How we work

Oxfam's work to build peace and prevent conflict is part of our wider programme to promote the right to life and security. Our approach includes community-based peacebuilding, emergency relief to people affected by conflict and also campaigning and advocacy work at an international level.

Children collecting water in Waralo village in the PNG Highlands.

Long-term peacebuilding: managing water for peace

Water can be both a source of conflict and a connecting point bringing communities together in their management and use of water supplies. Oxfam’s water programme in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea aims to integrate peacebuilding approaches into all its water work so that water becomes a unifying force rather than divisive force in communities.

People in the Mengel village on the boundary of Kup District in the Highlands had been tribal enemies of the Kup people and remained sceptical about peacebuilding work in the area. They were also suffering health problems because of inadequate health care and poor water quality.

Oxfam started working with the village to construct a water tank at their health centre and the community was immediately able to see the benefits of peace efforts. The Mengel people are now actively contributing to peace work in the area.

Responding to emergencies

Oxfam aims to reduce the number of people who die, fall sick or suffer deprivation as a result of conflict. Oxfam has a long track record of responding to the needs of people affected by conflict through:

  • providing clean water, sanitation facilities, food, health and nutrition advice either directly or through national or international organisations.
  • influencing the way the world responds to the devastation caused by conflict. For example, pressing governments to protect civilians or, encouraging the international community to act and demanding that humanitarian aid is delivered quickly, efficiently and is accountable.

Oxfam strives to ensure that systems and laws designed to protect people in times of conflict (such as the parts of the Geneva Convention which set out civilians' rights during wars) are upheld. Often this means putting pressure on governments to respect and act according to their obligations.

Control Arms

Oxfam works 'upstream' on the causes of conflict and violence and to curb the supply of arms that continue to fuel crime and violence. The flood of AK47s onto the world’s battlefields means one thousand people per day die from guns and thousands more are traumatised or maimed for life.

Oxfam has joined with Amnesty and IANSA to call for controls over the profit-driven arms trade. In New Zealand and across the world, we have lobbied governments and built a huge public movement calling for an enforceable treaty on the Arms Trade. In October 2006, a UN resolution calling for a binding treaty was supported by 139 countries – the United States was isolated in being the only country to oppose the Treaty.