Friday, February 26, 2010

Role of International organizations in shaping the Policies- Oxfam America

To: Board of Directors, Oxfam America

Re: Proposal on OA Organizational Strategy ,Impacting International Policy and Institutional


From: Ms. Jo Marie Griesgraber

Prepared by: Clorise Harvey, Linda Jirouskova, Heera Lal, Rob Myers, Hamza Safouane, Sheela Thomas

I. Executive Summary

To maximize the impact of Oxfam America (OA) I would like to present the following strategic advancements designed to increase the organizations impact on global poverty. By expanding our network and building coalitions of civil society groups we can increase our lobby in Washington, New York, and everywhere international development policies are made. I recommend we focus this new advocacy division first on the structural inequalities of international finical institutions.

Oxfam’s recent initiatives to engage international financial institutions have permanently altered the landscape of many international reform efforts. The vernacular of IFIs has shifted towards a rhetoric that is inclusive of poverty development. Our challenge today is to capture this momentum and make an even larger impact through advocacy and grant making. At the core of my recommendation lies increased capacity to make grants to highly indebted poor counties. Also, structural reform is needed within international lending practices. By increasing our advocacy division we can directly impact a large scope of poverty related policy in Washington and elsewhere. The new capacity of Oxfam's advocacy program will serve to generate new sustainable funding that will be used to impact larger macroeconomic issues through direct policy reform (see appendix 1).

Recent Success in Advocacy

Our recent advocacy work relating to debt forgiveness is one option that we believe can positively impact impoverished nations, however debt reform itself is not a sustainable solution. Debt forgiveness often has the unintended impact of filling corrupt coffers leaving only marginal impact on the poor. We need to do more and our recent efforts have demonstrated the potential for achieving great results through our advocacy work.


The World Bank and International Monetary Fund acknowledged in their 1996 and 1999 debt relief programs that many developing nations simply had no chance of repayment. Oxfam’s role in development of education and advocacy along with a strategic retooling to enhance current programmatic goals are rooted in best practices in loan making and are supported by debt holding nations. We can use our relationships in the media to bring our advocacy message to the world while creating new funding streams that will support public awareness and engender additional action.


Expansion of our advocacy programs requires additional funding. Instead of cutting our potent existing programs, we are prepared to re-brand our advocacy work as a new line of business. The fund development arm of our new advocacy program will create the opportunity to raise new funds by tapping into new market that had previously evaded our fund development programs.

II. Overview of Debt Advocacy

Oxfam International (OI) is a confederation of eleven organizations that work as partners to develop lasting strategies to combat poverty and injustice. Oxfam America (OA) also provides immediate assistance to people affected by natural disasters or conflicts. Finally, Oxfam works with advocacy groups to raise public awareness on the causes of poverty and to press decision-makers to adopt poverty reduction policies.

Oxfam America began advocacy work on debt reduction when it opened its Washington office, Oxfam America (OA), in January 1995. OA managed to build relationships with policy-makers within the Washington-based IFIs as well as U.S. institutions such as the U.S. Treasury, the Congress, and the Administration to influence them on implementing debt relief.

Prior to OA's advocacy, the issue of debt relief first appeared in 1967 at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Yet, the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, designed to help the most heavily indebted countries escape from unsustainable debt, was initiated in 1996 by the IMF and World Bank only after heavy lobbying by numerous NGOs. Oxfam America, which participated in the debt relief advocacy as a part of a coalition of NGOs called Jubilee 2000, welcomed the HIPC Initiative as a step forward but criticized it on numerous accounts. In its critique OA pointed out what it considers a too restrictive definition of debt sustainability, an inconsistency between the time frame of the program and the urgency of the HIPC's needs, the lack of emphasis on debt relief as a means to reduce poverty, and finally the lack of civil society involvement. There were, however, even harsher critics of the HIPC Initiative such as 50 Years is Enough or Witness for Peace. Less moderate NGOs rejected the initiative and blamed OA for softening up its position. The height of the debt relief campaign was reached in 1998 during the G7 meeting in Birmingham when Jubilee 2000 mobilized over 50,000 supporters.

The success of Jubilee 2000 and the proximity of OA to the U.S. Congress, Treasury, and main IFIs increased OA's credibility among policy makers as a valuable debt relief advocacy organization. OA's advocacy power is also strengthened by our credible field-based research supported by our office in Boston. By backing up its advocacy activities with its Boston policy research team, OA is able to concentrate on the U.S. Congress, Treasury, and the Administration, whereas OI focuses on the IFIs.

