The announcement had the effect of a bomb on the world of non-governmental organizations: Oxfam withdrew from eighteen countries of operation and dismissed a third of the staff at its international headquarters, or 1,450 people. The famous British development organization notably stops its interventions in the nations among the poorest of the planet, like Haiti, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Sudan.
Founded in 1942 in Oxford, Oxfam is the most renowned British NGO alongside Save the Children, the World Wild Fund and Amnesty International.
The shortfall in closed stores
Present in 90 countries, this confederation of around twenty national associations and 3,500 partner organizations has established itself through its know-how in the field (water supply, food aid, toilets, tents, etc.) in situations emergency war, disaster and famine as in long-term programs such as the fight against poverty or tax evasion by multinationals, or the protection of women and girls in the Third World. Oxfam is funded by public donors, donations and commercial income from its 1,200 second-hand stores in eight countries.
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“The coronavirus has made our aid to the most vulnerable more urgent, but at the same time has negatively impacted our capacity for action”: Oxfam claims to have taken these radical measures following the pandemic which has damaged its cash flow.
Stores, which make up one fifth of revenues, have been closed. While full-time staff benefited from technical unemployment, the volunteers (50,000) were confined. In addition, government grants as well as private funds have declined dramatically due to the effects of the virus in donor countries. The shortfall is estimated at 5 million pounds (5.6 million euros) per month. Finally, the British government refused to come to the aid of the voluntary sector, taken by the throat by the cessation of sports and cultural events, which enabled it to fill its boxes.
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If the measures announced parent to the most urgent, in reality Oxfam suffers the aftermath of the many scandals that have lastingly splashed the reputation of the NGO.
The green sign has never recovered from the accusations of sexual abuse committed by its staff in Haiti after the earthquake of 2010. “A complaisance bordering on complicity”, estimated the commission for development aid of the House of Commons in 2019 about the leadership, which turned a blind eye to the actions of accused executives who had used prostitutes, some of them minors. Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring was forced to resign for covering the scandal. In response to this highly publicized affair, many celebrities, including the South African Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, have resigned from their posts as Ambassador of Oxfam. Private donations have dropped dramatically.
In addition, Oxfam’s strategy of grabbing the headlines by publishing studies with catchy themes has strongly discredited the organization. “Half of the world’s population lives on less than $ 5 a day”, “the wealthiest twenty-six have as much money as half of humanity”, “banks speculate on hunger”, etc. The reports with inflammatory titles intended to make the headlines of the media too often hide a lack of intellectual and scientific rigor and poor control of data and financial investigation under the guise of good intentions.
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Finally, Oxfam is paying the price for its open hostility to Israel, its implicit support for the boycott and the virulent anti-Zionist and even Judeophobic rhetoric of some of its activists. Private donations to the United States and Canada have suffered from this vulgate, which readily confuses criticism of Israeli government policy in the occupied territories with anti-Semitism. The actress Scarlett Johansson was deprived of her title of “ambassador” because the promotion by the American actress of an Israeli soda company was considered incompatible with her role as global emissary. At the heart of the Oxfam system of using celebrities from show business to promote its cause, Hollywood has little appreciated this excommunication.
To top it off, on March 24, Oxfam had to apologize to the Israeli ambassador in London for putting several copies of the “Protocol of the Elders of Zion” on its online sales site, one of the fakes the most famous anti-Semites, dating from the time of the Czarist pogroms. The works have been withdrawn from sale.