Oxford Committee for Famine Relief

Oxford Committee for Famine Relief - History


-From 1950, Hong Kong: Oxfam-UK helps refugees who flee Communist China or War-torn Korea. In 1965, the Committee also begins to support family planning programmes to reduce the demographic pressure exerted on the small British colony. In Oxford, such a decision arouses controversies with religious volunteers: some Catholics resign to protest against a policy which, according to them, favours the right to abortion. Two years later, Oxfam-UK stops its activities in Hong Kong. However, it leaves a legacy: in 1976, a small group of volunteers establishes a fundraising centre which becomes an operational association recognized by the authorities in 1988 and chaired by Ian Anderson. Tanks to financial resources which increase fourfold between 1993 and 2003, this organization, OHK (Oxfam-Hong Kong), works mainly in Asia and Communist China. It starts its first project in 1988, in Guangdong province, and opens an office in Peking in 2001, after the reunification of Hong Kong and Mainland China in 1997.
-1951-1954, South Korea: while American and Chinese troops fight each other, Oxfam does not succeed in finding local partners and its parcels of clothes have to be sent by post. In 1954, the organization also funds a Salvation Army programme to feed children in Seoul.
-1952-1958, Italy: with the YMCA (Young Men's Christian Alliance), Oxfam helps Yugoslav refugees of San Sabba Camp in Trieste and organises their holidays in Venice.
-From 1953, Australia: affiliated to the Oxfam movement in 1972 and a founding member of Oxfam-International in 1995, CAA (Community Aid Abroad) is created in 1953, in Melbourne, by an Anglican priest, Gerard Kennedy Tucker, and volunteers such as Muriel Bennett, Jean Mackenzie and Bess Pitman. Known as “Food for Peace Campaign” until September 1962, it raises funds amongst churchgoers, organizes marches against hunger and becomes operational during the following decade. Directed by Gerard Kennedy Tucker from 1960, David Scott from 1962, Jim Webb from 1970, Adrian Harris from 1975, Harry Martin from 1979, Michael Henry from 1985 and David Armstrong from 1987 until 1992, it has 80 employees in 1989, against 8 in 1971, and its budget increases from 43,000 dollars in 1963 to 120,000 in 1965, 189,000 in 1967, 285,000 in 1970, 319,000 in 1971, 569,000 in 1973, 751,000 in 1975, 857,000 in 1977 and 1,560,000 in 1979, when CAA gets its first governmental subsidy (for programmes in Cambodia). From 1960 until 1971, India is the main beneficiary of its aid. The organization then widens its scope towards Southeast Asia, with the Cambodian crisis of 1979, and later on towards Africa, with the Ethiopian famine of 1985. In 1989, 44% of its expenses overseas go to Africa, against 35% to Asia and only 3% to the neighbouring Pacific Islands despite (or because of) the influence of Australia in Oceania. After various setbacks, CAA wants to stop participating in big governmental co-operation projects and withdraws from Central America and the Horn of Africa in 2002. Consequently, its programmes overseas are reduced and fall from 83% of its expenses in 1965 to 70% in 1990. Under the leadership of Andrew Hewett, it rather works in Australia with Aboriginal populations and militates against the expulsion of asylum seekers to Nauru and Papua New Guinea in 2001. CAA eventually merges in 1992 with the Australian Freedom from Hunger Campaign, which dates from 1961, and takes the name of Oxfam-Australia in 2005.
-1954-1964, Kenya: Oxfam-UK funds relief programmes during the Mau Mau rebellion against the British colonial rule. In 1961, two years before independence, the Committee also sends food to 12,000 Turkana cattle breeders who were victims of drought and resettled in Ferguson Camp on Rudolf Lake. As an alternative to relief and rearing, Oxfam-UK attempts to develop fish farming with a co-operative established for the Turkana in 1964. Under the aegis of Michael Harris, its first Director of Overseas Operations and a former civil servant in Malawi, the Oxford Committee progressively focuses on the black continent. At the end of the 1980s, as far as two thirds of Oxfam-UK’s operational expenses will be spent in Africa South of the Sahara, against one third in 1982 and a half during the following decades, i.e. 62% in 1989, 61% in 1990, 53% in 1991, 49% in 1993, 58% in 1994, 48% in 1995, 57% in 1996, 60% in 1997, 36% in 1998, 41% in 1999, 49% in 2000, 46% in 2001 and 47% in 2002.
