Fatoumata Tangara, a peer educator. Photo: Laeïla Adjovi/Oxfam
Fatoumata Tangara, a peer educator. Photo: Laeïla Adjovi/Oxfam
Fatoumata Tangara, a peer educator in Mali. Photo: Laeïla Adjovi/Oxfam

By Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International

Just imagine, looking back to a time when COVID-19 brought us together.

Leaders who united to overcome a health crisis also gained the courage to avert climate catastrophe. The unstoppable global movements of #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #NiUnaMenos, climate strikers, workers, more, realized their calling. As they inevitably always would. Poverty fell. Ceasefires held. Politics became a process for dialogue not division. Out of the ashes of neoliberalism a new human economy was born.

That’s the hope.

Perhaps, instead, years from now we will recall how post-2020 saw the deepening of already terrifying trends. A time in which nationalist leaders seized the pandemic to further erode multilateralism and human rights. With trillionaires gaining more power than states. Even more climate breakdown, with small islands going underwater. More women and girls excluded from life opportunities, amid raging new pandemics of hunger, violence, sexism and racism. …


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Nur* with her daughter Ismat* inside her tent, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Poor countries around the world are drowning in servicing their external debt, and the measures provided by rich countries barely scratch the surface to rectify this. Photo: Fabeha Monir/Oxfam (*name changed)

By Chema Vera, Executive Director (interim), Oxfam International

People turned away at the gates of hospitals, unable to afford life-saving treatment.

Girls struggling to go back to school.

Hundreds of millions of people being pushed into poverty.

New alarming hunger crises.

The blast-range of today’s pandemic has been so much more terrifying than what we could have imagined.

This week the Finance Ministers of the richest countries in the world — the G20 countries — will meet for an extraordinary meeting focused on what the pandemic has pushed to the top of the global political agenda: the debt crisis in the world’s poorest countries.


More than five hundred of the world’s leading charities, social groups and academics have sent a letter to the International Monetary Fund warning that its support programs, which have had to be ramped up to cope with COVID-19, were condemning many countries to years of austerity.

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We, the undersigned, call on the IMF to immediately stop promoting austerity around the world, and instead advocate policies that advance gender justice, reduce inequality, and decisively put people and planet first.

As those who care about governments’ ability to fulfil human rights and advance progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, we express the utmost alarm at the IMF’s advice for countries to return to austerity once the current crisis recedes. This pandemic has laid bare the deadly repercussions of systematically weak investments in health, education and social protection, hardest felt by marginalized populations including women, older people, racial and ethnic minorities, informal workers and low-income families. …


An ethics of care can help us to re-frame policymaking as a process that builds community. Care can support progress towards gender and racial justice, as well as green, well-being economies.

As family breadwinner, Arlene feels COVID-19 has greatly affected her means to provide for her family. Photo: Jed Regala
As family breadwinner, Arlene feels COVID-19 has greatly affected her means to provide for her family. Photo: Jed Regala
As family breadwinner, Arlene feels that COVID-19 has greatly affected her means to provide for her family. She is thankful for the help of children. Photo: Jed Regala

By March 2020, a large number of countries adopted lockdown measures as part of their initial response to the coronavirus pandemic.

At the same time, a particularly distinct essay was published in Wired Magazine by Laurie Penny, which reflected on the social and cultural dimensions of this unprecedented health crisis. One of the underlying arguments in the article was how the dire state of global inequality had created an apocalyptic scenario we were neither prepared for, nor even close to imagine.

The dominant extractive capitalist economic system ravaged the public infrastructure — including hospitals, schools, and childcare — of many countries, before the pandemic did. …


The richest 1% are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the poorest half of humanity. A tiny few are fueling today’s climate crisis — while poor communities & young people pay the price.

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In 1990, we entered a new global era.

From 1990 until 2015, as much carbon entered our atmosphere as had been emitted in all previous years in our history.

Our new report, Confronting Carbon Inequality, shows that responsibility for this rapid emissions rise is shockingly unequal. In this period, the richest 10% emitted the same amount of carbon as the rest of the world combined.

And the very richest 1% of people — the global elite — emitted double the amount of carbon as the poorest 50% of humanity.

This is the era of extreme carbon inequality.

Who are the richest 10%?

If your net income is over $38,000 annually, the chances are you’re one of the richest 10% of people in the world. (Convert that into your currency.) …


The social responsibility of business is actually to ensure profits are shared equitably

Garment worker making winter jackets for an international brand, Dong Nai province, Vietnam. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam
Garment worker making winter jackets for an international brand, Dong Nai province, Vietnam. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam
A woman works on a clothing line making winter jackets for an international brand in a garment factory in Dong Nai province, Vietnam. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

Fifty years ago, Milton Friedman, an American economist, declared that business’ only responsibility is to make money for its owners, in his famous piece establishing shareholder primacy in the New York Times. Corporations and their investors quickly adopted this mantra — to do otherwise, Milton declared is to go against free-enterprise, after all, corporations are not people and therefore cannot have responsibilities.

