The Future is Equal

Reports

The Ignored Pandemic Report

A new Oxfam report shows an undeniable increase in gender-based violence (GBV) during the COVID-19 pandemic around the world to which too many governments and donors are not doing enough to tackle.

The report, The Ignored Pandemic: The Dual Crisis of Gender-Based Violence and COVID-19, showed the number of calls made by survivors to domestic violence hotlines in ten countries during the first months of lockdown. The data reveals a 25 – 111 percentage surge; in Argentina (25%), Colombia (79%), Tunisia (43%), China (50%), Somalia (50%), South Africa (69%), UK (25%), Cyprus (39%), Italy (73%) and the largest increase in Malaysia where calls surged by over 111%.

In many households, coronavirus has created a ‘perfect storm’ of social and personal anxiety, stress, economic pressure, social isolation, including with abusive family members or partners, and rising alcohol and substance use, resulting in increases in domestic abuse.

Meanwhile, India too recorded an increase of 250 percent of domestic violence cases, according to the National Commission for Women. Domestic violence counselors there reported being unable to reach women and girls who were grievously injured or suicidal or those whose partners controlled their access to phones.

The report shows that not enough countries have acted with sufficient seriousness to tackle the GBV pandemic. Even before the surge in GBV cases sparked by the pandemic, in 2018 alone, over 245 million women and girls were subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner – a greater number than the global total of coronavirus cases (199m) between October 2020 and October 2021.

“It is a scandal that millions of women and girls, and LGBTQIA+ people have to live through this double pandemic of violence and COVID-19. GBV has led to injuries, emotional distress, and increasing poverty and suffering, all of which are utterly inexcusable and avoidable. The pandemic has exposed the systematic failure of governments around the world to protect women and girls and LGBTQIA+ people from violence against them – simply because of who they are,” said Oxfam International Executive Director Gabriela Bucher.

Women’s rights organisations whose mission is to support women and girls and LGBTQIA+ people from violence have been more likely to have been hit by funding cuts, exactly at the time when their work is most needed. In an Oxfam survey published in June this year, over 200 women’s rights organisations across 38 countries reported reduced funding and shrinking access to decision-making spaces. Thirty-three percent had to lay off between one to ten staff, while nine percent had to close altogether. 

Even though 146 UN member states have formally declared their support for action against GBV in their COVID-19 response and recovery plans, only a handful have followed through. Of the $26.7 trillion that governments and donors mobilised to respond to the pandemic in 2020, just 0.0002% has gone into combating GBV.

“The pandemic has worsened long-standing gender discriminations, and this has increased the vulnerability of women and girls and LGBTQIA+ people to violence and abuse. If governments do not deliberately initiate strong, properly funded strategies to tackle this, the gains made in women’s empowerment in the last 30 years are at risk. We need to avert this, and the time is now,” said Bucher.

A few governments, however, have made efforts to respond to the GBV crisis. For instance, Indonesia and New Zealand introduced national protocols and identified GBV service providers as essential workers. South Africa took steps to strengthen GBV reporting channels. 

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence that commences today until 10 December 2021 provides an opportunity for governments, donors, and activists to reflect on the emerging issues of inequality that put women and girls at risk and address them urgently. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that governments can take extraordinary measures to protect their citizens and respond to deadly crises when spurred to action. We need to see more efforts to tackle gender-based violence.

Oxfam recommends that states and governments ensure a more coordinated, comprehensive, and multi-sectoral GBV response that enables survivors to access effective and quality services. Governments and donors should channel more funding to women’s rights organisations and feminist movements working to end GBV and support survivors. Additionally, more funding should be allocated to better data collection and analysis of gender-disaggregated national statistics to inform evidence-based interventions to end GBV.

“As the world comes together to mark 30 years of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, there is an urgent need for a truly gendered approach in every country’s effort to respond to and recover from COVID-19. Governments and donors need to live up to their commitments to promote gender equality by ensuring investment in all the areas we know could help end GBV. Only by doing so can we strive for a future that is more just, safe, and in which people live free from discrimination,” said Bucher.

 

Notes:

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international event that runs for 16 days from 25th November, the International Day for the Elimination of violence against women, until 10th December, Human Rights Day. This year’s event marks 30 years since its first commemoration in 1991. The event is a platform used by organisations and activists globally to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

The data on calls to domestic/GBV helplines in ten low, middle- and high-income countries during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has been compiled from different UN, national and international NGO reports and government sources. The increase in call volumes is presented as a range between the lowest and highest percentage value among the different countries.