III. Presenting the Problem

While the relative success of Oxfam's advocacy secured incremental changes at the IFIs' and enhanced the progress towards debt relief, it didn’t achieve its desired goal of sustainable poverty reduction in poor countries. Having contributed substantially to bring the issue of debt relief and poverty to international attention, Oxfam must dedicate additional resources to influence actors such as the U.S. Congress, G7, and IFIs to reevaluate the actual issues faced by the poor nations. Oxfam also needs to ensure greater involvement and participation of the people in the affected countries in any effort related to debt reduction. Having gone this far, OA cannot go back to being an organization that is involved only in the reduction of poverty through direct funding and program development. The key challenge is to maintain the momentum of the debt relief campaign and translate these efforts into a sustainable reduction of poverty and injustice in poor countries. While Oxfam America needs to continue focus on grant-making as its core means of delivering on its mission, I am recommending to The Board of Directors a new program of action with past success in advocacy as a backdrop to our future endeavors.

IV. Policy Options

Based on Oxfam’s central mission to fight poverty and related injustice around the world, we face several options to maintain forward momentum for the initiative to sustain progress with the development reform agenda crafted by the World Bank and IMF. Targeting reforms that prioritize poverty reduction, in addition to debt relief, the proposed policy options follow the lines of our primary programmatic activities: grant making, public awareness, and advocacy, which are outlined below according to each programmatic arm.


As the first pillar of Oxfam’s programmatic activity, grant making can be a tool to advance the organization’s new agenda of prioritizing poverty reduction while strengthening the strategic alliances required with non-profits and international NGO's to facilitate political pressure on elected officials to make poverty reduction in HIPCs a policy priority

Community-Based Resource Management

1. Create poverty-reduction requirements for all grant recipients which require demonstration that funds will used to address approved target areas.

2. Utilize grants to supplement IFI funding as earmarked spending which is allocated to associated infrastructural demands that enable poverty-reduction.

These two policies allow HIPCs to receive funds that directly and indirectly address poverty reduction through providing funding for associated infrastructural changes, such as retraining of public officials, the development of anti-corruption enforcement mechanisms, or education of targeted populations in keeping with the requirements of poverty reduction. These "supplemental" funds are earmarks to address the indirect, or associated, requirements of poverty reduction, which ensure that HIPCs are capable of enacting the programs that have been approved.

Participation Equity

1. Create funding requirements that stipulate education, labor market training, natural resource cultivation, and/or environmental protections for the nation's most impoverished residents as mandates for all grant recipients.

This approach will increase our political capital among other non-profits and international NGOs, and increase the reach of our alliance into associated organizations, such as those that focus on environmental protection, as we continue to build our broad base of support for mobilizing public education and public action campaigns

2. Create a funding requirement the all grant recipients must develop and enact developing participatory processes that build vehicles for the most impoverished to provide direct feedback to their government, and for national officials to provide feedback to the World Bank and IMF regarding funding priorities and program efficacy.

This supports our goal of participatory equity, and creates structures enabling this to occur through prioritizing the needs of the most impoverished.

Development Finance

1. Create a business incubation fund to promote innovation and entrepreneurial activity that promotes sustainable economic growth in the HIPC's economy.

Executing this component will require an increase in fund development, as no component of the budget is currently allocated to this enterprise. However, the generation of entrepreneurial activity is an iterative process that is self-replicating, and will continue to produce results over time through direct and indirect knowledge transfers. Investments in this arena will create long-lasting dividends in the area of economic growth; however, it will require shouldering many failures that will be perceived as "wasted" investments in order to generate "successes".

Public Education

Increasing public awareness of the conditions associated with HIPCs will bring a means to capitalize upon the strengths of our non-profit and NGO partners, and raise awareness among Americans to create democratic pressure on public officials, as well as the World Bank and IMF, to address the core issue of poverty reduction in development policies and practices.

1. Partner with affiliated non-profits and NGOs to execute a public education campaign, both through traditional media outlets and public actions.

This will increase public awareness directed toward incentivizing legislators to take bilateral debt relief out of gridlock, through increased media coverage and political actions similar to those that were previously credited with facilitating reforms. In addition to raising debt relief as a policy priority among legislators, this policy will simultaneously create pressure for the World Bank and IMF to maintain with their commitments to prioritize poverty reduction. Finally, this action gives direction to our more progressive contingent among our partner organizations, as they are invited to direct their creative energies toward forwarding institutional and systemic change in the development policy arena, disincentivizing more radical and potentially disruptive processes which halter progress. As progressives will be involved in the formulation and execution of these collective goals, they will be less likely to engage in activities which jeopardize the potential of progress, even if that progress falls short of realizing their full objective.


