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Oxfam Scotland New Year Message

Posted by David Eyre UK Poverty Press Officer

1st Jan 2013

Judith Robertson

New Year's Message by Judith Robertson, Head of Oxfam Scotland


So how will 2012 be remembered and where are we headed in 2013?  


For Oxfam, the last 12 months were punctuated by a series of emergencies.  


In West Africa, over 18 million people were affected by a severe food crisis caused by drought, a failure of several crops and sharp rises in food prices. Only a swift response averted a larger disaster.


It came just a year after another food crisis in East Africa - worryingly, a huge number of people, particularly in Somalia, continued to rely on humanitarian aid throughout this year.


In Yemen more than 10 million people - almost half the population - are suffering from a shortage of food. The UN says in some parts of the country one in three children are severely malnourished.


Elsewhere, Oxfam's emergency response is continuing to help some of the more than 100,000 people made homeless in the Philippines by Typhoon Bopha in early December.


And while the cease-fire has ended the immediate violence between Gaza and Israel, Oxfam intensified its campaign for an end to the crippling five year Israeli blockade.


As an organisation we also celebrated our 70th anniversary - a significant milestone.


Oxfam was formed in 1942 to lobby the British Government for the relaxation of the Allied blockade of occupied Europe, and to ensure the supply of vital relief to civilians especially in Greece. 


Unfortunately, seven decades on, one in eight people still go to bed hungry.


Ending this is possible; there is already enough food in this world to ensure no-one goes hungry.


The challenge we face is to ensure fair access to food for everyone.


But, encouragingly, we already know many of the solutions.


The world's 500,000 small-scale farmers are helping to put food on the plates of two billion people - or one in three people on earth. We must do more to help them.


Our project in Tanzania - funded by the Scottish Government - is working with farmers to improve their access to sustainable markets and their ability to respond to climate change.


It is proving how, with the right support and training - small scale farmers can thrive.


And 2013 brings with it other major opportunities.


In June, Prime Minister David Cameron will host the G8 - this time in Northern Ireland.


As the Chair, he must show leadership by placing hunger and land grabs firmly on the agenda.


We cannot tackle hunger without tackling access to land.


Across the developing world land 26 times the size of Scotland has been bought, sold or licensed in just a decade. Those who depended on it to grow food are often simply pushed aside.


In 2013 the World Bank, a significant investor and the principal standards setter in large land deals, can act to protect some of the world's poorest people.


But we don't always need to look overseas for problems to solve.


Poverty in a rich country like Scotland is a disgrace. It's simply unacceptable. In 2013 Oxfam Scotland will be doing three concrete things to help combat it.


Firstly, we will be talking about taxation.


HMRC's own estimates say that tax avoidance and related problems are costing the country £32 billion a year. Tax Research UK believes the tax gap could be as high as £120 billion.


So our Government could, and should, be doing much, much more. When some people don't pay their fair share, it's the poorest who suffer most.


As well as tackling tax dodging, Scotland also wants taxation to be more progressive.


In November 2012, an IpsosMori poll for Oxfam Scotland showed more than three quarters of people in Scotland believe taxes should be raised for those with the highest income and wealth. In 2013, we will be challenging politicians to listen to their views.


Secondly, we know some of the best solutions to poverty come from people in the poorest communities themselves.


In Scotland, we work with partners who have created fantastic facilities and services for their local communities - work that can be a model for development across Scotland in 2013.


The Beith Community Development Trust has provided brand new football pitches used by hundreds of local children - keeping money in the local community.


The Linwood Community Development Trust has done fantastic work in bringing local people together and is now on the point of securing land to build a new community hall open to all.


Sunny Govan Community Radio gives local people the chance to take to the airwaves, talk about issues of real local importance and get training in media production.


The GalGael Trust in Govan doesn't just provide training in traditional skills for local people, it gives them a sense of self-worth and a real sense of community.


The Clydebank Independent Resource Centre is a beacon of hope for people in West Dunbartonshire, giving help and advice to people struggling with the benefits system.


The Lochboisdale Amenity Trust has planted 20,000 trees in Uist to create shelter for growing crops and to protect the fragile island coastline and will soon be launching schemes to create employment and incomes for local people.


Each of these local groups is proof that Scotland's people are full of ideas and potential.

If public bodies listen to communities, react to their ideas and support them in using all of the assets available to them - including land - we could see an incredible transformation.


In 2013 we have the chance to put community-led development at the heart of Government policy, especially in consultations on land reform, and the Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.


But we must also move towards a new kind of economy in Scotland, one that's not just based on finance-based measurements like GDP, but which is also based on people's real needs.


In 2012 our Humankind Index for Scotland showed what Scots want from our economy. They don't want huge pots of cash. They want a decent environment, a safe, secure home, good local services, satisfying work and enough money to properly provide for themselves and their families.


For nearly a million people in Scotland, our present economy has shown itself incapable of meeting these simple needs. In 2013, it is time to start creating a different kind of economy.

Blog post written by David Eyre

UK Poverty Press Officer

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