Oxfam’s New Year’s Resolutions for 2016


Happy New Year! Just like individuals need to shake off the holidays and think about the opportunities of a fresh year, organizations ought to take stock and decide where they want to put extra effort. 

Whether you’re trying to exercise more, eat less sugar, or reform the global food system, the trick is identifying goals that are big enough to inspire but tangible enough to achieve.

Here’s Oxfam’s list. Let’s see how we do…

1. Ruffle some feathers

In order to maximize company profits, US poultry workers are driven to work faster and faster and with few breaks. On average, workers report processing a chicken every two seconds—more than 2,000 chickens per hour, and more than 14,000 chickens per work day. Photo: iStock.com/buhanovskiy

Our food system is perversely broken: the majority of the world’s hungry are the very people who grow and process nutritious food for 2–3 billion people worldwide. Here in the US, for example, we eat an average of 89 pounds of chicken per person per year and 60 percent of that chicken is produced by just four companies. The hundreds of thousands of people who process all that delicious chicken, however, are not sharing in this boom.  Instead, they earn poverty-level wages, suffer debilitating injuries, and experience a climate of fear. Changing that by influencing how big food companies work means ruffling a few feathers. It stands to reason that farmers and food workers should be able to earn enough to feed their own  families while they feed us. So, in 2016, we want to help poultry workers to enlist US consumers, ensuring that the big four of the US’s poultry industry—Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms—make concrete commitments to treating workers with dignity and protecting their safety and health.

See the interactive story and how you can take action now.

2. Do an emergency 180°

Bharat lost his home when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, 2015. Although many like Bharat suffered incredible loses, investments made to increase local capacity in the years before the tragedy saved lives. After the earthquakes, hundreds of Oxfam trained community health volunteers sprang into action in both central Kathmandu and the outer districts. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

People are dying needlessly and we know how to stop this tragedy. While millions of people receive vital humanitarian aid every year, millions more do not and their number is rising. The international humanitarian system—the vast UN-led network in which Oxfam and other international organizations like the Red Cross play key roles—is not saving as many lives as it could. One reason is because the current system perpetuates local dependence on international donors. The result is what Former UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland described this way: “Imagine if your local fire department had to petition the mayor for money to turn on the water every time a fire broke out.” Locally led humanitarian responses can save lives and are also frequently cheaper than response with a big international footprint. Yet in 2012, only 1.9% of humanitarian funding went directly to locals, while nearly 89% was managed and distributed by international organizations. In 2016, Oxfam wants to get the word out and begin turning the global humanitarian system on its head by investing more in local humanitarians.

3. Achieve better balance

A shantytown in São Paulo, Brazil, borders the much more affluent Morumbi district, offering a powerful visual reminder of the growing extremes of economic inequality. Photo: Tuca Vieira/Oxfam.

Global inequality is getting worse; the gap between the rich and poor is spiraling out of control. It doesn’t have to be this way. As luck would have it, many poor nations are rich in natural resources. This presents an obvious opportunity to fight poverty in these countries. All too often, however, the profits from natural resources are sucked up by the very people who are already well off. In many poor countries there are too few mechanisms in place to allow citizens to hold their governments accountable to show how money is spent. It’s a problem around the world; in the absence of transparency and accountability, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Tax dodging by multinational companies costs the world’s poorest countries an estimated $100 billion every year (which is more than is needed to ensure universal access to basic education and health services). In 2016, Oxfam will demand greater transparency and help citizens get the information they need to break this cycle of inequality. We will call on companies to pay taxes where they do business and encourage Congress to help stop tax dodging.

4. Celebrate ladies’ night every night

Women in one of Oxfam’s cash for work programs head to work in the rice fields in River Gee county, Liberia. According to the World Bank, women reinvest up to 90 percent of their incomes in their families Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

Every single day at Oxfam we aim to celebrate and elevate the single most under-funded and effective force in the fight against poverty: women and girls. We know that judicious investments in women can be transformative in the battle to reduce poverty. Investments in girls have life-long effects: an extra year of primary school for a girl can increase eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent.  Typically increases in women’s wages are reinvested in the well-being of their families and communities; an educated girl will invest 90 percent of her future income in her family (compared to 35 percent for a boy). So in 2016, we’ll increase our investments in women—from business training in Guatemala to savings groups around the world—so they’ll lead the world’s effort to eradicate poverty. 

5. Get Uncle Sam to step up

Sisters originally from Kobane, Syria, wait to leave Serbia (near the Croatian border) on October 7, 2015—two of many. The humanitarian suffering caused by the crisis is overwhelming; the UN estimates that more than 12 million Syrians are in need of assistance. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

Nearly five years of brutal conflict have driven millions of Syrians from their homes, triggering the biggest displacement crises since World War II. In 2014-15, the US welcomed only about 2,000 Syrian refugees for resettlement—out of the more than four million who have fled.  In 2016, Oxfam will continue to call on the US to step up efforts to resettle Syrian refugees and continue to provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance while doing all we can to push for peace. 

6. Don't wait until it's too late

Abdi Gire Wais is a farmer who came to the Fadeto center for displaced people in Siti region, Ethiopia, with his family three months ago. Before the drought, which has been exacerbated by El Niño, he had 15 cattle and 100 sheep and goats. Now he has only 22 animals left. “What good is land, what good is soil without water?” he asks. It’s already too late for many Ethiopians to avoid a major emergency. Abiy Getahun/Oxfam

El Nino is a recurrent weather pattern that has affected humans for thousands of years. The current El Nino is one of the worst on record. Millions of people in Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa are now suffering in the midst of drought or floods, with millions more people affected in Latin America and the Pacific. Whether El Nino or other extreme weather caused by climate change, poor communities are always hit hardest. A number of the world's leading aid agencies warned that an inadequate response to El Nino would put an already overstretched humanitarian system under intense strain and put tens of millions more people at risk. And many of us—including Oxfam and World Vision—warned that the humanitarian system was already massively underfunded. We need to apply the lessons of the 2011 Horn of Africa food crisis in which 258,000 people died in Somalia alone—half of them children under 5. The slow international response to the drought in Somalia proved to be a deadly delay. In 2016, we will call on the international community to avoid responding too late and will help governments put more social safety nets in place and build greater resilience.

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