The Future is Equal

Ben Randhawa

European countries water down landmark EU law to clean up business

Today, European justice ministers agreed on a proposal for a law to make companies accountable for the damage they cause to people and the planet.   

In response, Oxfam EU’s Economic Justice Policy Lead, Marc-Olivier Herman, said:

“Today, European countries watered down a landmark proposal to clean up business and stop corporate abuse. It is a loss for the women and men who work in terrible conditions around the world to make the goods that end up in our shopping trolleys. The only ones celebrating today is the regressive business lobby.

“The original proposal was already a far cry from the game-changer law we expected. Now, after EU countries played their part, it is only weaker.

On civil liability, Herman said: “There are more and more loopholes allowing companies to escape their obligations to clean up their business.”

On the financial sector: “The financial sector can continue to bankroll human rights violations and damage to the planet without being held accountable as it remains up to each European country to decide whether they want to make banks and other financial players clean up business.”

On survivors accessing justice: “The playing field has been tipped towards companies to the extent that we do not know if the law will even make a difference to survivors of corporate injustice.”

On climate obligations: “The climate crisis, the biggest challenge of our times, remains an afterthought in the Council’s version of the legislation.”

“Now the European Parliament should pick up the tab left by European ministers. They must make sure that companies, including banks and investors, are held responsible for their harm to people and the planet.”

Notes to editors

Read our media briefing which breaks down the key issues in the proposal, and what the EU needs to do to make it better.   

Read Oxfam’s report, Not in this Together, which details slavery-like conditions in the coffee industry in Brazil, workers in the Indian tea sector not able to make a living wage, and rice workers in Pakistan working up to 12 hours daily in extreme temperatures amongst others.

At Oxfam, we care about your privacy. If you would like to unsubscribe or correct your data, please reply to this email and let us know. Learn more about your data protection rights

Eunice Wotene announced as Executive Director for Oxfam in the Pacific

The Trust Board for Oxfam in the Pacific is pleased to appoint Eunice Wotene as Executive Director, Trust Board Chair Freda Kanek Talao announced.

Eunice is an experienced finance and operations director with a demonstrated commitment to international aid, development, and equality for people in the Pacific. Eunice has been acting in the role of Interim Regional Director since March 2022, and first joined Oxfam in Papua New Guinea in 2014.

Ms Kanek Talao said that Eunice’s leadership and deep commitment to the values of Oxfam made her the ideal person to guide the Pacific’s transition.

“After an extensive international search for the right candidate, we could not be more thrilled to announce the appointment of Eunice Wotene as Oxfam in the Pacific Executive Director,” Ms Kanek Talao said.

“Eunice is an outstanding example Pacific leadership and holds an exceptional knowledge of the Pacific journey for Oxfam. Her commitment to the issues that affect our people and our region has been demonstrated to the highest calibre during her years of tenure with Oxfam Papua New Guinea and Oxfam in the Pacific.

“Eunice’s appointment marks yet another milestone in our journey to self-determination, and we are deeply proud of Eunice’s achievements and eager to see the future of transformation under her leadership.”

Eunice’s appointment comes at a significant time for Oxfam in the Pacific as they continue the consolidation of the new approach toward becoming an independent regional affiliate of the Oxfam global confederation; having announced the appointment of the first Pacific Islander, Freda Kanek Talao, to chair the Trust Board in July 2022.

The Oxfam in the Pacific Trust Board was established to govern the path to self-determination of Oxfam in the Pacific. 

“The journey that Oxfam in the Pacific is on is very similar to my personal journey, to be independent and self-reliant is not easy, it has its own challenges and requires commitment, and determination, and the ability to appreciate that mistakes does not mean failure but an opportunity to learn and grow,” Ms Wotene said.

“I am humbled to be appointed as Executive Director for Oxfam in the Pacific and I look forward to working with you all.”

The Trust Board for Oxfam in the Pacific wishes Eunice well in her new role.

