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Which Is It, Transparency or Darkness?

Taken from First Person Oxfam America Blog

Right now the American Petroleum Institute is waging a legal battle in Washington to block key sections of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act– passed by Congress and signed by President Obama– that requires oil companies to divulge what they pay governments.

Some of the same companies supporting the suit, like Chevron, are also say they support the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, which is meeting in Sydney this week to promote more disclosure of oil, gas, and mineral resource revenues.

Chevron’s page on the EITI web site says “Chevron believes that the disclosure of revenues received by governments and payments made by extractive industries to governments could lead to improved governance in resource-rich countries. The transparent and accurate accounting of these funds contributes to stable, long-term investment climates, economic growth and the well-being of communities… Our commitment to promoting revenue transparency in (sic) reflected in our participation in the multistakeholder Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Chevron, which continues to support the efforts of the Oslo-based EITI Secretariat, was elected to serve as a full member of the EITI board in 2009.”

OK so we are asking: Does Chevron support resource revenue transparency or not, and if so why has the company not publicly disavowed its support of the API law suit?
Right now we are calling on Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell to drop their support of the API suit. You can help: Check out our new video, share it through your social networks, and take the action to call on Big Oil companies to be honest, support resource revenue transparency, and drop the law suit in Washington.


World Fair Trade Day Chicago

By Delia Daly, Volunteer Chicago Oxfam Action Corps

Daley Plaza was filled with fair trade vendors and curious customers May 7th and 8th. Beautiful weather made it possible for Oxfam Action Corps Chicago and 20 fair trade groups to share their stories and products with Chicagoans. It was great to see people who were both familiar with Chicago Fair Trade's message, and those just passing through on their way to and from work. The market's purpose was to recognize the movement for ethical consumption in American cities. As consumers, each purchase counts. The message being shared was that supporting products that protect the environment and the people working to produce them is possible in Chicago. Our neighboring booths were The Dill Pickle - a food co-op located in the Logan Square Neighborhood, and Mata Traders - Fair Trade fashion (clothing and jewelry) supporting producers in India. 

The Oxfam team was promoting the recent "Behind The Brands" campaign. Visitors to our booth were encouraged to play a game - matching the top 10 American Brands with their "Behind the Brands" scores. Some used strategy, others just guessed, but all were shocked at how low every brand scored in the areas assessed by Oxfam researchers. (land, women, farmers, workers, climate, transparency, and water). Over a hundred of the visitors showed their support by signing our petition urging these companies to re-evaluate the impact their business practices have. It was encouraging to share the progress that Nestle and Mondelez have made. They agreed within two months of the campaign coming out to make changes in how they treat their women cocoa farmers. Divine Chocolate and their visiting Kuapa Kokoo cocoa farmers from Ghana demonstrated the success that Fair Trade practices have. Not only does Divine Chocolate provide a delicious product, but supports and respects the cocoa farmers that are in charge of production. The lives of the farmers have truly been enriched by the independence and responsibility Fair Trade practices give them.


Food Aid Reform NOW!

When the weaponization and catastrophe of resources stricken people without food and water, we ask ourselves how much can we do to help? The United States currently sends food aid oversees in humanitarian crisis. Whether caused by drought, political disparity or natural disasters, USAID sends delivers food via Food for Peace. This program began in 1954 dedicating most of the food it buys to American farmers who then ship the food to the respective country in need. However, when we buy food from the Midwest, put it on the train to South Carolina, and then transport the food wearily on a ship, we can triple the amount of time people suffer.  It also undermines the local markets in developing countries. When we look at Somali crisis in 2011, we can see how food is not going to the right places and arriving too late. Approximately 260,000 people died because of lack of access to food. The simple conclusion is we need to do better.

We can do better. Oxfam America began its food aid reform campaign last May. Food Aid reform has a few major goals which include supporting local farmers by buying directly from farmers of the catastrophe area, faster delivery of food to people in dire need, stretching the tax payer dollar to make food aid more efficient, and reduce carbon footprint. With continued efforts and the help of citizens signing petitions, the food aid reform plan Oxfam set forth was passed in the Senate Agricultural bill. Unfortunately, the political game clouts the importance of food aid reform. The Agricultural Appropriations bill, or "the farm bill", continues volleying in the tennis match between the House and Senate.

