Oxfam America

oxfam_logo.pngOxfam America is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice. Together with individuals and local groups in more than 120 countries, Oxfam saves lives, helps people overcome poverty, and fights for social justice.

Rising to the humanitarian challenge in Iraq

Armed violence is the greatest threat facing Iraqis, but the population is also experiencing another kind of crisis of an alarming scale and severity. Eight million people are in urgent
need of emergency aid; that figure includes over two million who are displaced within the country, and more than two million refugees. Many more are living in poverty, without basic services, and increasingly threatened by disease and malnutrition. Despite the constraints imposed by violence, the government of Iraq, the United Nations, and international donors can do more to deliver humanitarian assistance to reduce unnecessary suffering. If people’s basic needs are left unattended, this will only serve to further destabilise the country.

The Gaza Strip: The Humanitarian Implosion

The situation for 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is worse now than it has ever been since the start of the Israeli militar y occupation in 1967. The current situation in Gaza is man-made, completely avoidable and, with the necessar y political will, can also be reversed.

Gaza has suffered from a long-term pattern of economic stagnation and plummeting development indicators. The severity of the situation has increased exponentially since Israel imposed extreme restrictions on the movement of goods and people in response to the Hamas take over of Gaza and to indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israel. This repor t illustrates the gravity of the current situation across key sectors.

All costs, no benefits

The USA continues to impose TRIPS-plus rules on developing countries, thus preventing poor people from accessing inexpensive, generic medicines. Jordan was required under the terms of its WTO accession package and its free trade agreement (FTA) with the USA to introduce TRIPS-plus rules. Medicine prices have increased drastically, and TRIPS-plus rules were partly responsible for this increase. Furthermore, stricter levels of intellectual property protection have conferred few benefits with respect to foreign direct investment, domestic research and development, or accelerating introduction of new, effective medicines. Medicine prices will continue to rise in Jordan, but the country will be unable to use TRIPS safeguards to reduce their cost. Other developing countries implementing or considering FTAs with TRIPS-plus rules should consider the consequences for public health.

Song of the Sirens

US free trade agreements with Peru and Colombia, as well as the possible agreement with Ecuador, were negotiated under the promise of great opportunities in the world’s richest market, but the truth is that these agreements will have a devastating impact on the livelihoods of small farmers, public health, and the regulation of investment to protect the public interest. Furthermore, they will weaken existing regional processes of integration and co-operation. Trade rules with the Andean region need to be substantially modified in order for development to
become a priority once again.

Impacts of Reductions in US Cotton Subsidies on West African Cotton Producers

Oxfam America’s campaign to reform US trade-distorting commodity subsidies rests on two basic premises.  The first premise is that trade-distorting commodity subsidies lead to additional production of cotton, which lowers the world price for cotton.  The negative relationship between cotton subsidies and the world price of cotton is well established (despite ongoing debate over the magnitude of the price effect) and Alston and Brunke (2006) provide updated estimates using 2004-2005 as a baseline.  The second premise is that lower world cotton prices harm cotton farmers in West Africa and elsewhere. Between 2 million and 3 million farms in West Africa rely on cotton as their main source of cash income, and they compete directly with subsidized US cotton.  Not surprisingly then, lower world cotton prices harm millions of households and more than 10 million people across the region.   

Forgotten Communities, Unmet Promises: An unfolding tragedy on the Gulf Coast

One year ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, elected officials at all levels pledged bold new action and committed to righting inequities as devastated communities rebuilt—better, safer, with more access to opportunity than before. However, despite their pledges that the most vulnerable citizens would get the help they needed to reclaim their lives and livelihoods, lawmakers have lacked the political will to turn their rhetoric into action.

Adaptation 101: How climate change hurts poor communities—and how we can help

Over the course of hundreds of years, poor people have developed ways of coping with changing weather conditions. When torrential rains drench the flood plains surrounding the Mekong River, rice farmers turn to fishing instead. When rainfall levels fall in the Sahel, farmers cultivate drought-resistant crops like millet and black-eyed peas. And where water is always hard to come by in the dry, mountainous areas of the Middle East, local people use traditional, though labor-intensive, techniques to harvest water from the canyons, valleys, and slopes.

After the cyclone: lessons from a disaster

The serious humanitarian crisis that Cyclone Sidr left in its wake in November 2007 prompted an immediate national and international reaction. The government of Bangladesh,7 Bangladesh armed forces, civil society, and hundreds of thousands of volunteers moved with speed and commitment to mobilise a massive humanitarian response to the disaster.

Planning for the emergency was already well under way before Cyclone Sidr ever struck land: early-warning systems and disaster-preparedness measures allowed a reported 3,000,000 people to evacuate low-lying coastal areas8 and local government officials and NGOs to rapidly move contingency stocks from neighbouring districts into the areas of anticipated impact. 

Smart Development: Why US foreign aid demands major reform

Half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. This is a human rights crisis. For US policy makers, however, it is also a national security concern. They recognize that persistent deep poverty and injustice can alienate populations from states, increase the risk of civil conflict, and erode weak states’ capacity to govern, providing space for domestic and transnational security threats. To tackle these threats, US policy makers and analysts are increasingly calling for the use of “smart power,” combining the hard power of the military with the soft power of US diplomatic and development efforts.

Signing Away The Future

The quiet advance of trade and investment agreements between rich and poor countries threatens to deny developing countries a favourable foothold in the global economy. Driven by the USA and the European Union, these agreements impose far-reaching rules that place severe restrictions on the very policies developing countries need in order to fight poverty.

Shut Out: How US farm programs fail minority farmers

The current Farm Bill represents a broken promise to America’s rural communities— particularly African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian farmers and ranchers. US farm policies have created a faulty system that favors big farms over small farms, rewards overproduction of commodity crops instead of conservation and diversified perations, and disproportionately benefits white farmers over producers of color. Reauthorization of the Farm Bill, which is currently being debated in Congress, provides a rare chance to make sure that African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian farmers and ranchers get the kind of support they have failed to receive for so long.

Farm Bill 101: A quick and easy guide to understanding the Farm Bill

The Farm Bill is a law renewed every five years that governs our federal farm, food, and conservation policy. It is very broad legislation, affecting the availability of food stamps for low-income families; the research agenda for public agricultural research; investments in food safety; economic development in rural areas; efforts to conserve our soil, rivers, and forests; and government support to the people who grow and harvest our food. Though titled a “Farm” Bill, it actually affects the lives of every American, whether they live in a rural community or big city.

Financing adaptation: why the UN’s Bali Climate Conference must mandate the search for new funds

Oxfam estimates that adapting to climate change in developing countries is likely to cost at least $50bn each year, and far more if global greenhouse-gas emissions are not cut fast enough. Yet international funding efforts to date have been woeful. In the year that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its direst warnings to date of the impacts of climate change on vulnerable developing countries, the rich and high-polluting countries increased their contribution to the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) for urgent adaptation needs by a mere $43m. This brings the total pledged to $163m – less than half of what the UK is investing in cooling the London Underground. Worse, only $67m has actually been delivered to the Fund – that’s less than what people in the USA spend on suntan lotion in one month.

Disasters increase as climate change bites

Climatic disasters are increasing as temperatures climb and rainfall intensifies. A rise in small- and medium-scale disasters is a particularly worrying trend. Yet even extreme weather need not bring disasters; it is poverty and powerlessness that make people vulnerable. Though more emergency aid is needed, humanitarian response must do more than save lives: it has to link to climate change adaptation and bolster poor people’s livelihoods through social protection and disaster risk reduction approaches.