Oxfam’s recent publication, Power, Profits and the Pandemic: From corporate extraction for the few to an economy that works for all, challenges these assumptions and highlights how the focus on shareholder primacy has funneled the value companies create to a few at the top, mostly men, while extracting from workers around the world. …


Aerial photo shows the devastating scale of the explosion to Beirut’s port, Lebanon. Photo: AFP via Getty Images
Aerial photo shows the devastating scale of the explosion to Beirut’s port, Lebanon. Photo: AFP via Getty Images
Aerial photo shows the devastating scale of the explosion to the port and surrounding areas of Beirut, Lebanon. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

For as long as I can remember, Beirut has occupied a part of my heart in a way like no other place on earth. On August 4, that part shattered into a million tiny shards along with the explosion that levelled the port city. Sharp and painful, I bled as if with a million tiny cuts.

Countless Lebanese networks came alive in shock and horror with those of us trying to understand what happened as we searched frantically for family and friends thousands of kilometres away.

During this time, many of us kept sharing a common phrase — our hearts have broken many times over Beirut but never like this. …


“What makes humanitarianism special is not the job. It is the choice — the choice to help others even if at personal cost.”

Reading the latest reports of aid workers killed, kidnapped and attacked or reading the personal, human stories of loss can be crushing.

COVID-19 has added to the threats faced by humanitarians but also the needs of so many from whom the pandemic, and its economic fallout, has taken everything. On this World Humanitarian Day we pause to remember the colleagues and community members who are our inspiration as they risk their lives in the service of others.

It has become depressingly familiar to hear of colleagues that have been targeted by violence and sometimes killed while doing their jobs.

The Aid Worker Security Database (AWSD) of Humanitarian Outcomes recorded 277 incidents against aid workers last year, the highest number in 10 years. …


This World Humanitarian Day, Oxfam pays tribute to all humanitarians, like these three extraordinary people in Yemen, who are working to ensure that their community and their country can one day thrive.

The neighborhood of Arish is full of houses destroyed by air strikes in southwest Aden, Yemen. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam
The neighborhood of Arish is full of houses destroyed by air strikes in southwest Aden, Yemen. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam
The neighborhood of Arish is full of dilapidated houses destroyed by aerial bombardment in southwest Aden, Yemen. This area saw intense fighting due to its strategic location, at one of the entrances to the city. The people who lived here had to flee. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

For people in Yemen, like people across the globe, 2020 has been a year like no other.

Over five years into a conflict that has killed thousands and uprooted millions from their homes, the COVID-19 pandemic has added yet another layer to the country’s ongoing crisis. Health services — already operating at half their pre-war capacity — have been overwhelmed, and people’s fear of COVID-19 may be preventing them for seeking healthcare, potentially masking a deadly cholera outbreak.

On top of this, the economy is collapsing; remittances have fallen dramatically due to recession and job losses in other parts of the world. Meanwhile, over halfway through the year less than a quarter of the money needed for the humanitarian response has so far been given. …


While the effects of COVID-19 are felt by both rich and poor, the availability of resources and mechanisms to cope are distributed highly unequally.

Chinow, a widow in Fahdi Gaab IDP camp with six children, receives an Oxfam mobile cash transfer. Photo: Allan Gichigi/Oxfam
Chinow, a widow in Fahdi Gaab IDP camp with six children, receives an Oxfam mobile cash transfer. Photo: Allan Gichigi/Oxfam
Chinow has six children and is widowed. She lives in Fahdi Gaab camp for displaced people, and has benefited from a mobile cash transfer from Oxfam. Photo: Allan Gichigi/Oxfam

“How can we stay at home without food? We cannot live in the house. You will die in the house” — says Ann Gakenia Muthungu, a 69 year old single mother and grandmother, taking care of seven children in an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya.

While the effects of the new coronavirus COVID-19 are felt by both rich and poor, the availability of resources and mechanisms to cope are distributed highly unequally. This will deepen existing inequalities if left unchecked.

An essential way of ensuring that economic shocks or health crises do not turn into human tragedies is social protection. Coronavirus has shown us that the majority of humanity are at risk; that most people are just a paycheck away from destitution. …

About

Oxfam International

Oxfam is a world-wide development organization that mobilizes the power of people against poverty.

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