Oxfam's charitable mandate
Oxfam's charitable mandate allows Oxfam to:
promote the relief of poverty, distress, and suffering;
educate the public as to the nature, causes, and effects of poverty;
procure research into the nature, causes, and effects of poverty.
Campaigning and advocacy work by charities is subject to guidance from the Charity Commission. This allows charities to undertake advocacy and campaigning provided:
The advocacy and campaigning is an ancillary activity;
it is based on 'well founded' and 'reasoned' argument;
supporters and the public are encouraged to participate on the basis of informed opinion;
it is carried out within the law;
it is conducted 'responsibly';
direct action is limited to peaceful demonstrations.
By 'ancillary' the Charity Commission mean that the policy changes being promoted by the charity must further the charity's objects, and must not dominate activities which the charity itself undertakes to directly support its beneficiaries.
The Commission sees a difference between a charity 'contributing to public debate' by expressing a point of view, and using funds to mobilise public opinion to apply pressure on a government to change policy or practice.
The sub-clause on education and research allows Oxfam to fund education and research programmes aimed at the general public and supporters. Note that Oxfam can procure and publish research into the 'nature, causes, and effects' of poverty. This is broader than the primary purpose of the relief of poverty. Education means contributing to public knowledge and understanding. The Commission's guidelines emphasise that education must not be propagandist or used to promote any particular ideology.
Research must be objective and designed to test a hypothesis linked to the nature, causes, and effects of poverty. It must not seek to prove a pre-conceived view of the world, and the research must be made available to the public.
Contributing to public debate
Oxfam can publish articles or opinion-pieces on a broad range of subjects linked to its objects provided that they are signed off according to Oxfam procedures.
Failure to adhere to the above guidelines could lead to investigation by Charity Commission, which could result in possible suspension of the affected work, fines, and legal action, as well as damage to Oxfam's reputation.