Oxfam's principles

Oxfam staff member and beneficiaries in Mozambique. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam

Our rights-based principles are reflected in all the guidelines, policies, informal and formal working agreements that govern our work together, with partners and with beneficiaries.

Working through partner organizations

Partnerships lie at the core of how Oxfam understands the world and our role in working for change. We aspire to make a sustained and significant positive impact on global poverty and injustice and we believe that it is only through the collective efforts of many actors that this goal can be achieved. We typically work with community-based organizations, national and international governmental and non-governmental organizations to deliver programs that meet the needs and aspirations of our beneficiaries.

By setting out our partnership principles, program operating standards and program evaluation policy, we hope to clarify, and be held to account for, the kinds of relationships we want to foster with different types of partners, and the positive change we aim to achieve. All of Oxfam’s work in long-term development, humanitarian response and disaster prevention, and campaigns and advocacy will be guided by these principles.

Humanitarian Principles

In all our work we aspire to uphold the humanitarian principles of humanity (responding to need), independence and impartiality. We comply with these principles when we give assistance to civilian populations. We are signatories and accountable to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Code of Conduct and the Sphere standards of humanitarian response.

Accountability and Learning 

We have internal control systems and professionally qualified staff to ensure that we are effectively using our funds. We aspire to be a learning organization, with real time evaluations, program reviews, a published accountability report, and complaints and whistle blowing policies. Through these procedures, we seek to hold ourselves accountable to our supporters, partners, beneficiaries and the general public. We welcome all opportunities to discuss with you our performance, and how we can improve. Oxfam is part of an on-going worldwide effort of nearly 70 international NGOs to assess their performance according to the views of the local partners that these NGOs help to fund and with whom they work.

Read our Annual Report and Program Evaluation Policy. 

Using data responsibly 

As a rights-based organization, Oxfam is committed to using data responsibly in order to uphold the rights of the individuals, groups and organizations with whom we work. Using data responsibly is not just an issue of technical security and encryption but also of safeguarding the rights of people to be counted and heard; ensure their dignity, respect and privacy; enable them to make informed decisions; and not be put at risk, when providing data. Our Responsible Program Data Policy is set out out to facilitate the invaluable contribution that data makes to the quality of Oxfam’s work, upholding accountability and allowing us to raise the voice of those with whom we work.

Employees Code of Conduct

Oxfam seeks to ensure that all our staff are aware of our values and principles, and abide by them. We have an Employees Code of Conduct that forms part of our contract of employment. This Code establishes the behaviors that we expect staff to display in their work, and in their private life where this may affect Oxfam’s reputation. A staff member in breach of our Code may be disciplined.

Sharing Platforms

Oxfam will not knowingly provide a platform to people or groups that engage in activities that are contrary to Oxfam’s values or principles. We may decide to share a platform with those who do express views contrary to our own, where we believe they need challenging and where sharing a platform is an appropriate and effective way of doing that. We make these decisions on a case by case basis.

Political activities and campaigning

We allocate some of our resources to understanding the root causes of poverty. We do so to persuade governments, inter-governmental agencies, private sector bodies and citizens to change the policies and practices that are detrimental to our beneficiaries’ interests, and to encourage those that will improve their lives. We undertake this work in an objective manner, based on evidence and analysis. Some of these issues are controversial but we will always seek to engage with our critics in a rational and open way, deploying argument and reason. We are a non-partisan organization and do not support any political party.

Read more about Oxfam Southern Campaigning and Advocacy.

Sexual diversity and gender identity

Oxfam needs to ensure that program work protects and promotes human rights of LGBT people. Oxfam must also assess the potential harms - intentional and unintentional - arising from general programs for people marginalised or excluded because of their sexual or gender difference. We must look for practices in Oxfam’s program work that can transform the underlying factors which generate violence and oppression. This would bring benefit all people who differ from mainstream conceptions of sexual or gender normality in any community, not just LGBTI-identified people.