Oxfam International has announced that it will move the Oxfam International Secretariat from Oxford, where it was founded, to Nairobi, Kenya.
Winnie Byanyima, executive director at Oxfam International, made the announcement in a blog post. She said that the move came about from a need to “shift its centre of leadership and to strengthen Southern voices within its decision-making”.
The aid organisation will begin its move in 2017, with it expected to take two years to complete the move. She said that it has signed a memorandum of understanding and a host country agreement with the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kenya.
Oxfam International will begin the move by first relocating senior directs and other key Secretariat staff. It will then recruit locally.
As is the case now, its Secretariat will remain a multi-locational organisation, with advocacy offices in DC, NY, Brussels and Addis Ababa, a Global Humanitarian Team, and other staff accommodated in our affiliate HQs and country teams, too.
An Oxfam International spokesperson told Civil Society News, said that the organisation is aiming to keep the costs as low as feasible. Unable to name a figure for how much the move will cost the charity, the spokesperson said: "We have done some initial projections but as the implementation is a three-year process, and given shifting economic landscapes and different funding mechanisms, it would be premature of us to provide a concrete figure at this time."
Asked if there will be redundencies as a result of the move, the spokesperson said: "As with any change process, the number of redundancies is about how the process is managed. In this case, we have 3 years before full implementation will be completed. With this timeframe and also due to natural attrition, the number of actual redundancies should be minimal."
Oxfam International has said that the move does not affect its affiliate members, and that affiliates’ domestic and overseas operations and their own relationships with their publics, donors and governments will not change.
She said: “The British public is not losing its famous Oxfam! Oxfam GB will remain as strong and as vibrant as ever. Instead, the British public (and publics in other countries) will continue supporting an Oxfam that is part of a movement led from an African location – not a European one.”
She said that for Oxfam to be more “globally balanced”, stronger roots and deeper representation is critical.
She said: “This move is far deeper than a symbolic one (although I believe that the symbolism is important too). The fact is the world is changing and I believe it is necessary for NGOs like Oxfam to change. Southern countries are growing ever more influential on international stages. Important decisions affecting millions of people are being made in cities that are entirely different from the centres of power of 50, 20, or even 10 years ago. Many poor countries are growing economically and becoming middle income but poverty and misery persists, worsened by climate change and resource scarcity. Rising inequality in almost every country is undermining all our efforts to eradicate poverty.
“Our work is more now about supporting ordinary people – everywhere – to hold political decision-makers and corporates to account, so they can exercise their rights to a fair share of the benefits of economic, political and social development. It’s about linking ordinary people’s struggles and experiences, everywhere. We need to work more closely with citizens to overcome economic and political exclusion, which is the root cause of poverty.”
Oxfam International had previously announced plans to move abroad, and had narrowed down its options to either Nairobi or Bangkok.