For more information or an interview, contact: 

Florence Ogola, in Nairobi florence.ogola@oxfam.org +254 733770522 

Read the report: https://policy-practice.oxfam.org/publications/the-ignored-pandemic-the-dual-crises-of-gender-based-violence-and-covid-19-621309

Breaking Through Red Lines Report

Oxfam Aotearoa along with Oxfam Australia, and Oxfam in the Pacific have released a new report titled Breaking through red lines. Oxfam says that the report draws attention to gaps in the latest funds announced for overseas climate action by the New Zealand government. The funds will go towards supporting efforts to reducing emissions in the Pacific.

Oxfam in the Pacific’s Climate Justice Lead Ilisapeci Masivesi says that while funds to support community adaptation and mitigation are crucial, the report shows that climate change is causing unavoidable loss and damage, which needs distinct funds to help communities recover and restore what has been lost:

“New Zealand’s recent increase in support for adaptation in the Pacific is very welcome. However, while it is a huge help, it does not address the full picture of what we are experiencing in the islands.

“At COP26, it is crucial that governments around the world listen to the voices of those on the frontlines of climate change. Communities in the Pacific have been calling for loss and damage finance for 30 years.

“My country of Fiji is among the most disaster-prone in the world. To survive we are developing solutions that help farmers to restore their crops after a cyclone or villagers to shift their entire homes because of sea level rise. Communities are mostly paying for this themselves even though they did nothing to create the problems. Rich countries that are most responsible for causing climate change, including New Zealand and Australia, need to help more and support Pacific leadership that is calling for finance solutions to compensate these unavoidable impacts globally.”

The report, which outlines the loss and damage faced across the Pacific, includes the effects cyclones and flooding are having on Fiji. Despite efforts to adapt, climate-charged cyclones and flooding causes asset losses equivalent to five percent of GDP in Fiji each year. Cyclone Winston in 2016 caused damage equivalent to 20 percent of GDP. Oxfam says that these events are becoming more frequent and more intense pushing over 25,000 people into poverty every year in Fiji.

The report also shows that loss and damage is being experienced by Māori communities within Aotearoa, and that this needs a distinct response from the New Zealand government to uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Alex Johnston, Oxfam Aotearoa Campaign Lead said that New Zealand’s policy position ahead of COP26 on loss and damage focuses on avoiding and mitigating loss and damage through adaptation finance but not addressing the unavoidable loss that is already occurring:

“New Zealand’s position does not align with Pacific Island countries’ policy position. At COP26, making progress to mobilise sufficient funds to address loss and damage requires political will, as well as new and innovative sources of finance.”

“New Zealand and Australia have contributed funds to help set up insurance schemes to support Pacific Island communities recover from cyclones and extreme weather, but to be maintained these rely on payments from affected communities and on the private market to make a profit. Very little has been done to help communities cover the costs of slow-onset events like sea level rise, and what has been done is treated as adaptation – not loss and damage finance.

Johnston said, “Oxfam Aotearoa is calling for the New Zealand government to align with Pacific Island Countries’ positions on loss and damage at COP26, scale up financial support to existing loss and damage finance solutions in the Pacific, and develop distinct responses in the Climate Adaptation Act to the loss and damage that Māori experience on these shores.”

See the full report here.

Detention as the Default Report

Greece is turning more and more to the practice of administrative detention to manage people who arrive in Greece to claim asylum. This is according to the new report, Detention as the Default, from the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and Oxfam. The report found:

  • An excessive use of administrative detention with nearly 3,000 migrants in detention as of June 2021.
  • 7 out of 10 irregular migrants are put in administrative detention with the majority remaining detained when applying for asylum.
  • 1 in 5 people are detained for a long period of time in police cells which are designed to only hold people for just a few hours.
  • Pregnant women, children and people with vulnerabilities are being placed in detention without the appropriate access to health care and legal aid.
  • Nearly half of migrants (46%) in administrative detention remain there for over 6 months.

The desire to make detention the norm is reflected in recent changes to Greece’s policy and practice. This is despite European law saying that administrative detention should only be used as a last resort. In 2019, the Greek authorities expanded the grounds for administrative detention of asylum seekers to include verification of identity. They also removed the need to examine alternatives to detention in certain circumstances and introduced an amendment to increase the duration of detention up to 3 years.  This approach is in clear violation of European and Greek law.

Vasilis Papastergiou, Legal expert at the Greek Council for said:

“Administrative detention is just another tool to stop people from seeking safety in Europe. While the Greek authorities refuse to look at other less severe options to detention, like frequent check-ins, the Greek courts often turn down appeals to detention, even in the most shocking of circumstances like the appeal of a heavily pregnant woman. Europe’s hands are also not clean as the EU funds the new ‘closed and controlled’ quasi-detention centres, places where migrants are left to be forgotten. 

