BY: Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Kampala, Uganda, FEB/06/2017, SSN;
The Organization called the Oxfam is a confederation of 19 affiliate groups of companies working in over ninety countries, all working as one Oxfam on six goals that support their shared vision of a just world without poverty.
The principle is that whether the Oxfam is running life-saving emergency responses, life-changing development projects or campaigning at the grassroots to tackle poverty, it’s work is always rooted in a vision of a world where women and men are valued and treated equally, able to influence the decisions that affect their lives and meet their responsibilities as full citizens.
In achieving the above-mentioned vision, Oxfam operates on six goals that put local communities and the voices of poor people at the centre of change. The purpose of these goals is to enable the Oxfam to end the injustice of poverty in the long run. (For more information visit: www.oxfam.org.uk › what we do › about us › How we work).
In sticking to those goals, Oxfam operates on the following principles as provided for under its constitution—
1- Humanitarian Principles:
In all their work, the Oxfam members aspire to uphold the humanitarian principles of humanity (responding to need), independence and impartiality. They comply with these principles when they give assistance to civilian populations. This is because the Oxfam and its affiliates are signatories and accountable to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Code of Conduct and the Sphere standards of humanitarian response.
2- Accountability and Learning:
The Oxfam and its members have internal control systems and professionally qualified staff to ensure that they are effectively using the funds of Oxfam. They aspire to be a learning organization, with real time evaluations, program reviews, a published accountability report, and complaints and whistle blowing policies. Through these procedures, the Oxfam and its members seek to hold themselves accountable to their supporters, partners, beneficiaries and the general public. The Oxfam and its members welcome all opportunities to discuss with any person their performance, and how they can improve. Oxfam is part of an on-going worldwide effort of nearly 70 international NGOs to assess their performance according to the views of the local partners that these NGOs help to fund and with whom they work.
3- Staff code of conduct:
Oxfam seeks to ensure that its entire staff is aware of its values and principles, and abide by them. Hence, the Oxfam has a staff Code of Conduct that forms part of its contract of employment. This Code establishes the behaviors that they expect staff to display in their work, and in their private life where this may affect Oxfam’s reputation. A staff member in breach of our Code may be disciplined.
4- Sharing Platforms:
Oxfam will not knowingly provide a platform to people or groups that engage in activities that are contrary to Oxfam’s values or principles. However, Oxfam may decide to share a platform with those who do express views contrary to its own, where the Oxfam believes it needs challenging and where sharing a platform is an appropriate and effective way of doing that. For that reason their decisions to provide platform is assessed on a case by case basis.
4-Political activities and campaigning:
The Oxfam allocates some of its resources to understanding the root causes of poverty. It does so to persuade governments, inter-governmental agencies, private sector bodies and citizens to change the policies and practices that are detrimental to its beneficiaries’ interests, and to encourage those that will improve their lives. The Oxfam undertakes its work in an objective manner, based on evidence and analysis. Some of the issues are controversial but the Oxfam will always seek to engage with its critics in a rational and open way, deploying argument and reason. This is because the Oxfam is a non-partisan organization and does not support any political party.
As seen in the foregoing discussion of the goals and principles on which the Oxfam operates, it may be realized that the intention of the Oxfam is good and it is an organization established to help vulnerable people over out of poverty.
However, the recent report I received from one of the States in South Sudan indicates that the Oxfam is not operating independently but being directed by the government officials on who and how to recruit the employees and how to give services. This is contrary to the Oxfam’s principles of humanitarian and human rights.
Sadly enough as seen in the above paragraph, the Oxfam, instead of protecting the right to equality, human dignity and values as provided for in its constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, it is now working according to the will of the government officials such as the commissioner and other county authorities in that particular State.
One of the disturbing issues I understood in that report was that the Oxfam staff accepted the demand of the county commissioner and other authorities to employ his wife and other people who did not apply for a job and sit for the interview or those who applied but failed the interview.
Unfortunately, and because of that, some of the applicants that applied for that job, interviewed and passed the interview were dropped in favour of the commissioner and county authorities. This created a lot of tension and hatred towards the government of that county.
Thus, I have found it necessary to remind not only the Oxfam and its members but also any other humanitarian organizations operating in South Sudan to stick to their principles but not to be influenced by the government officials to discriminate against South Sudanese in those states.
Of course, it is the duty the State governments to direct an organization like the Oxfam to employ the citizens of the State in which it is operating, however, it should not compromise its principles on fairness and equality through accepting the demand of the authorities to employ citizens they recommend to them because the authorities are not honest enough to give those who are qualified.
However, the State authorities act based on the political interests or motivation and are likely to recommend those who blindly obey them though not qualified. The Oxfam, therefore, should remember that in South Sudan all people are poor including the authorities and because of that they always work towards favoring their relatives leaving out the vast majority of citizens without anything.
Hence, it is the duty of the Oxfam and other Organizations to work in accordance with their principles and goals to ensure that the citizens of the State in which they are operating are treated and have access to services equally.
This means that the Oxfam and other humanitarian organizations should work on merit but not on political considerations.
Flowing from the above statement, it is logical to state that if the state authorities threaten the Oxfam or any other organizations to leave the states unless they have accepted their demands for who to employ or how they should deliver their services to citizens, then the best option is to leave those states instead of compromising their values and principles and creating division among the citizens of those states.
In other words, as long as they are operating within the laws of South Sudan, then, they should not accept any direction from the authorities on how to give services to South Sudanese because there is a risk of them becoming another branch of the government and because of that they may fail to follow their values and principles.
In summary, the Oxfam and any other organizations operating in South Sudan should try by all means to avoid becoming another branch of the government. They must be guided by human rights and humanitarian principles in delivering their services.
NB//: The author is human rights lawyer residing in Uganda and can be reached through: firstname.lastname@example.org; or +256783579256