Skip to main content
Photo: Danielle Roubin/OxfamAUS

Economic justice: learnings and progress

More men and women will have secure and sustainable livelihoods.

Our progress to date against the strategic plan

Mid-term review finding: mixed progress

The economic justice area faces severe challenges such as climate change and the need to challenge powerful global players — those institutions, corporations and governments who have vested interests in the status quo. It is a highly complex area, yet also represents a high proportion of our program work. We need to improve our ability to “make sense” of this area, and better affect change at a policy level.

Read more about our progress in our economic justice goal in our mid-term review.

Reflecting on our work

Our work has remained grounded in direct, community level work with mainly rural communities, and work with these has consistently sought to respect existing knowledge, skills and assets, while offering new knowledge, skills and structural support; to build organisational strength in ways which are appropriate to the context and, from there, to link up to allies locally, nationally and globally.

Importantly, links and alliance-building can be initiated from any of the levels at which we work. Advocacy and campaigning work from global to grassroots level has directly tackled government and private sector practice and policy, in Australia and overseas; and our work with civil society partners and allies also entails two?way accompaniment and challenging of established practices and beliefs.

We have worked throughout to improve our documentation although the opportunities to share and use this for learning are not always easily found. Our documented changes and achievements indicate that in several areas we have absorbed and applied learning from our experience and from the external context.

Our mid-term review noted that we had so far done relatively little at local level to mitigate the effects of climate change. In 2010–2011, work on climate change has had a growing profile, supported by the development and roll?out of the climate change framework. Work on women’s economic empowerment has featured strongly, with some of the most important gains and learnings for the year. Work on the urban sector has developed more slowly, although there have been some significant initiatives — for example, a scoping study for an urban women’s livelihood program in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea — and also better analysis of the inter-linkages between the rural and urban causes of poverty informing our work.

Themes our work in economic justice over the past four years are:

  • Focus on climate change: this was clearly evident as a concern from 2007–2008, with advocacy focussed on the United Nations meeting in Bali; mitigation and adaptation becoming explicit in some community and regional livelihoods work; through to the articulation this year of the full Oxfam Australia Climate Change Framework
  • Concern to improve gender equity across our work, through support to women’s leadership, specific economic empowerment of women, and addressing the multiple issues which work against these at all levels
  • Work on the private sector has increased in prominence and also in its linkages to other arenas of work, particularly through the evolution of Oxfam’s work on mining; the building momentum of fair trade; and work on labour rights, and the interconnections between labour rights and Fair Trade in particular
  • The significance of urban poverty globally, and the need to give greater weighting to this in our programming. Development here has been slow, but in the last year some significant learnings and initiatives have been recorded

What we’ve learned

  • We have some clear examples where advocacy and grassroots development have been well-integrated. We need to better use our experience in higher-level policy advocacy to assist community groups’ struggles for their rights
  • Gender equity and support to women’s leadership are Oxfam Australia’s particular niche; our experience has shown that there is no true economic justice without gender justice, and we have now identified some concrete ways in which this can be pursued and deliver results
  • Our programs are most effective when the planning and design stage incorporates input from partners and communities, links between local, national and global levels, and detailed analysis of gender, power and environment factors
  • Movement building is essential in the face of changing global economic and political alignments; we need to broaden the range of our partners and allies, and develop new ways of working together
  • We increasingly recognise that migration to towns and cities is a choice for many, based on complex factors. We need to develop a clearer urban strategy for the future which seeks to increase the degree of real choice women and men can exercise about where and how they work, and reduce the extent to which they are forced by factors they feel powerless to control

Read an overview of this key goal, and what we’re doing to achieve it.