-From 1955, Vietnam: after the French colonizer was defeated by the Communists in the North, Oxfam-UK sends food to the South. Its relief is first shared out by the British embassy in Saigon, then by an American NGO, CRS (Catholic Relief Services). From 1964 on, the intensification of the fighting and the landing of American troops hinder development programmes. CAA, for instance, funds only one project in Saigon in 1969 and refuses to be subsidized by its own government, for Australia takes part to the war against the North. Oxfam-UK eventually has to evacuate Saigon because of the Communists victory in 1975. From 1979 onwards, the Oxford Committee then helps the boat people who flee the new Vietnamese regime and end up in a desolated island, Bidong, when they are turned away from Malaysia. As for Oxfam-America, it tries to collaborate with the Communists in Hanoi. In January 1982, for instance, the organization intends to give seeds to a co-operative in Tich Giang near the capital-city. But its programmes are entirely controlled by the local authorities and often blocked because of the American embargo against Hanoi. According to Joel Charney and John Spragens, Washington rejects three out of five requests by Oxfam-America to be allowed to export goods to Vietnam between 1982 and 1983. It is only when Hanoi begins to relax its economic policy (doi moi) in 1986 that the various sections of Oxfam start to come back in the country. Yet their activities still have to be controlled by the authorities, including a governmental programme funded by the Oxford Committe against malaria in the Kyanh district of Nghe Tinh province in 1989.
-1956, Hungary: Oxfam helps refugees who flee the Soviet repression in Budapest. At that time, Europe still captures most of the organization’s relief services, up to 52% in 1957.
-1956, Holland: affiliated to the Oxfam movement in 1994, an Organization for International Development Co-operation, NOVIB (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Internationale Bijstand), is founded on the 23rd of March 1956 by NGOs and political parties. Very close to the powers that be, the structure is first chaired by Prince Consort Bernhard Peter zur Lippe-Biesterfeld (1911-2004), and serves as the operational branch of the Dutch governmental co-operation. However, the institutionalization of the organization eventually arouses criticisms. Six Christian NGOs withdraw from NOVIB in 1994 because too much time is dedicated to fundraising instead of programmes abroad.
-1957-1962, Algeria: in Morocco and Tunisia, Oxfam helps refugees who fled to escape the repression of the French army in Algeria. After independence and the departure of the colonizer in 1962, the Committee also funds nutritional programmes with the White Fathers.
-From 1958, Great Britain: Oxfam establishes a non-profit company so as to fund its programmes overseas. The objective is to avoid gifts in kind which are often useless and which do not provide anymore the majority of the Committee’s financial resources after 1958. In the same vein, the organization creates a commercial structure in 1965 to sell craftwork from the third world. In 1975, again, Oxfam opens a waste-recycling unit in a former textile factory in Huddersfield, where it employs a hundred people, especially the youth. To strengthen its financial basis, the organization also tries to reduce fiscal pressure and is exempted from the VAT (Value Added Tax), which is introduced in Great Britain in 1973. Through lobbying the Parliament, the Rating (Charity Shops) Act of 1976 allows Oxfam shops to pay only half of their license as long as they are specialised in and sell a majority of second-hand products.
-From 1959, Great Britain: Richard Exley, a conscientious objector who works in Oxfam, starts to organize the Pledged Gift Scheme to raise funds in the streets or in working places. Going hand in hand with a growing media coverage of humanitarian actions, the result is impressive, as the financial resources of the Oxford Committee increase from £600,000 in 1958 to £1 million in 1959, £1.4 million in 1960, £1.6 million in 1961, £2.2 millions in 1962, £2.8 millions in 1963, £2.5 millions in 1964, £2.5 millions in 1965, £3 millions in 1967, £3.5 millions in 1968 and £3.3 millions in 1969. To avoid competition and the so-called donors fatigue, Oxfam-UK then tries to regulate fundraising through a Disaster Emergency Committee which is established in London in 1963 with Christian Aid, the British Red Cross, Save the Children and War on Want. This venture launches campaigns on an ad hoc basis and shares out its revenues between its members according to their involvement in a humanitarian crisis. It is quite successful and will be joined by ActionAid, the CAFOD, CARE International, the Christian Children’s Fund, Children’s Aid Direct, Concern, Help the Aged, Merlin, Tearfund and World Vision.