January 14th, 2013 | by Jennifer Lentfer
Who are the real drivers of progress in the developing world?
I can tell you one thing—it’s not us.
But most international development organizations will not tell you that. Some will portray those they are trying to help by victimizing them, i.e. “look at these poor, suffering, devastated people.” Others will romanticize the poor, i.e. “despite having nothing, they are so happy” or “an entrepreneurial spirit is what keeps the poor alive.”
These reductionist perspectives may momentarily make us feel something, but without enabling the empathic concern to take the next step, they easily can do more harm than good. Many of my fellow aid bloggers have written over the years about the stark contrast between what their organizations have in their marketing campaigns and the complex reality of programs on the ground.
Aid need not be seen as the solution, but rather as one of many tools for those at the forefront of change to use. So we asked here on Oxfam America’s Aid Effectiveness and Creative teams, what would our depiction of effective aid look like then?
This week we embark on an effort to show what we mean to policy makers in Washington D.C. In DC’s airports, metro stations and publications, ads superimpose DC-insider buzzwords such as “job creator” and “beltway outsider” with decidedly non-DC imagery—people surrounded by fishing boats in Ghana, a plant nursery in Tanzania, a roadway in Malawi.
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January 4th, 2013 | by Anna Kramer
Photo: Brett Eloff/Oxfam America
Note: This post kicks off a new blog series for 2013 on the transformative power of photography. Each week we will highlight one outstanding Oxfam photo and share more information about the story behind the image. Your feedback and suggestions are welcome!
As the director of the Malawi Health Equity Network, Martha Kwaitane is leveraging a tiny investment of US foreign aid to improve rural people’s access to quality healthcare throughout Malawi.
If you live in Washington, DC, or visit in the city in the coming weeks, you might spot Brett Eloff’s portrait of Kwaitane, above, in the airport or on the Metro. She’s one of four inspiring leaders featured on a brand-new series of Oxfam billboards, which call on US legislators not to cut the global poverty-fighting assistance that helps people like Kwaitane transform their countries.
Read more about Martha Kwaitane and the billboards here.
February 24th, 2011 | by Coco McCabe
Meena Amirir says all human beings have the right to go to school. Photo by Louise Hancock/Oxfam
I can only begin to imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t know how to read, if books and a daily newspaper weren’t part of my diet, if I couldn’t decipher the train schedule or track the supermarket ads, if highway signs were incomprehensible and recipes were just a jumble of symbols. I’d feel trapped. And helpless.
What must the women in Afghanistan feel?
Just 12 percent of them over the age of 15 are literate. That means that countless women in one of the poorest nations in the world must depend on others to navigate much of their lives, a dependence that can’t help but weigh heavily on a country desperate for development. Read the rest of this entry »
June 10th, 2010 | by Guest Blogger
Kristina Field is Oxfam’s press officer for Aid Effectiveness.
Changing US policy is long-term work that can sometimes require years before we see any real impact in the lives of people living in poverty. It takes real dedication and patience on behalf of our supporters who help us advocate for this kind of change. That is why it is always so gratifying for us to share news when our government listens to Oxfamand our supportersand acts in ways that can reduce global poverty and elevate citizen participation.
Last week I attended a speech by Raj Shah, the new administrator for the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Held at the InterAction Forum in Washington, it was called “A New Direction for Foreign Assistance.” The room was packed with influential policymakers and development non-governmental organizations (NGOs), from CARE to Save the Children. When Shah took a moment in his speech to publicly acknowledge Oxfam’s Ownership in Practice reportwhich includes concrete recommendations for how US policy can be changed to provide transparent information to foreign assistance recipients, build capacity for effective states and civil society, and turn over control of development to recipient country leaders and their peopleI was proud to work for Oxfam.
As campaigners and NGO representatives, it can be a challenging process to get your voice heard on Capitol Hill. That is why Shah’s recognition of our report was both a win for Oxfam and a call for us to continue to do more.
As an organization, Oxfam America believes that to be truly effective at fighting global poverty, US foreign assistance must be driven by the needs and priorities of poor people themselves. At the end of the day, we do not do development; people develop themselves.
Afghans rebuild a road as part of an Oxfam GB/International cash-for-work scheme. Some interviewees critiqued USAID for its contracting system, which places too many tiers between contractors and Afghans like these. Photo by: Mohammed Salim / Oxfam.
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March 31st, 2010 | by Guest Blogger
Andy Charles Etienne and his daughter Christina at a camp for displaced people in Haiti. Photo by Liz Lucas/Oxfam America
This post is by Porter McConnell, an Oxfam policy advisor who focuses on aid effectiveness. Haiti has been on her mind a lot recently as attention has keyed in on how the US and other donors can help or hinder the Caribbean nation as it rebuilds itself after the January 12 earthquake.
Confronted with massive reconstruction following the January 12 earthquake, what do people in Haiti need most?
That’s the answer revealed in a new Oxfam-funded survey of more than 1,700 Haitians.