Utilizing our lobbying arm, as well as our informal allies within Congress and the World Bank, OA will assert political pressure to prioritize our poverty reduction agenda within the development policy formulation and execution process. These efforts will be strengthened by the public education campaigns (media attention and public actions) outlined above, which create political will, and incentivize public officials to take action on behalf of their respective constituencies. Establishing poverty reduction as a policy priority for our advocacy branch will entail two components:

1. Meeting with our legislative allies in Congress, and our contacts within the Department of Treasury to determine what will be required to elicit US participation and backing of these poverty reduction development policies.

The specific outcomes that we are targeting include:

Getting a bill on the House floor

Getting appropriation for the bilateral debt relief that has been approved

Garnering support to present a unified front of support for poverty reduction as a development policy priority between Congress, Treasury, World Bank, and IMF, so that other nations follow our lead and understand that the shift in priorities is substantive and meaningful

2. Coordinate efforts with Oxfam International to invite other Oxfam affiliates into this process; creating a synergistic transnational focus on poverty reduction.

The listed policy options span Oxfam’s full spectrum of programmatic activities; while being wholly contained within the organization’s central mission, to avoid mission drift. The various, and often competing self-interests of our partners in this initiative will require ongoing attention. Currently, however, we are capable of riding the wave of success, with the World Bank and IMF reforms, Congressional approval of the Enhanced HIPC Initiative, and public attention for the issue. Capitalizing upon these resources will enable Oxfam America to work in partnership with our allies to achieve the goal of shifting the focus of development finance to include poverty reduction as its central aim.

V. Recommendation and Implementation (see appendix 2)

Oxfam’s debt relief campaign has shown that Oxfam’s advocacy and policy work has a strong potential to advance its mission to reduce global poverty. Advocacy proved to be a viable tool in fostering coordination between the various stakeholders such as the international financial institutions, individual country donors, HIPCs, and other NGOs. Aligning Oxfam’s efforts with those of other NGOs will also prove to be an effective way of increasing awareness of global poverty and debt relief among the general public and affected stakeholders. At the same time, Oxfam was challenged by the difficulty of coordinating with diverse group of partners who were not willing to compromise and find politically feasible solutions. While advocacy proves to be a viable tool for advancing Oxfam’s mission, direct grant-making and public awareness building will continue to play a crucial role in delivering our agenda of immediate impact to local communities around the world.

Based on the experience from our debt relief campaign and the analysis of the strategic options available to Oxfam, we propose that Oxfam delivers on its mission via its three core programmatic areas while instituting reforms in each one of them to ensure greater efficiency. Grant-making, advocacy, and public awareness provide Oxfam with an effective combination of short term, localized tools and long term broad impact solutions to ensure global reduction of poverty and injustice. The recommended reforms for each area are summarized below (See Appendix 1).


Poverty reduction needs to be set as the top priority of the advocacy agenda. While Oxfam has focused predominantly on debt relief advocacy, due to the short term nature of this solution, Oxfam’s advocacy agenda needs to go beyond debt relief and set reduction of poverty as its overarching goal. Due to the importance of the U.S. government, which holds de facto veto powers on the boards of the IMF and WB, U.S. Congress and the Treasury must be the key targets of Oxfam America’s advocacy. Oxfam America’s advocacy efforts should not be limited to just the U.S. government and should also include civil society. Our own experience with Jubilee 2000 illustrated the important role played by civil society organizations in maintaining momentum for poverty reduction and debt relief and challenging the status quo of international actors such as the IFIs and also national governments. In order to secure internal support of major IFI’s, Oxfam will conduct a careful analysis on key individuals to target at these institutions. Such analysis will ensure efficient use of resources.

Given the proven importance of advocacy, we recommend that this area be allocated additional funding in order to achieve greater reach and effectiveness. Oxfam America should develop a new direct fundraising line from where funds will be directly transferred to the advocacy of programmatic area. These additional fundraising resources can be secured through intensifying media campaign and coordinating closely with fundraising efforts of other Oxfam affiliates. Furthermore, advocacy costs will be reduced by greater coordination with other Oxfam affiliates on advocacy campaigns.