Global humanitarian needs highest on record

In reaction to today’s UN 2023 Global Humanitarian Outlook report, revealing that 339 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid – the highest caseload in history – Oxfam’s Global Humanitarian Director, Marta Valdes Garcia said: 

“One in every 23 people around the world –the equivalent of nearly half of the entire population of Europe– is now in urgent need of humanitarian aid. This news must be an immediate wake-up call. 

“The humanitarian needs are outstripping the aid system’s ability to respond. We have to rethink not only how we try to meet those needs, but what the failures are of global systems that are leading to such rapidly growing inequality in the first place. 

“Humanitarian aid is flatlining but, again, we’re seeing the UN appealing for even more resources, from the same pool of donors, to help even more desperate people trying to cope in crisis. Again, those most in need will receive only a pittance of what they are asking for. 

“The global humanitarian system is already overwhelmed. We know that people are being made homeless, hungry and sick by climate change, conflict, poverty and inequality, and economic failures – but these are not isolated issues, they’re the same endemic crises.  

“We must not wait any longer. We need a radical overhaul of how our global systems work, putting the dignity and rights of people in crisis first.  

“We must both immediately respond to this unprecedented humanitarian need and find ways to change a runaway global financial system where the few are benefitting at the cost of the many. How can we have hundreds of new food and energy billionaires yet we cannot fund basic humanitarian needs to stop millions of people from starving?   

“Donors must immediately meet the UN global humanitarian appeal to help save lives now. Funding to prevent disasters should have no strings attached; and to nip escalating crises in the bud, decisions and actions must be led by local communities themselves. 

 “National governments must also tackle the root causes of poverty and inequality that worsens the blow of disasters on those already suffering. One key way this can be done is by injecting resources into global public goods, from climate adaptation to social protection.  

“There is already so much insight into what a new global system could be – at heart, by tackling global inequality, climate change and conflict, and focusing on local leadership. What is dismally lacking is the political courage.” 

 

Notes to editors

Since 2016 Oxfam, together with 60+ INGOs, UN Agencies, and donor governments, has committed to putting communities and local leaders at the heart of humanitarian responses and to making the humanitarian system more efficient and effective. Together with 50+ NGOs we have signed this joint statement in reaction to this GHO report.

Learn more: Hunger in a Heating World

Oxfam supports partners and local government in responding to Cianjur Earthquake in Indonesia

Oxfam is supporting the Humanitarian Knowledge Hub (JMK) in responding to the earthquake which hit Cianjur and Sukabumi in Indonesia last week. The partners have started distributing basic sanitation kits to displaced people.

The earthquake has killed at least 323 people, damaged more than 62,628 buildings in Cianjur and around 443 others in Sukabumi and caused a major power outage across both districts.

“Nearly half a million people living on the main Indonesian island of Java have been impacted. Accessing the impacted area is difficult because a landslide has covered the main road. With the spirit of Local Humanitarian Leadership, Oxfam is supporting the local government in responding to the situation through our local partners who have been in the impacted area since 22 November 2022,” said Siti Khoirun Ni’mah, Head of Programme Management of Oxfam in Indonesia.

Oxfam is working closely with the Indonesian Women’s Coalition (KPI) Garut, one of the members of JMK, doing an immediate assessment of what people need most urgently to cope. Our assessment will focus especially on the needs of women, children and people with disabilities in the area.

Mike Verawati, the Director of KPI said:

“Many of the victims are women and children. Buildings suddenly collapsed, trapping many of them inside. We will act as fast as possible to help in rescue efforts now underway, and to provide aid and services to the most vulnerable people, who will be affected both physically and emotionally.”

JMK plans to provide 5,000 of the most vulnerable people with basic shelter and sanitation services, with equipment mobilised from its nearest warehouse in Kediri, East Java.

“Indonesia is prone to natural disasters, and this is another reminder that the humanitarian system needs always to be prepared, including with early warning systems, so we can minimize the impact on women and children who are always the most vulnerable to crises such as this,” added Verawati.

 

Notes to editors:

The Humanitarian Knowledge Hub (JMK) is a network of local humanitarian organizations in Indonesia which aims to share knowledge and collaboration in humanitarian sector.

