After 75 years hard work, the crises keep coming that need Oxfam's help : Marlborough Brandt Lecturer Mark Goldring on Oxfam today
The Marlborough Brandt Lectures reach a milestone on November 2 when Mark Goldring, the Chief Executive of Oxfam GB, becomes the series' 35th annual lecturer.
Over those 35 years, the Marlborough Brandt Group has brought four previous leaders of Oxfam - Guy Stringer, Frank Judd, David Bryer and Barbara Stocking - to the town for these lectures. The Princess Royal, Mark Tully, Mark Malloch Brown (Deputy Secretary general of the UN), Clare Short and Andrew Mitchell (Secretaries of State for International Development) have been among the long list of notable lecturers.
Oxfam is well past its 35th birthday. It is celebrating its 70th birthday this year - no better moment to hear about Oxfam's work and aims around the world.
Mark Goldring became CEO in May 2013 - and in the years since then Oxfam has been at the fore in helping to pick up the human pieces of the Syrian civil war, the Iraq-Daesh conflict, the Ebola epidemic, the on-going global fight against poverty and most recently, the vast exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar.
Before taking up this job Mark Goldring had led Voluntary Service Overseas, worked in the field for the UN Development Programme and for the UK's Department for International Development - and had led Oxfam's work in Bangladesh in the early 1990s.
His lecture is titled: Ending Global Poverty: great progress, but what do we have to do to complete the job? And with that issue of worldwide poverty very much in mind, marlborough.news put a series of questions to the Marlborough Brandt Lecturer:
Oxfam is celebrating its 75th birthday - many congratulations. Where do you see the principle cause for celebration?
The world’s progress over the last few decades. Billions of people have moved out of extreme poverty, have enough to eat, enjoyed education, better health and longer lives. Oxfam has played a modest, but very real part in this. We don’t tell this story forcefully enough. If we tell it better we can get more people to support finishing the job!
So many of the root causes of poverty are the result of political decisions, how can Oxfam lobby to change such policy decisions without the risk of losing its charitable status?
Central to Oxfam’s identity since the early days has been challenging those in power to do the right thing. The early pioneers had more trouble persuading Churchill to let the food through the allied blockade of Greece than they did raising the money to buy it. Since then Oxfam has fought governments over apartheid, companies that were overpricing drugs, governments and companies that allow (legal) tax dodging that hurts the poorest counties, fought against UK arms sales to Yemen and many other issues.
We have to make sure our arguments are grounded in evidence, that our approach is not party political, and - most importantly - that there is a direct link between our advocacy and our mission of reducing poverty and suffering.
It is sometimes a delicate path to tread, but if you believe that most poverty is man made, it is vital to challenge the policies that keep people poor.
Among the estimated 65 million refugees worldwide, the Rohingya Muslims are of great current concern: how does Oxfam work with governments and other charities to help in such crises
The Myanmar response is a good example. The thing is it is only one of more than a dozen humanitarian emergencies we are currently working on. The Rohingya appeal was recently launched by the Disasters Emergencies Committee ( DEC) which is a coalition of 13 major humanitarian agencies, and also supported by the British government. We plan together. People often talk of duplication, but not reaching everyone in need is actually a bigger problem.
Poverty is clearly a global problem - but we have homelessness and food banks in the UK. How is Oxfam addressing the problems of poverty on our own doorstep?
For the last 25 years Oxfam has worked on poverty in the UK as well as in poorer countries. While we spend most of our money in poor countries, we don’t want to pretend that poverty is only a problem somewhere else.
In recent years we have supported food banks, and indeed challenged our government as to why they should be needed and growing so fast. We are now concentrating on supporting people excluded from society, whether as recent arrivals or otherwise, through a programme which uses our shop network to promote inclusion and opportunities for those who need support.
What single issue in particular keeps you awake at night?
The need is greater than our resources, so we are always making hard choices. We could spend all of Oxfam’s budget in one country like the Congo. So, choices on what to do and what not to do are even tougher than making sure we do it well.
The lecture will be at The Theatre on the Hill, St John's Academy, Marlborough at 8pm on Thursday, 2 November 2017. Entry is free - there will be a retiring collection for Oxfam and the Marlborough Brandt Group.
Oxfam's 75th anniversary fell on 5 October 2017 - here you can read Mark Goldring's blog outlining decade-by-decade the highlights of the organisation's work.
SOME BACKGROUND TO THE TWO PHOTOGRAPHS:
November 2016 - Jalwala, Iraq: Local women were paid to paint over school walls scarred by bullets and rocket-propelled grenades. Girls were already attending classes and would soon have a clean building to study in.
Jalawla was under the control of ISIS for six months. When it was liberated in November 2014 in was a ghost town.
Oxfam provided market traders with grants so they ccould re-start their businesses. Oxfam's work brought the town back to life - the market reopened and many more people were returned home.
Oxfam's programme staff and country team learnt a lot from their work in Jalawla - it has guided Oxfam's humanitarian and restructuring work as other areas in Iraq have been freed from ISIS occupation.
January 2015 - Liberia: After visiting Liberia, Oxfam GB’s chief executive Mark Goldring said: “People need cash in their hands now, they need good jobs to feed their families in the near future and decent health, education and other essential services. They’ve gone through hell, they cannot be left high and dry".
“The world cannot walk away now that, thankfully, cases of this deadly disease are dropping. Failure to help these countries after surviving Ebola will condemn them to a double-disaster. The world was late in waking up to the Ebola crisis, there can be no excuses for not helping to put these economies and lives back together.”
Oxfam trained hundreds of community health volunteers across Liberia to promote messages about Ebola prevention and to seek out people who may be infected.
In the experience of Oxfam workers, this supportive approach was highly effective as people trusted the care on offer and were far more likely to come forward for early treatment that could save their lives and stop the outbreak spreading.
It is recognised by the World Health Organisation and others that a greater focus on community engagement is essential to keep West African countries Ebola-free.