“In Greece, the detention of migrants is the rule, not the exception. Not only is it against international and European asylum law, but it also carries with it a heavy moral and financial cost.”

Testimonies gathered by the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) expose the real story of people stuck in administrative detention.

Syrian man who spent 9 months in a cell.

The Greek authorities put Omar*, a Syrian national, into detention when he applied for asylum. Omar said: “we were locked in our cells for 22 hours a day – no mobile phone, no visits, disgusting food. We often had to beg the guards to unlock us to go to the toilet. And sometimes this was not even possible.”

The child trapped by the pandemic.

Mohammed* was a child when he arrived in Greece. He asked to join his family in another European country. His application was successful, but his flight to join his family was cancelled due to the start of the pandemic. While waiting for Covid-19 restrictions to lift, he turned eighteen and had to leave the child protection services and move into an apartment. After an incident, he rang the police fearing for his safety. Instead of helping him, the police put him in detention. He was in detention for months as the family reunification unit where unable to find him due to the Greek authority’s administrative failures. His mental health deteriorated, and he attempted suicide. Despite Mohammed’s poor physical and mental health, the authorities put him back in a cell after his hospitalisation. Following many interventions by GCR, he was finally allowed to be reunited with his family after eight months of being detained.

The detainee denied life-saving medical treatment.

Amir-Ali*, an Iranian asylum-seeker did not receive the vital medication needed to stop his body from rejecting a kidney transplant despite the detention centres doctor stating his condition was life-threatening. This left Amir-Ali fearing for his life while in detention. He is now out of detention after months of interventions from GCR and the Greek Ombudsman.

The survivor of violence still stuck in detention.

In Kos, the Greek authorities automatically put asylum seekers in detention if they come from a country with an asylum recognition rate below 33 per cent. Gloria* arrived to Kos, and as she was from Togo, she was automatically put in detention. Despite being classed as a person with vulnerabilities as she was a survivor of sexual and physical violence, the Greek authorities did not provide her with treatment. In detention, her mental health deteriorated, and Gloria attempted suicide. After being hospitalised, she was put back in detention where she remained until GCR successfully got her out.

Erin McKay, European Migration Campaign Manager at Oxfam said:

“These stories shine a light on the heartless and shocking conditions in detention. We see people die in detention from preventable illnesses and from taking their own lives out of complete desperation. We see children in detention and pregnant women. The people in detention speak of their sense of abandonment and the huge deterioration of their mental health. Detention of migrants and asylum seekers is not and cannot be the default. The Greek authorities must use alternatives to detention and not punish people for wanting to build a life in Europe.”

Notes to editors:    

Read the new report from the Greek Council for Refugees and Oxfam, Detention as the Default: How Greece, with the support of the EU, is generalizing administrative detention of migrants.

Spokespeople are available in Athens and Lesbos (English, Greek) and in Brussels (English).    

Nearly 3,000 (2,392) third-country nationals are in administrative detention as of June 2021 because they do not hold papers to be in Greece.

In 2016, the total number of persons detained was 14,864, of which 4,072 were asylum seekers. By 2019, this number had doubled to 30,007, of which 23,348 were asylum seekers. There was a decrease in 2020 (14993 people, of which 10.130 were asylum seekers). This decrease is due to the impact of the pandemic with less arrivals and restrictions on the amount of people in detention.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in two separate cases in 2018 and 2019 that the prolonged detention in police stations breaches the prohibition on torture as per Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, noting that ‘police stations per se … are places designed to accommodate people for a short time only’. Despite this, the Greek authorities continue this unacceptable practice.

Names of persons in testimonies changes to protect anonymity.   

Tightening the Net Report

Land-hungry ‘net zero’ schemes could force an 80 percent rise in global food prices and more hunger while allowing rich nations and corporates to continue “dirty business-as-usual”

Using land alone to remove the world’s carbon emissions to achieve ‘net zero’ by 2050 would require at least 1.6 billion hectares of new forests, equivalent to 60 times the size of New Zealand or more than all the farmland on the planet, reveals a new Oxfam report today.

Oxfam’s report “Tightening the Net” says that too many governments and corporations are hiding behind unreliable, unproven and unrealistic ’carbon removal’ schemes in order to claim their 2050 climate change plans will be ‘net zero’. At the same time, they are failing to cut emissions quickly or deeply enough to avert catastrophic climate breakdown. Their sudden rush of ‘net zero’ promises are over-relying on vast swathes of land to plant trees in order to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

To limit warming below 1.5°C and prevent irreversible damage from climate change, the world collectively should be on track to cut carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030 from 2010 levels, with the sharpest being made by the biggest emitters. Countries’ current plans to cut emissions will achieve only around 1 percent reduction in global emissions by 2030.