As a moderate organization, Oxfam needs to limit the gridlock experienced during the debt relief campaigns by leveraging Oxfam's more progressive partners. A careful analysis of all potential partners should be conducted prior to engagement in any joint campaign. While such analysis should be conducted by the team working on a given campaign, Oxfam America needs to establish an advocacy executive board that will evaluate the analysis and make a decision whether or not to partner with the actor under consideration. I recognize that partnering with progressive organizations puts Oxfam's image at risk, however I believe that proper planning and clear memorandum of understanding can mitigate any risk. The new division should contain executive board of three to five members. While the majority of the members should come from the advocacy and programmatic area, the board also needs to include a member from at least one other programmatic area to broaden the scope of perspective.


Grantmaking will continue to be the core of Oxfam activities. To ensure alignment around the overarching goal of poverty reduction, all grants, outside of immediate crisis relief funds, will be approved only once the recipients clearly demonstrate that funding is directed towards poverty reduction. To facilitate this grant making process, Oxfam will create an internal results based evaluation method to assess the effectiveness and viability of the grant recipients’ proposals. In order to prevent duplication of efforts Oxfam grants within HIPC should be targeted towards development issues that are not specifically targeted by the World Bank and IMF. Such an approach will not only ensure greater effectiveness in development efforts, but also increase our bargaining tool with the IMF and WB. The focus of the grants should be placed on education, labor market training, and environmental protection.

During our negotiations with the World Bank and IMF we argued for a greater participatory role of the loan recipients in the design of the loan conditions. To achieve such empowerment of the HIPCs, Oxfam should allocate a percentage of its grant funding to the promotion of participatory process between the HIPC and the IFIs. This funding will be granted to an HIPC that is negotiating its loan conditions with one of the IFIs and is able to present a specific plan for the terms of the loan that it wants to secure with the IFI.

Public Awareness Building

To complement its approach Oxfam should partner with appropriate NGOs for coordination on public education and advocacy campaigns. Public awareness plays a key role to promote the mission of Oxfam and complement its other activities such as advocacy, fund development, and volunteering. As with advocacy partnering, a careful evaluation of the potential partners must be conducted by the team assigned to the given public awareness project. Building off existing relationships with media and journalists, the new public awareness campaign will focus on reforming international organizations and changing the macro level perspectives of people everywhere. In order to change the practices of international organizations we must first bring public attention to the issues, then member state constituents will also call for reform.

Oxfam America needs to establish an executive board for the public awareness area that will evaluate the feasibility of potential media and also civil society partners in order to make informed decisions whether or not to engage in cooperation with a given actor under consideration.

Additional Fund Development/Rebranding

The structural reformulation and subsequent new advocacy and public awareness divisions will provide Oxfam America with an excellent opportunity to capture funding from individuals and groups that had previously evaded our organization. Previously Oxfam America had been reserved to raising money for direct program implementation such as disaster relief and food assistance. By creating a new advocacy brand we will be able to approach individuals and organizations interested in policy and macro level reforms in addition to our ongoing programmatic areas. This new line of business will allow us to rebrand and compete with other advocacy organizations and ultimately expand our budget and the scope of impact on poverty reduction.


In the short run, Oxfam should focus on intensifying its debt relief advocacy to secure the approval of the congressional bill and improve the terms of the Enhanced HIPC initiative. This will be done by reaching out to insiders beyond the current allies that Oxfam has at the World Bank and the US Congress. It is also recommended that Oxfam immediately begin to draft criteria and evaluations forms for both – the evaluations of potential allies and the evaluation of the poverty focus of projects that seek Oxfam’s grants.

In the long term, Oxfam should begin the process of rebranding its advocacy campaign from debt relief to poverty reduction and social justice. It is crucial that transparency, human rights and measures to reduce corruption in the HIPC become elements of our advocacy activities. We are a result-driven organization and are hence aware that foreign aid and grants to corrupt governments is just pouring water on sand as resources are likely to be misused. Debt re-accumulation after debt relief or foreign aid would greatly undermine the efficiency of our advocacy activities and bargaining power with the IFIs. Once greater amount of resources is allocated to advocacy, Oxfam should expand its advocacy campaigns in terms of the media coverage it secures and as well direct lobbying contacts with members of the Congress and IFIs. In the long run, Oxfam will begin to apply its evaluations procedures to all grants and partnerships.

Appendix 1

OA’s revised organizational map

Appendix 2

Summary of Proposed Strategic Reforms for Oxfam America