Natural disasters

What role for local actors in system change? Fighting climate change in the UK

Duncan Green - November 29, 2016

Ruth Mayne, Oxfam’s senior researcher on the effectiveness of influencing, reflects on some personal influencing she was involved with before (re)joining Oxfam. In the development world we often emphasise the importance of strengthening community action but is it really possible for local, rather than national and international, actors to contribute to system change? And if so, why and how does this happen, and under what …

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Climate Change: Meeting sea level rise by raising the land

Duncan Green - November 8, 2016

  As the COP 22 meeting on climate change gets under way in Marrakech, Joseph Hanlon, Manoj Roy and David Hulme introduce their new book on climate change and Bangladesh Community groups in coastal Bangladesh have shown that the land can be raised to match sea level rise. Their success has been hard fought, initially contested by aid agencies, engineers and the police. But they …

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Why systems thinking changes everything for activists and reformers

Duncan Green - November 4, 2016

This week, the Guardian ran a very nicely edited ‘long read’ extract from How Change Happens covering some of the book’s central arguments, under the title Radical Thinking Reveals the Secrets of Making Change Happen. Here it is: Political and economic earthquakes are often sudden and unforeseeable, despite the false pundits who pop up later to claim they predicted them all along – take the …

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On World Food Day, 5 reasons why cash transfers aren’t always the best option

Duncan Green - October 14, 2016

Since the Asian Tsunami of 2004, providing cash to people in an emergency has become increasingly mainstream. But (babies, bath water) there is more to food response than ‘just give them the money.’ On World Food Day, Oxfam Social Protection Adviser Larissa Pelham sets out the case: The King asked The Queen, and The Queen asked The Dairymaid: “Could we have some butter for The …

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Parts of the aid system just don’t work – the dismal cycle of humanitarian response

Duncan Green - July 21, 2016

Every now and then an email stops me in my tracks, reminding me that Oxfam is stuffed full of bright, motivated, altruistic people. Here’s one I got a few weeks ago from Debbie Hillier, one of our Humanitarian Policy Advisers, in response to my request for thoughts on the state of the aid business. Her views are fleshed out in ‘A Preventable Crisis’, a new …

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Desertification is a dangerous Myth – A new book explains why

Duncan Green - July 14, 2016

Oxfam researcher John Magrath reviews an explosive new book I started off life as a newspaper journalist so I appreciate the power of a good story. And that’s what the concept of desertification provides. Since the great Sahelian droughts of the 1970s and 1980s, we’ve become familiar with the idea that humans cause environmental desiccation and destruction on a huge scale; local people, usually, herders …

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Great new 110 page guide to humanitarian campaigning

Duncan Green - July 6, 2016

Just been browsing through a brilliant new Oxfam guide to humanitarian campaigning. A treasure trove of 110 pages crammed full of wisdom, experience and 32 case studies on everything from addressing tribal conflicts in Pakistan to gender responsive work with Syrian refugees to influencing Australia’s humanitarian policy. And no sign of an executive summary. Sigh. To be fair, it would be very hard to summarize, …

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After the Summit: What next for humanitarianism?

Duncan Green - June 16, 2016

Here’s this week’s vlog – still trying to sort out a better camera and sound, sorry! Spent a fascinating morning recently, discussing the state of humanitarian response with a bunch of fairly senior people from inside ‘the system’ – UN, donors, INGOs etc. It was Chatham House Rule, so that’s as much as I can tell you about the event, but the good news is …

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Book Review, Augusta Dwyer: The Anatomy of Giving (on the aid industry and Haiti)

Duncan Green - May 26, 2016

If you want a readable and short (167 pages) introduction to the many contradictions and debates that beset the aid business, I recommend The Anatomy of Giving (apologies for Amazon link – couldn’t find another). Dwyer’s subject is Haiti – ‘At just a two-hour flight from Miami, Haiti is the Western Hemisphere’s own little piece of Sub-Saharan Africa.’ She’s been visiting on and off since 1985 …

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If governments don’t tackle the causes of conflict and the refugee crisis, will the World Humanitarian Summit be a damp squib?

Duncan Green - April 22, 2016

Ed Cairns Oxfam’s humanitarian policy adviser, sets the scene for next month’s World Humanitarian Summit as we publish our curtain raiser for the event. After years of preparation, and a roller coaster of expectations plunging and soaring, it is almost upon us. One month from tomorrow, dozens of world leaders will gather in Istanbul for the World Humanitarian Summit. The UN has finalised the commitments …

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