I’ve been thinking about that answer, and how it relates to all the ideas I heard at a panel discussion sponsored by Oxfam’s aid effectiveness team in Washington last week that focused on ways aid can help or hurt Haitians rebuild their country. Many of those ideas will get aired again at the UN today when international donors and government officials from Haiti meet to hash out next steps for the country.
But one idea stands above all the others: the need for Haitians to be in charge of rebuilding their country. Every one of the experts on the panel—including Haitian Ambassador Raymond Joseph, prominent Haitian Americans Paul Auxila and Joel Dreyfuss, and professor Robert Maguire–made that same point.
And they went further. They cautioned us not to think of Haiti as a blank slate. Read the rest of this entry »
March 17th, 2010 | by Elizabeth Stevens
In Fenadesal Sur, El Salvador, disaster preparedness is incorporated into a game of hopscotch. Photo by Claudia Barrientos
“Flooding…houses collapsed…community committee activated….evacuation…meeting point…shelter!”
On the hot pavement in the center of Fenadesal Sur, children lined up for a game of hopscotch, only this one had a twist: each time they paused to jump forward, they called out the next step in a journey from disaster to safety.
If their legs wobbled a little on the one-footed hops, their voices didn’t: the children knew the sequence by heart. In fact, some of them had lived it. When the rains of November 2009 swelled the river Acelhuate, more than 100 houses in this community were damaged, and 30 were destroyed. Many of these children lost their homes and are now living in a nearby shelter. Read the rest of this entry »
December 2nd, 2009 | by Coco McCabe
Raima's family has been displaced many times during the years of conflict in Afghanistan. Soon after they returned to Kabul in 2003, her husband was killed in a suicide attack. Photo by Ashley Jackson/Oxfam
In his address to the nation on Afghanistan last night, President Obama said the US will support ministries, governors, and local leaders that deliver for the Afghan people and combat corruption. For many Afghan civilians, the cost of war has meant ever deeper poverty with half of Afghans impoverished.
“We just finished a survey that went all around Afghanistan, including the insecure parts, 700 people in places like Kandahar and Helmand. They said their top issue in terms of what’s driving the insurgency is poverty followed by the weakness of the Karzai government, the corruption in Kabul,” said Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America’s vice president for policy and advocacy, in an interview Tuesday with CNN International’s Christiane Amanpour.
“If we do development well and we do it for its own sake, we may well end up with a safer Afghanistan, which is for everyone’s benefit,” O’Brien added.
Watch the full interview here.
July 23rd, 2009 | by Chris Hufstader
Since writing about President Obama’s speech in Ghana I have continued to see many fascinating comments about it rolling around the internet. The AfricaFocus web site has organized several reactions from Africa that are critical and very revealing. If you want some perspective on how Africans perceive their own challenges, and how they are reacting to the speech, check it out. Particularly notable are comments about how the US has failed to acknowledge its role in supporting dictators, influencing political transitions, and supporting conflicts during the Cold War. Firoz Manji of Pambazuka News noted this in a clever, alternative version of Obama’s speech called “Obama in Ghana: The speech he might have made.”
Trade came up in an editorial in Public Agenda in Accra, Ghana, which pointed out that “if the developed countries would open just three percent of their markets to African countries, these countries would earn more income from exports trade than the total foreign aid doled out to them in any given year. Mr. Obama shied away from the controversial issue of US farm subsidies which is killing small scale farmers, especially cotton farmers in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.” Oxfam has been pointing this fact out for years, so it was good to see that the idea about trade and subsidies are still relevant, especially to Africans who have so much to gain from trade.
So what are your reactions to Obama’s speech? And if you could rewrite it as Manji did, what would you say?
July 16th, 2009 | by Chris Hufstader
Pounding fufu (boiled cassava, a staple food) in a small village in central Ghana. Most of the people in this area grow cocoa and make a decent living, but in other parts of the country a large percentage of the population live on less than $1 a day. Photo by Chris Hufstader/Oxfam America.
Barack Obama made his first trip to Africa as President of the United States, and his speech last week in Accra was the talk of Africa and much of the world. When we looked at it here in the office, a colleague said to me, “It’s almost as if Obama works for Oxfam.” He worked through a number of Africa’s challenges and many of his recommendations were aligned with those Oxfam makes on the same issues.
But the speech was also interesting for another reason: It’s always hard for someone from the US to confront Africans about problems on their continent. Read the rest of this entry »
April 1st, 2009 | by Coco McCabe
Oxfam launched this message for ministers meeting in The Hague. Photo by Ton Vrijenhoek
When dozens of ministers from countries around the world met in The Hague yesterday to talk about the future of Afghanistan, the fate of 8.5 million people hung in the air. That’s the number of Afghans who face chronic uncertainty about whether they will have enough to eat. Already the health of more than a million young children and 500,000 women is at risk because of malnutrition.
Those numbers hit hard when you weigh them against the findings in a new field report from Afghanistan produced by Oxfam America. The report says that the US spends 20 times more in military activities and operations in the country than it does on development. And the money that does go to development isn’t always well coordinated: The report cited one case of two separate contractors, both funded by USAID who, by chance, discovered they were doing almost the same project in the same place. Read the rest of this entry »