JMK has conducted emergency responses since the eruption of Mount Agung Bali, Mount Merapi Yogyakarta, the Lombok earthquake, the Banjir Bandang Makassar, the Sunda Strait Tsunami, and the Central Sulawesi Tsunami and Liquification.

Reaction: Lawyers for Climate Action v Climate Change Commission verdict

The NZ Climate Action Network, a network of individual organisations that work together to tackle climate change, react to the Lawyers for Climate Action v Climate Change Commission verdict:

Cindy Baxter, Coal Action Network Aotearoa spokesperson said: 

“What’s shocking in this decision is the Court’s ruling that the 1.5˚C warming limit in the Zero Carbon Act is not legally binding. We call on the government to change the Act accordingly, and on the Climate Change Commission to deliver advice as to how we get there, which it clearly has not done.

“The central issue in this court case is the creative accounting around emissions deployed by the New Zealand Government, an accounting system that makes our 2030 emissions reduction target look like a 50% cut when in fact it’s only 22%. We need more transparency around our accounting system.”

Christine Rose, Greenpeace senior agriculture campaigner said:

“This case has highlighted this government’s failure to actively protect the basic right of a safe and stable climate for all. Intensive dairying threatens this right, being to New Zealand what coal is to Australia and tar sands are to Canada. If this Government is serious about tackling the climate crisis, it must do what we already know will cut climate pollution from intensive dairying: phase out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, substantially reduce stocking rates, and support farmers to shift to more plant-based regenerative organic farming.”

Nick Henry, Oxfam Aotearoa climate justice lead said:

“The law may not have forced the government to act consistently with the science today, but ultimately, the science will force us to act or suffer the consequences. Emissions must be cut in half globally, quickly, to avoid devastating impacts on all of humanity.   

“We can only limit the worst impacts of climate destruction – the impact to homes, to the food we grow, and the places we love – if we take action at the scale necessary to keep global heating to within 1.5 degrees. 

Dr Jim Salinger, Wise Response Society deputy chair said:

“We know that climate change is here. What was a river delta and the breadbasket of Pakistan is now a lake; a third of the country is under water and millions of people are displaced. Closer to home, Nelson has suffered one-in-a-hundred-year flooding accompanied by slips, erosion, wastewater pollution, and losses of hundreds of homes and other infrastructure that will take decades to fix. 

“Dangerous climate extremes will continue to become more frequent and more extreme with each fraction of a degree the mean global surface temperature rises. New Zealand has committed to doing its part to mitigate climate change. This means real action to cut emissions, across all sectors of society, and it means calculating our carbon budgets using internationally respectable accounting methods.”

Together, these organisations call on the government to revise its emissions budgets in line with the science, and to urgently bring in the following policies to cut emissions: 

  • A proper price on agricultural emissions that will reduce pollution in line with the science of 1.5°C  
  • A significant reduction in synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use and a $1 billion investment in regenerative, organic farming    
  • No new fossil fuel vehicles by 2030, and free public transport for community service cardholders, under 25s and tertiary students  
  • Ending new oil, coal and gas exploration on Aotearoa soil and seas or extensions of current permits.

Women and girls “expendable” in misguided slash-and-burn policies of economic recovery

Oxfam: Austerity measures and their gendered harms are a form of gender-based violence

Governments around the world are putting women and girls in danger of unprecedented new levels of poverty, peril, overwork and premature death as a result of near-universal “slash-and-burn” efforts to recover their economies from the pandemic and tame inflation.

A new Oxfam report today, “The Assault of Austerity”, says that four out of every five governments are now locked into austerity measures, cutting public services like health, education and social protection rather than pursuing wealth taxes and windfall taxes. More than half of these government already fail their women and girls, by failing to provide or barely providing gendered public and social services. They are treating women and girls as expendable.

“Women carry most of the physical, emotional and psychological consequences of these cuts to crucial public services because they rely on them most. The road to post-pandemic recovery is being built upon the lives and sweated labour and security of women and girls,” said Oxfam Head of Gender Justice and Gender Rights, Amina Hersi. “Austerity is a form of gender-based violence.”

