Oxfam’s mission is to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice. We uphold human rights and help people engage directly in the crucial decisions that affect their lives. An end to poverty is more than wishful thinking: the proportion of the world’s people who are living in extreme poverty has been halved in just 15 years.
Long-term change, however, requires more than vision; it demands persistence. Oxfam’s mission doesn’t shift in response to political campaigns or public opinion. Although 2016’s US presidential election was contentious—characterized by ugly public rhetoric—we stood firm. Rather than retreat in response to attacks on our values, we believe that the challenges we face make Oxfam’s mission more relevant than ever.
Oxfam believes in a world that provides opportunity for all. Fundamentally, we recognize the power of people to overcome poverty. All of us—those of us living in poverty and those who do not—have a role to play. Ending poverty and injustice requires upholding human and political rights. We believe that governments must protect these rights for all and we must hold our governments accountable to ensure that the interests of corporations and the wealthiest are not favored over the interests of the rest of us. Leaders must, without equivocation, advocate for all and must condemn words and acts that infringe on the rights of any member of our society.
Oxfam has a long history of working effectively in a pluralistic America. Regardless of who holds power, we hew to the values that are at the very center of our work: inclusion and nondiscrimination across race, religion, and gender; and our collective moral obligation to tackle economic inequality and climate change, challenge the private sector to work for the benefit of all, and protect the most vulnerable among us. Women and girls lie at the heart of all we do.
“America First” foreign policy rhetoric flies in the face of Oxfam’s values. The moral poverty of the America First idea lies in the false choice it presents: are you a part of the American family or the human family? America First insists that we cannot feel national pride if we also feel allegiance to humanity. Our humanitarian ideals, our diverse faith traditions, and our experience of international cooperation tell us that this is wrong and dangerous.
The America First rhetoric scapegoats globalism. This may be an easy message to sell—one that satisfies our tribal passions—but it will do little to address the practical grievances that many Americans have rightfully expressed. We must work to advance the cause of justice-driven internationalism. We acknowledge the unique responsibility that the US government has to protect and represent US citizens even as we work to advance the global good. Much as individuals looking out for their neighbors or cities are concerned about the states and countries of which they are a part, we do not see the contradiction in an identity that accommodates both US and global citizenship.
That is why Oxfam America is prioritizing work on issues that are most threatening to the well-being of those of us living in poverty both here and abroad:
Inequality: We fight for a more human economy that works for everyone, not just the 1 percent. Extreme inequality drives people into poverty. We fight for fair wages for workers so that they can break the cycle of poverty. We fight to reform policies that disproportionately benefit corporations and the very wealthy at the expense of everyone else. We fight for an end to discrimination of all kinds, which perpetuates inequality and poverty.
Climate change: We fight to protect the most vulnerable people around the world from climate change. These are often the people who have done the least to contribute to climate change, but are most affected. We demand that our leaders in the US recognize that climate change is a real global threat, and we call on these leaders to uphold our international commitments. Fighting global climate change simply cannot happen without the United States.
Threats to minorities, refugees, and immigrants: We work to ensure that the United States remains a safe and welcoming home for all its citizens and for immigrants—regardless of gender, race, national origin, religion, or sexual orientation. We work to ensure the United States is a safe home for refugees fleeing from strife. This is not the time to close our hearts, our minds, or our borders.
Oxfam America will hold our leaders accountable and will fight to protect the poor and most vulnerable people we serve—around the world and in the US. We will stand up for what is right, what is fair, and what is just. We will act now and for the long term.