November 10th, 2010 | by Zeenat Potia
To get the full story of President Obama’s recent visit to my home city, Mumbai, I knew at once to call a reliable source on the ground—my mom. She exclaimed that taxi drivers and families eager to celebrate Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, were bemoaning the restrictions on the roads due to strict security measures in this city of over 21 million.
Despite those grumblings, Obama received a warm welcome on his three day visit, and several news reports lauded the special friendship between Obama and India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. This friendship is certainly to be lauded because of the mutual benefit it could have for two of the world’s largest democracies in terms of security and growth.
However, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that India continues to face severe challenges posed by widespread poverty and unequal access to limited resources: A third of the world’s poorest people live in India, for example, and half of its children are malnourished.
Read the rest of this entry »
January 16th, 2010 | by Coco McCabe
Even before a massive earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, hardship filled the lives of many people in the western hemisphere’s poorest country. But Sophia Lafontant, a senior organizer and training specialist for Oxfam America whose extended family lives in the country, knows—and loves—another Haiti. It’s one the rest of the world can’t easily see through all the stereotyping, a place captured by a saying that has come back to her frequently during these terrible days since the disaster.
Haiti, goes the saying, is like bamboo: it’s small but strong.
In this audio interview, Sophia talks about a country where an entrepreneurial spirit and warm relationships define its people.
December 18th, 2009 | by Guest Blogger
From Heather Coleman, senior policy advisor at Oxfam America.
We at Oxfam have joined the world in waiting for an agreed upon outcome to be announced today in Copenhagen. It’s possible that negotiators will need to stay through the weekend to hammer out the details based on what heads of state agree upon today.
Today’s meetings between heads of state are unprecedented. Few of us can remember a time when world leaders were called in to the negotiating table without a deal already having been struck. In fact, the Brazilian President Luiz Lula da Silva voiced his frustration in being called in to negotiating sessions that ended past 2:00 am last night and noted that it reminded him of his early years as a trade union negotiator. It’s not all that often that heads of state get pulled into such mayhem.
Much of the focus continues to be on the US and China as President Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao work through some of the remaining issues regarding emissions reduction commitments, the transparency of reporting, and finance.
The positive sign is that so many world leaders (more than 110) have come together in Copenhagen to tackle the issue of climate change. Regardless of the agreed upon outcome in Copenhagen, there’s global momentum at the highest levels to help propel us towards a fair, ambitious, and binding outcome.
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 »
July 9th, 2009 | by Guest Blogger
Gawain Kripke is Oxfam America’s policy director focusing on hunger and food issues. At the G8 summit he’s lobbying government officials and talking to journalists to keep the pressure on for action.
Intrigue is building on what, exactly, will be promised on hunger at the G8 summit. For weeks the rumors have floated that President Obama wanted to make a major announcement at the G8 on the issue of hunger. His staff said that he wanted to focus on aid to small farmers to help them grow their way out of poverty and feed themselves. It’s exciting and very welcome coming on the news that the world faces a sad milestone in 2009: This year more than 1 billion people will face hunger. That’s more hungry people than ever in human history. Read the rest of this entry »
May 27th, 2009 | by Coco McCabe
An old friend from my newspapering days came for supper the other night. Inevitably, the talk turned to the demise of the ink-on-paper news industry and what its collapse is going to mean for all of us. Trouble, I think—the kind we can hardly fathom here in the US where our right to be informed feels like part of our genetic code.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that right—and the healthy habits of questioning and challenging that it feeds—since Oxfam colleagues from Africa, South America, and Central America arrived in Boston last week for a communications workshop. Part of the workshop focused on pitching stories to the media—a delicate undertaking in countries where governments would just as soon have the public remain in the dark and there is no such thing as a free press. There are some things you just can’t say publicly, said one of my African counterparts, no matter how truthful it is. Read the rest of this entry »
April 3rd, 2009 | by Coco McCabe
It’s gray and gloomy here in Boston today. We’re socked in and can barely see what’s happening across the street, let alone what’s happening across the Atlantic. But it’s big. The headlines say so: The fog may finally be lifting. Read the rest of this entry »
March 3rd, 2009 | by Coco McCabe
Poking around the ReliefWeb site the other day, I stumbled on its analytics page—the place where it lists how many visitors come to the site and the kinds of information they might find there. Administered by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ReliefWeb bills itself as a global hub for people who need—or want—to find out what’s happening with humanitarian emergencies around the world. And guess what? In an age of supposed “compassion fatigue,” the number of visitors to the site climbed by 10 percent last year. Read the rest of this entry »
November 7th, 2008 | by Coco McCabe
The day after the most incredible election in my lifetime, I flew to Washington, DC, for an all-day meeting in a windowless room. I was a little sorry not to be at the Oxfam office in Boston where I knew feelings had run deep and strong about the course history could take on Nov. 4, and on Nov. 5, I wanted to be able to mark that moment with my cube mates—several of whom are former reporters like me.
But I got my jolt of joy: When the meeting finally ended and I wandered out into the DC dusk, the first thing I noticed was a huge line that had formed across the street. What were they waiting for? The Washington Post—with election and elation all bundled together for take-home commemoration. Roaring across the top of the fold was this headline: “Obama Makes History.” I got in line for my copy, thrilled to be in the nation’s capital with hordes of people lining up to get their news fix in a country where freedom of the press ensures us freedom to make historic electoral choices.
And in a bit of irony, you know what hard copies of historic headlines are selling for a few days later? eBay has copies of the New York Times on the market for $100 each. How American is that?