On April 10 of this year, President Obama set the presidential 2014 Fiscal Year budget. It highlighted effective food aid and shifted the majority of food assistance from the Agriculture Appropriations bill to the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. Changes include several major goals:

  1. Taking 45% of appropriations for food aid to buy food local to disaster or catastrophe
  2. Proposes major reforms to make food aid more cost-effective and have greater impact, while maintaining robust levels of emergency food assistance and related development assistance and creating a new $75 million Emergency Food Assistance Contingency Fund.
  3. Provides a total of $47.8 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, a decrease of six percent from the 2012 enacted level, due to lower Overseas Contingency Operations activity. 
  4.  It also offers the shipping industry a $25 million subsidy to offset loss from decreased use for food aid shipment.

We have proposed a better food aid program and the President clearly took notice. His extensive plan takes money and invests it into successful food programs. Administrator for USAID, Dr. Rajiv Shah, also supports this program. Secretary of State John Kerry joins in bi-partisan support of the change.

Emiliana Aligaesha
Oxfam estimates that this reform will reach upwards of 17 million more people. Programs like this place cash directly into hands of people in need. We know that it works. Take the case study of Emiliana Aligaesha that provides evidence for success of these programs. Ms. Aligaesha found herself a widow and mother of eight children. Her salary as a teacher could not support all of her children for the basics of food, water, and education. Teaching herself how to farm, she joined several farmers in her community to create the Kaderes Peasants development. The coffee they produce and beans, maize and bananas they grew and harvested serve as a means for USAID and the World Food Programme to buy and distribute. This process supports her agricultural business to take care of her family. She has power to control her destiny and welfare supported by effective food aid assistance.  

Bold effective poverty-focused food aid reform is what we need. It opens further discussion for addressing issues with hunger, poverty and injustice. The program of food aid is absolutely American in principle. It only utilizes approximately 0.55% of the U.S. GDP. By saving more lives, this program strengthens the value of every cent of taxpayer money. After the twenty nine action corps leaders took to lobby in Washington D.C., progress to pass effective food aid reform remains uncertain. We need your help to lobby, write, and show support for effective food aid reform. 

Take a moment to write a post card or letter to Senator Durbin, Senator Kirk, House Representative Quigley and your district's representatives today! Below is a sample letter.

Dear (Insert respective Congressional Representative name),

My name is (insert name), a constituent from (insert city). I work as a (insert occupation and/or role in community). I am also a supporter of Oxfam America (option to insert number of years you have been involved with the Action Corps).

I am writing to urge the you to support the food aid reform proposed in the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2014. Specifically, I am asking to support shifting the Food for Peace program and 302b allocation from the Agriculture budget to the State and Foreign Operations budget. This is key to reform because it will ensure the US government has the flexibility it needs to provide life saving emergency food assistance where it is most in the fastest and most cost effective way.

Food Aid reform has bipartisan support – and it will mean that life-saving food aid reaches two to four million additional people every year at no additional cost to taxpayers.

My address is listed here. I appreciate the (Senator/Representative) informing me how s/he plans to stand on this issue. We look forward to hearing from the office.

Thank you for your time. For more information please feel free to contact our Oxfam Action Corps Representatives at chicago@oxfamactioncorps.com or Adam Olson, Regional Advocacy Director of Oxfam America at aolson@oxfamamerica.com

Best Regards,

Want to add a two-page informational brochure with your letter? Please email us and we can send you the document. It takes a matter of 15 minutes to write a letter and make your voice heard. Together, we can make effective poverty-focused developmental assistance a reality. 

Thank you in advance.

-Megan Nakra


Sweet Justice...The Event

A beautiful hallway filled with pictures of Nepalese workers lined the path towards the James Parlor room of the Chicago Temple. Of course there was a beautiful and delicious spread of fruit, veggies, breads and desserts. But upon entering the area you notice sampling of Divine chocolate in White Chocolate Strawberry, 85% Dark, Fruit and Nut, and Milk chocolates. Every piece is delicious. Guests including Divine Ambassadors, Fair Trade Vendors, community supporters and Oxfam volunteers chatted and delighted over the spread before the event.

Divine chocolate is a wonderful product, but the people who make this product make it that more delectable. The presentation began at 7pm. We learn that this company owned by cocoa farmers of a cooperative included the two visiting Ghanaian farmers of the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative and farmer’s union. Ms. Christiana Adusei spoke of the constant training that the farmers receive in order to create an amazing product. Every part of the cocoa making process requires high quality and standard. But the driving force is the democratic principles of the cooperative. The inherent necessity to work hard and create a quality product follows the freedom to work comfortably within the decision making process. “I am glad to be a farmer of the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative because it empowers women,” she gallantly stated. It was clear she was a proud farmer who took control of her life through this democratic organization. She has been able to give all of her children enough food, education and security because of it.

