, opinion or association…
-Historically speaking, Oxfam always swung between emergency and development. At first, the Oxford Committee started with relief programmes in Europe during the Second World War. Later on, in the 1960s and 1970s, it got involved in the third world and moved towards development, giving priority to rural areas against slums in order to slow down the urban sprawl of agglomerations which were too dependent on food importations. But in the 1980s, the Cambodian and Ethiopian crises induced Oxfam-UK to go back to basic humanitarian assistance. Therefore, the part devoted to emergencies rose up again, reaching 35% of the operational expenditures in 1982. As for CAA in Australia, it followed a quite similar trend and created a crisis response unit in 1986.
-Geographically speaking, Oxfam-UK initially worked in Europe and the former British colonial empire because the Soviet bloc and countries like China or Indonesia refused its aid. Afterwards, the movement’s influence spread thanks to the internationalisation of the organisation and the end of the Cold War. For instance, Oxfam, through its Hong Kong section, could start for the first time a development project in communist China amongst yak breeders on the Tibetan plateau in 1996. However, the organisation still focuses on Africa South of the Sahara, which receives up to one third of Oxfam-International’s programmes (36% in 2006, 39% in 2003, 38% in 2002, 38% in 2001, 37% in 2000, 32% in 1999, 46% in 1997), against one fifth for Latin America and the Caribbean (12% in 2006, 17% in 2003, 19% in 2002, 20% in 2001, 21% in 2000, 23% in 1999, 24% in 1997), one fifth for Asia (32% in 2006, 20% in 2003, 21% in 2002, 24% in 2001, 21% in 2000, 19% in 1999, 20% in 1997), and one tenth for East Europe (2% in 2006, 5% in 2003, 5% in 2002, 6% in 2001, 10% in 2000, 16% in 1999, 7% in 1997) and for the Middle-East (3% in 2006, 5% in 2003, 5% in 2002, 4% in 2001, 3% in 2000, 3% in 1999, 2% in 1997). According to a kind of geographical division, the different sections of the movement now share the work: the Dutch of NOVIB are very present in Indonesia; the Spanish of Intermón in Latin America; Oxfam Hong Kong in China, etc.