Dennis Uba

Meet Dennis Uba, Oxfam’s Country Director-Designate, in PNG

Dennis Uba, Oxfam's man in PNG. Dennis coordinates Oxfam's work in this complex country.

Can you tell us about your background?

I have over 20 years' experience in development work and began my career working in the Philippines, promoting rights for indigenous peoples, the urban poor and labour groups, as well as advocating for land rights. Since then, I have worked for and headed a number of organisations, working on a range of issues including human trafficking, promoting sustainable agriculture, children’s rights, and the environment. A highlight was my involvement in the movement to cancel the Philippine’s debt and assisting in the establishment of a development fund for the environment, to support biodiversity in the country.

While I studied economics at university, it is the philosophy subjects that influence me more in my work. People get caught up in economic indicators, which are statistics about a countries economic performance, but at the end of the day, the real bottom line is enabling individuals, their communities and their organisations to be better able to pursue their own development.

What does your work involve in PNG?

Oxfam New Zealand has an interesting role in PNG and the wider Pacific region. Oxfam International has given us the mandate to lead the confederation work in the region, so part of my task is to bring the Oxfam Australia and Oxfam New Zealand affiliates together and facilitate cooperation. We have a lot of common interests and concerns in the area such as our work on gender justice, violence against women, promoting rural livelihoods, combating the challenges of climate change, disaster relief, human security and conflict prevention, mediation and peace promotion. It is my job to make sure that we are working collaboratively in an effective and efficient manner to address these issues.

What is a major challenge you face in your work?

We have seen many countries, the Philippines in particular, where natural resources have been misused and there was a poor sense of direction in terms of how best to use these resources. In PNG, we are now on the verge of using the natural resources for the betterment of society or they could be easily wasted and misused. I am trying to show them the learnings of other countries and encourage civil society to have more effective dialogue with their government and speak up about their concerns. This can be challenging at times.

What keeps you motivated in your work?

I am the product of a whole generation of civil society work in the Philippines and this has had a significant impact on me. I have an additional agenda than just pursuing development work in PNG with Oxfam. After witnessing the impact that civil society had in the Philippines, I know how important it is and I have a true passion for building local civil society in PNG, as this is crucial for the long term development of the country. I love seeing the new generation of civil society leaders coming through. This was once me. I had great mentors and models who taught me what I know today, and now it is my mission to pass on my knowledge and inspire others. As Oxfam and individuals, we have the broader responsibility and challenge of encouraging more and more people to believe in development and the fact that they can help themselves.

Can you tell us about a recent success you have had in your work?

The Japanese tsunami of March 2011 really highlighted the effective systems Oxfam has in place to deal with natural disasters in PNG. Our response effort was immediate, seamless and very well prepared. We evacuated a region of PNG and we worked like clockwork. While this is not my success story, it is the success story of Oxfam. We have worked for many years to ensure that systems are in place and that local staff are well trained so they are self sufficient and able to respond to these types of disasters on their own.