1. Research

    Funding the Localization Agenda: Measuring progress of United States development and humanitarian assistance to local organizations

    This research report challenges USAID’s self-reported progress on its localization goals. The Oxfam research builds upon “Metrics Matter,” a report by Publish What You Fund, that looks at 10 countries that are recipients of USAID funding, and how much of that funding flows directly to local actors. Oxfam used the methodology developed by Publish What You Fund and the same source data, to analyze USAID funding to an additional eight countries between 2019 and 2021.

    In 2021, USAID set an ambitious goal of ensuring that 25% of its funding went to local organizations by 2025. In 2022, it released its first progress report, in which it defined critical terms such as “local,” and outlined how it would measure progress. The percentage of funding to local organizations would be measured by dividing the amount of funding given to local organizations by the total amount of funding given by USAID globally.

    Oxfam contends that USAID’s definition of local and what it left out from its total funding (UN projectized funding), inflates USAID’s progress to date. Using a narrower definition of local and including all USAID funding as the denominator, the report found that USAID had only given 4% of its funding to local actors, versus USAID’s calculation of 7.3% from 2019-2021. This not only detracts from its goal of funding local organizations, but it also sets up a reverse incentive for international organizations to adapt their organizational criteria to meet the USAID definition in order to qualify as local.

    The report argues that if USAID is to realize the vision it has articulated, it must adopt a narrower definition of local and include all funds directed by USAID in its total funds figure. Progress might appear slower, but if USAID is to truly “provide development assistance to help partner countries on their own development journey to self-reliance” (USAID's "about us" language), this is a better path.

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  2. Research

    Exposed and Unprotected: The threat posed by climate change to U.S. agricultural workers

    This Discussion Paper seeks to identify the array of potential policy avenues for tackling some of the risks posed by climate change to outdoor workers in the US. The work is based on a literature review and therefore reflects the focus areas of that literature, specifically the vulnerability of agricultural workers and the risks posed by extreme heat as well as climate change’s interactions with wildfire smoke and pesticide exposure. This work also identifies gaps in the literature and avenues for future study.

    For agricultural workers, the impacts of extreme heat will compound with forecasted increases in wildfire smoke and pesticide use—the latter possibly increasing as heat renders crops more vulnerable to infection. The primary solutions to addressing wildfire smoke and pesticide use involve the wearing of PPE, which worsens the effects of heat exposure. Notably, there is no federal standard for wildfire smoke (or outdoor air quality)—though some states have implemented standards—and protections from pesticide exposure are widely noted as inadequate at the local and national level. This document provides a historical overview of how agricultural workers have been continuously excluded from federal labor standards and the ways in which this exclusion creates more acute vulnerability for workers to climate change and climate disaster.

    Possible avenues and focus areas for policy change that were identified in the literature include: 1) creating a federal heat standard; 2) expanding OSHA protections to all agricultural workers—specifically eliminating the exclusion of small farms from any OSHA protections; 3) ensuring enforcement of existing (and to be developed) regulations; and 4) tackling the wider structural causes of vulnerability that extend beyond heat, notably lack of access to healthcare and poor-quality housing. A federal heat standard should account for humidity and include provisions mandating: breaks; access to water; access to shade; shifted work hours; acclimatization periods; and medical screenings. Regarding enforcement, the focus is on funding, staffing, surveillance, publication of incidents, and an assessment of whether current (and proposed) provisions are working.

  3. Research

    Recharging Community Consent: Mining companies, battery minerals, and the battle to break from the past

    With mining set to expand as part of the sweeping energy transition, it is imperative that future mining only proceed with the full support and consent of Indigenous peoples and frontline communities. In the first policy brief of its kind to focus on the public policy commitments of mining companies extracting five key transition minerals to respect Indigenous rights, Oxfam concludes that the battery mineral sector’s approach to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) is not sufficiently ready to support a just energy transition under current company policies. More companies need to adopt strong FPIC policies that unequivocally commit them from proceeding with a project if Indigenous peoples withhold consent.