Mr. Kwesi Boateng Afriyie discussed the exponential growth of villages included in the cooperative. The basic freedom gave them opportunity to do more with the money they received from cocoa sales. Basic necessities like clean water are hard to come by. In addition, he was able to convince the village leader to have water pipelines installed for people to have better access to clean water. That was the first step to modernizing and simplifying the lives of his fellow village citizens. After pipes were installed, he propositioned the village leader to build a toilet for the town. This power to indulge in quotidian devices of our lives came to fruition with the right opportunity. 
Divine Chocolate company has high standard for product, marketing and most importantly people. With the standards of fair trade, we can improve the overall global system by promoting better business and opportunity everywhere. Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of Food Tank, describes how we can involve ourselves in fair trade and therefore promote necessary change. For example, the organization Chicago Fair Trade allows businesses to provide amazing fair trade products through strong networks. 

Organizations like Oxfam find the concept of fair trade certification important to apply in corporations like the top ten food and beverage companies. The Behind the Brands campaign encourages consumers to pressure companies to improve their upstream practices and employ standards like Divine and the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative. We can all see the difference it makes! Better business practices, better pay and a democratic system contributes directly to the success and well-being of people everywhere, whether Ghana or the United States. We are thankful to Ms. Adusei and Mr. Afriyie for touring in Chicago and giving us the opportunity to hear how and why fair trade works. 

Thank you to our volunteers and guests. Special thanks to Regional Advocacy Lead for Oxfam America, Adam Olson. 

Please contact us at chicago.oxfamactioncorps@gmail.com to volunteer and learn more!

-Megan Nakra


Cocoa and Fair Trade Just Gets Better!

Chocolate, tea, sugar should all taste sweet at our table of nine billion people. We can make this true by endorsing  better treatment of women and small scale farmers. We had a significant victory with our first campaign under Behind the Brands. All three chocolate companies, Nestle, Mars and Mondalez, have agreed to develop better upstream practices for women cocoa farmers. All three major food and beverage companies agreed to sign the UN Women Empowerment Principles, which commits to assessing impacts across supply chain in all countries. Each company will publish concrete action plans to address issues by April 1, 2014. Using their corporate influence, they promise to advocate and network in order to abide by and promote the principles.
This is a time to celebrate our victory! We thank every single person who Tweeted, updated Facebook statuses, signed the petition, and got people involved. Special thanks to volunteers making our visibility events possible!  Whether it was in Daley Plaza on International Women’s Day or outside Mondalez property!

Join the Chicago Oxfam Action Corps to keep the momentum going. On May 7th and 8th Chicago Fair Trade will host its annual World Fair Trade Days in Daley Plaza. Over twenty fair trade vendors will be displaying products that are truly sweet. You can learn more about fair trade directly from cocoa farmers. Divine Chocolate invited two amazing individuals from Ghana to share their story. They will be present both days to discuss their combined 40 years of cocoa production experience that shows fair trade is delicious. 

Divine cocoa farmers will be guests at two events in the evening. On Monday May 6th, Northwestern University will host program Kuapa Kokoo: Produce perspectives on Cooperative Development in Ghana. The NU Center for Global Development and Afrilogue is excited to present from 7pm – 8:30pm in the Evanston Campus. On Tuesday May 7th, Oxfam America and Chicago Fair Trade will present Sweet Justice: Lessons in Food Justice from Cocoa Farmers. Both Ghanian cocoa farmers and co-founder of Food Tank will present. The registration is free and all are welcome.

We are incredibly excited to host these events to promote justice in the food system! Volunteer with us at these events and support fair trade and Oxfam!

  • Chicago Fair Trade Days
    • May 7th and May 8th
    • Shifts from 9 am – 6pm
    • Table for Oxfam America on GROW, Behind the Brands, and gain signatures for Food Aid Reform
  • Sweet Justice Event
    • May 7th
    • Shifts from 6 pm – 9 pm
    • Help greet, set-up food, table and network at the presentation at Chicago Temple.

Contact us at Chicago.oxfamactioncorps@gmail.com for more information and to volunteer.

-Megan Nakra

First Person: Voices, video, and photos from Oxfam's fight against poverty