Austerity is not inevitable, it is a choice: governments can continue to cause harm by cutting public services, or they could raise taxes on those who can afford it. A progressive wealth tax on the world’s millionaires and billionaires can raise almost $1 trillion more than governments are planning to save through cuts in 2023.

Recent reports from UN agencies show that women and girls are already living in dire situations and Oxfam believes that austerity policies are contributing to:

  • More women and girls joining the 1.7 billion who are already now living below the poverty line of $5.50 a day;
  • Baking in the unequal “return to work” rate of women, who between 2019-22 captured only 21 percent of all projected employment gains, with many of those jobs becoming ever more exploitative and precarious;
  • Women being foisted with yet more responsibility for care, even as they already worked an additional 512 billion unpaid hours in 2020;
  • Women and girls facing even more difficulty to get clean water – the lack of which already kills 800,000 of them each year – along with affordable food, given the sharp rises in costs;
  • More violence, even as one in every 10 women and girls faced sexual and physical violence from an intimate partner in the past year. To squeeze budgets during lockdown, 85 percent of countries shut their emergency services for survivors of gender-based violence, according to a UNDP review.

With more than 85 percent of the world’s population projected to live under austerity measures in 2023, this already horrific situation will get worse, even as governments’ priorities are clearly elsewhere: 2 percent of what governments spend on military is enough to end interpersonal gender-based violence in 132 countries.

“Austerity policies blend patriarchy and neoliberal ideology to further exploit the most oppressed within society and deliberately dismiss their needs,” said Hersi.

“It is not just a gendered policy, it is also a gendered process in its ‘everydayness’ – the way it permeates the daily lives of women specifically, in their incomes, their care responsibilities, their ability to access services as essential as health, water, and transportation, and in their overall safety and freedom from physical violence in the home, at work, and on the street,” Hersi said.

The report shows that women are impacted by cuts to services, social protection and infrastructure twice: first directly, through rising prices or loss of jobs; and then indirectly, because they are made society’s ‘shock absorbers’ and expected to survive and take care of everyone when the state steps back. For example, despite the terrible impact of food price inflation, and with more than 60 percent of the world’s hungry being women, the IMF told nine countries, including Cameroon, Senegal and Surinam, to introduce or increase value-added tax which often applies to everyday products including food.  

The report says that governments are pursuing their economic policies in a vacuum of gendered data. Less than half the data needed to monitor the fifth Sustainable Development Goal to achieve gender equality is currently available. Only about 35 percent of reported health-related data is segregated by gender, and the data is even scarcer for non-binary and queer people who are almost invisible in data collection and surveying.

“This absence of systemic data about the economic violence being perpetrated upon women and LGBTQIA+ people means that governments are making their economic decisions in the dark,” Hersi said.

“Women are being gaslit by a false choice between the state either providing social and public services or repaying debt and attracting investment and growth. It doesn’t have to be,” Hersi said. Governments should adopt human-centred, feminist economic policy choices to tackle inequalities and support the wellbeing of marginalised gender, racial and ethnic groups across all countries, the report says. 

Oxfam calls all governments to end austerity and instead seek alternatives such as feminist budgeting and progressive taxation, where taxes are invested into universal social protection and public services, putting the specific needs of women, girls, and non-binary people at the heart of policy making. It calls for decent work through the full implementation of the International Labour Organisation’s labour standards, including particularly for women in the informal and care economies.

Oxfam calls on the IMF to stop pushing painful, failed austerity measures, and to suspend austerity-based conditionality on all its existing loan programmes. It also calls on rich countries to urgently advance debt cancellation and debt-free financing for lower income countries.

 

NOTES TO EDITOR

Download the report: The Assault of Austerity

The #EndAusterity campaign#EndAusterity campaign launched during the End Austerity Festival on 28 September 2022.Organisations participating in the #EndAusterity Campaign include: Oxfam, the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), Red Latinoamericana por Justicia Económica y Social – Latindadd, Financial Transparency Coalition, Arab Watch Coalition, The Bretton Woods Project, Global Social Justice, Action Aid International, WEMOS, Ibon International, the Fight Inequality Alliance, Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), Third World Network, INESC-Brazil, Equidad de Género: Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia, and the Campaign of Campaigns.