    In pursuing a more just energy transition, grounded in FPIC, mining companies can break free from a history of violence and abuse that has undermined Indigenous communities and companies’ own bottom lines. Companies that demonstrate that their operations and products are developed with the support and consent of the communities where they operate will have a huge competitive edge. Buyers and car manufacturers, along with technology, mass transit, and renewable energy companies, all want to be able to show that their supply chains fully respect the rights of those communities where they source their mineral inputs from. And consumer countries want confidence that their supplies of raw minerals will not be interrupted because mines have failed to protect human rights.

    Global climate action cannot be used to justify further harm and human rights abuses of Indigenous and local communities across the globe. Policy priority must be given to finding and funding solutions to minimize the need to mine raw minerals—and then ensure that what mining is still needed be conducted in a sustainable, just, equitable and rights-respecting way.

  4. Research

    Best and worst states to work in America 2023

    Each year, the Best States to Work Index assesses and ranks the U.S. states on labor laws that determine compensation, conditions, and rights for workers. The 2023 report features an important retrospective of the past five years.

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  5. Research

    Centering Women's Rights Organizations: Evaluative Research on Oxfam's COVID-19 Response in Colombia, Iraq, and Kenya

    The purpose of this research was to understand the broader context of the humanitarian response to COVID-19 from the perspective of women’s rights organizations (WROs) and to understand how well Oxfam has upheld local humanitarian leadership (LHL) commitments in relation to its partnerships with WROs. From the literature, as well as from Oxfam’s experience in Colombia, Iraq, and Kenya, it is evident that WROs have been key figures in the COVID-19 response while also managing acute challenges around lack of recognition, funding, and exclusion from decision-making spaces. Local organizations, including WROs, have continued their work in humanitarian response, shouldering even more as international actors have reduced their participation. By adopting a feminist approach that pays close attention to unequal gender norms, incorporates an intersectional lens, and delves into power dynamics, this study provides a clear assessment on the ways that Oxfam—and other international actors—can better support WROs involved in humanitarian response.

    As noted in the three case studies that accompany this synthesis report, WROs provided crucial response activities in ways that were additive to Oxfam’s efforts, such as embedding self-care in their response in Colombia, gender-specific expertise on legal issues in Iraq, and access to urban communities in Kenya. The report also includes several practical though perhaps challenging suggestions on how support of WROs can be better achieved, from including indirect cost recovery for partners to creating more equitable learning exchanges where Oxfam and partners can learn from each other.

    Additional practical suggestions no doubt exist, and we recommend that Oxfam and other international actors create space for frank dialogue with their WRO partners to discuss other ways they can be supported. Lastly, it is important to recognize that Oxfam is just one actor in the sector, and several of the recommendations cannot be carried out by Oxfam alone. Changes to better support WROs in the humanitarian sector need to be responded to jointly by a diverse set of actors, ranging from international nongovernmental organizations, United Nations agencies, donors, governments, and others.

  6. Research

    US Care Policy Scorecard: Assessing federal unpaid and underpaid care policies in the US

    The US Care Policy Scorecard seeks to assess the US care policy environment at the federal level by adapting and implementing the Care Policy Scorecard Framework and Tool in the US context. The US Scorecard looks at 30 federal policy indicators related to both unpaid care and underpaid care work (UUCW). Each policy indicator is measured by an average of 18 assessment criteria with the aim to determine the existence of the policy as well as to evaluate the performance and progress of the policy in relation to its design, implementation, and impact.

    The US Care Policy Scorecard demonstrates that federal UUCW policies are severely lacking, and the needs of caregivers and care workers are not being met by federal policies. It is women of color and immigrant women who are most harmed by the US’s failure to fully support working families, caregivers, and care workers. This is a result of a history of policymaking rooted in sexism and racism that makes care work invisible and undervalued. The US receives an aggregate score of 43%, meeting less than half of all possible criteria when all care policy indicators in the US Care Policy Scorecard are examined and aggregated.

    In addition to showcasing how each policy indicator and policy area measured scored, the report includes examples of states that have passed care policies in light of absent or weak federal policies, as well as policy recommendations to strengthen the care policy environment in the US.

    The US Care Policy Scorecard was developed by graduate students at the Integration Lab in the Keough School of Global Affairs (KSGA) at the University of Notre Dame (ND-i-Lab), Oxfam America, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), and the National Partnership for Women & Families (NPWF)

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