The climate crisis is already devastating agriculture globally. It is driving worsening humanitarian crises, hunger and migration. Poor and vulnerable people, particularly women farmers and Indigenous people, are being affected first and worst. It is undermining all efforts including Oxfam’s to tackle inequality and poverty around the world.

Nafkote Dabi, Climate Change Lead for Oxfam, said: “’Net zero’ should be based on ‘real zero’ targets that require drastic and genuine cuts in emissions, phasing out fossil fuels and investing in clean energy and supply chains. Instead, too many ‘net zero’ commitments provide a fig leaf for climate inaction. They are a dangerous gamble with our planet’s future.”

“Nature and land-based carbon removal schemes are an important part of the mix of efforts needed to stop global emissions, but they must be pursued in a much more cautious way. Under current plans, there is simply not enough land in the world to realise them all. They could instead spark even more hunger, land grabs and human rights abuses, while polluters use them as an alibi to keep polluting.”

Oxfam recently reported that global food prices have risen by 40 percent in the past year, which has contributed to 20 million more people falling into catastrophic conditions of hunger and a six-fold increase in famine-like conditions. If used at scale, land-based carbon removal methods such as mass tree planting could see global food prices surging by 80 percent by 2050.

In the run-up to the Glasgow COP this year, more than 120 countries, including the world’s top three emitters ―the US, China and the EU― have pledged to reach ‘net-zero’ by mid-century. Most of these pledges are vague and not backed by measurable plans.

  • Even a country as small as Switzerland could need land nearly equivalent to the entire island of Puerto Rico to plant enough trees to meet its ‘net zero’ target. Switzerland has recently struck carbon-offsetting deals with Peru and Ghana.
  • Colombia has a ‘net zero’ target that requires reforesting over one million hectares of land by 2030, even though rates of deforestation continue to climb.

One-fifth of the world’s 2,000 largest publicly listed corporations now also have ‘net-zero’ goals that are similarly dependent upon land-based carbon sinks.

  • The ‘net-zero’ climate promises of four of the world’s largest oil and gas corporations ―BP, Eni, Shell and TotalEnergies― could require them foresting an area of land equivalent to more than twice the size of the UK to achieve net zero by 2050.
  • Oxfam’s report shows that if the entire energy sector ―whose emissions continue to soar― were to set similar ‘net-zero’ targets, it would require an area of land nearly the size of the Amazon rainforest, equivalent to a third of all farmland worldwide.
  • Shell alone will need land the size of Honduras by 2030.

Dabi added: “‘Net-zero’ might sound like a good idea, but the oil majors’ climate plans reveal just how much land these distant ‘net-zero’ targets are banking on. Over-relying on planting trees and as-yet-unproven technology instead of genuinely shifting away from fossil fuel-dependent economies is a dangerous folly. We are already seeing the devastating consequences of climate delay. We will be hoodwinked by ‘net zero’ targets if all they amount to are smokescreens for dirty business-as-usual.”

With less than 100 days left until the UN climate talks in Glasgow, governments and corporations need a much stronger focus on swiftly and deeply cutting carbon emissions in the near-term, starting at home and with their own operations and supply chains. If ‘net-zero’ targets are used, they should be measurable, transparent and prioritise dramatically slashing emissions by 2030. Removing emissions is not a substitute for cutting emissions, and these should be counted separately.

“Land is a finite and precious resource. It is what millions of small-scale farmers and Indigenous people around the world depend upon for their livelihoods. We all depend upon the good stewardship of land and for our own food security. The whole world benefits from protecting forests and safeguarding the land rights of farmers and Indigenous peoples,” said Dabi.

 

Notes to editor:

Download Oxfam’s report: “Tightening the Net

According to the IPCC, large-scale afforestation could increase food prices by about 80 percent by 2050. This would push millions more people into hunger.

The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, spanning over 5.5 million square kilometres.

A Shot At Recovery Report

Scientists have delivered multiple safe and effective vaccines, but pharmaceutical corporations and governments are still failing to make enough doses and facilitate their distribution everywhere. Vaccines could indeed get us back to our lives and our global economy going again, but only if they are accessible to everyone, everywhere, as soon as possible.

The Inequality Virus Report

The coronavirus pandemic has the potential to lead to an increase in inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened since records began. The virus has exposed, fed off and increased existing inequalities of wealth, gender and race. Over two million people have died, and hundreds of millions of people are being forced into poverty while many of the richest – individuals and corporations – are thriving. Billionaire fortunes returned to their pre-pandemic highs in just nine months, while recovery for the world’s poorest people could take over a decade.