Oxfam accelerates new strategic changes to its global operations

Published: 20th May 2020

Aims to maximize impact, shift power south and adapt to financial impact of coronavirus

Oxfam today announced that it is bringing forward a reorganization of its global operations as it implements its new strategic framework and adapts to the continuing financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The international organisation began its ten-year strategic review in late 2018, determined to build a more diverse global footprint better suited to a rapidly changing world. The changes will enable Oxfam to be more effective in working with partners and communities to tackle global poverty and inequality and help people to survive humanitarian crises. Oxfam will be shifting more decision-making power to the global south and re-orientating its teams to work in ways and on issues that are more tailored to their specific local contexts. 

Oxfam currently operates in 66 countries and 20 affiliates. It will retain its physical presence in 48 countries, six of which it will explore as new independent affiliate members. It plans to increase resources to some of these programs and refocus how each works, according to the different specific needs of local people. It will phase out 18 of its country offices. The changes in total will affect around 1450 out of nearly 5000 program staff and 700 out of nearly 1900 partner organisations. Oxfam will honour its existing commitments to its partners and donors.

Oxfam International Interim Executive Director Chema Vera said: “Looking strategically at where and how we operate is the essential first step in ensuring that Oxfam can continue to make the best possible contribution to fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice, and to influence for change  as effectively as possible. We’ve been planning this for some time but we are now accelerating key decisions in light of the effects of the global pandemic.”

“In some countries, Oxfam will have a deeper footprint as we focus our program resources and strengthen our local partnerships to maximize impact. In others we will focus more strongly on our humanitarian or influencing goals.” 

“Inevitably, we have had to make some very difficult choices about where we will no longer have a physical presence. This reorganisation will take time to complete. We feel a deep sense of responsibility to the countries where offices will be closed and we will do everything we can to ensure the people we work with will be able to look to the future with confidence. This includes continuing work with partners and allies in countries where there will be no Oxfam office, to support social movements and influence governments and private sector for positive change.” 

Like many charities, organisations and business, Oxfam’s finances have been seriously impacted by the coronavirus crisis. Continuing uncertainty including about the spread of the virus and how quickly countries will come out of lockdown make that difficult to accurately quantify at this stage. Many Oxfam affiliates have been hit by shop closures and cancelled fund-raising events. Many are already saving costs in the immediate term, including by freezing staff hires, furloughs, travel budget cuts and voluntary salary cuts particularly by senior staff. Some are beginning to restructure their operations what will contribute to greater efficiency across the Confederation.

“The coronavirus has made Oxfam’s work helping the world’s most vulnerable people more vital than ever while, at the same time, it is impacting on our capacity to deliver. We are enormously grateful to our donors and supporters whose continuing generosity is helping us rise to this unprecedented challenge. I would like to place on record my deepest thanks to our staff and the brilliant work they have achieved in helping the people and communities we work with improve their lives. The organisational changes we have announced today, combined with further phases of transformation in the months ahead, will be the foundation for our future over the coming decade as the longer-term effects of this devastating pandemic become clearer,” Vera said.    

“The tough decisions we announce today will allow us to continue making a positive impact on the lives of people living in poverty in ways we believe will be even more relevant and focused than before. It is the blueprint too of how we will usher in changes to the rest of our network to support it, ensuring that the global Oxfam confederation is on a stable financial footing” he said.

Oxfam’s Executive Board will now begin reshaping the confederation’s affiliate network over the next two months in order to secure long-term benefits and financial stability. It will improve how its affiliate members share services together to support its new global presence, rationalize exactly where this happens, reduce administrative costs further and restructure its international secretariat.

Notes to editors

  • Oxfam is a confederation of 20 independent “affiliate” members, each with its own Board and governance structure.
  • The Oxfam confederation currently runs 66 country program teams. Under this restructure, it intends to explore new affiliate members in six countries: Indonesia, Philippines, Colombia, Senegal, Kenya and the Pacific* (an amalgamation including of five current country teams). Including these six, it will retain its presence in 48 countries with refocused operational strategies. It will phase out and exit its programs over time in 18 countries: Thailand, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Paraguay, Egypt, Tanzania, Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Benin, Liberia and Mauritania. 

Contact information

Matt Grainger | matt.grainger@oxfam.org | +44-07730680837

For updates, please follow @Oxfam.