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Failure to support TRIPS waiver could “surrender the world to a prolonged pandemic”


The People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland co-founded by Oxfam Ireland today accused Ireland and the EU of supporting a “a rich country stitch-up” at ongoing World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks that will decide the future of Covid-19 vaccine production. The EU, supported by Ireland, are continuing to block the demands of South Africa, India and over 100 other nations to temporarily waive intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments.

Just last week, the South African President reiterated this call ahead of the WTO meeting. The waiver, which would significantly increase production of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments across the world was discussed at the WTO TRIPS Council on this week.

To highlight Ireland and EU’s continued stance against vaccine equity, campaigners from Oxfam Ireland along with Amnesty International Ireland, Trocaire, Doctors for Vaccine Equity, ICCL, Christian Aid and the Access to Medicines Ireland group, as part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, staged a demonstration at Leinster House, today.


Speaking today about the ongoing WTO talks, CEO of Oxfam Ireland Jim Clarken said: “The heavily mutated new Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa last week, is clear evidence that the only way to end the pandemic is to vaccinate the whole world. The global vaccine inequity created by rich countries and western pharmaceutical companies has helped to enable the conditions necessary for this kind of deadly mutation to thrive.

“Rather than granting developing countries manufacturing rights and ensuring people get vaccinated to cut-off new variants, the People’s Vaccine Alliance in Ireland says the best response they can muster is to put up walls to a variant they have allowed to develop.”

At current rates, just 8% of people in low-income countries will have received at least one dose by the end of this year. This compares to 76% for high-income countries.

In Ireland, more than 400 leading scientists and medical professionals, including Prof Kingston Mills, Prof Sam McConkey and Prof Luke O’Neill, have signed a public statement urging the Irish Government to support the generic production of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments to address global vaccine inequity. The call has been coordinated by People’s Vaccine Alliance in Ireland with Oxfam Ireland a leading member.


Mr Clarken continued: “The Covid-19 pandemic has killed at least five million people and impoverished hundreds of millions more. Without access to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, many more will die in low- and middle-income countries purely to ensure the profits of pharmaceutical companies.

“Intellectual property rules have created an artificial scarcity of vaccines and treatments, leading to low vaccine coverage in developing countries. And that has helped to create the ideal conditions for the emergence of dangerous new variants that could put everyone, everywhere at risk once again. This is not just an ethical debate. As well as being the right thing to do, ensuring global access for all to vaccines, life-saving therapeutics, diagnostics and other medical tools is the only way to end the pandemic. Without generic vaccine production, we will continue to see variants emerge, which may be vaccine resistant and place us all at risk.”

5 CHARITABLE GIFT IDEAS TO MAKE THIS CHRISTMAS MORE SPECIAL

Here are a few ways you can sprinkle some magic throughout the festive season - with charitable gifts and fun DIY projects. And how Oxfam can help.

The past two years have drastically changed the way we live our lives. And the way we celebrate holidays.
But we have an opportunity to rethink traditions, create new ones, and put the meaning back into Christmas like never before. Here are 5 ideas to help...

1. FEEL CLOSER (EVEN WHEN YOU’RE APART)

If you're going to be away from loved ones at Christmas, thoughtful gestures can help you feel closer.

You’ll also find thousands of unique and thoughtful Christmas gifts in the Oxfam Online Christmas Shop. Like amazing books and rare vinyl boxsets.

Or choose a charity gift you know will strike a chord. Whether your dad’s into gardening or your gran loves goats, Oxfam Unwrapped has ideas for everyone. Each charity gift card makes a real difference by helping people living in poverty.

2. HELP CHRISTMAS MEAN (EVEN) MORE

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s the power of acting together. The festive season is a great time to do just that, uniting to help others – even if you can’t meet in person.

Not sure what you’d like for Christmas? Shopping with Oxfam is a great and easy way to make a difference. When you shop with us, all the items you buy will help families living in poverty. Adding a donation when you shop is a great way to give more this Christmas.

Our products are ethical and sustainable, with a vast range of options that includes gifts, preloved fashion, homeware, and more!


"I'd buy myself this top, it’s so sparkly and perfect to wear at Christmas.” - Raphael Wong, Oxfam shop volunteer.
 

3. GIVE TO THE PLANET

Coronavirus hasn’t been the only issue on people’s minds in 2021. The recent COP26 conference sharing shocking statistics on the state of the natural world have put the climate crisis front and centre. No surprise then, that many people are finding new ways to lessen their environmental impact.

Thousands of you took part in Second Hand September – thank you.

There are many ways you can shop second hand beyond the month of September. Gifting second hand is just one way to enjoy an eco-friendly Christmas.

There is something for everyone, from unique home accessories to vintage collectables for history lovers. Want to send out a Christmas card to your loved ones? Check out our card range. To avoid waste, you can also reuse your wrapping paper or turn it into festive decorations or envelopes.

4. CREATE A NEW TRADITION

Why not start something new and doable? You could buy a camera and create a Christmas movie with all your special moments together. Start annual Christmas games or make your own chocolate treats. Or club together with relatives to buy a life-changing gift for a family in need. You can wear fun Christmas jumpers, make your own handmade cards or buy some Christmas tree seeds and start growing your own Christmas tree for next year!

5. MAKE YOUR HOME MAGICAL

If you’re spending most of the festive period at home, it’s a good excuse to make your surroundings feel extra special. Plenty of decorations, sparkle and hygge will help. Or treat yourself to some ethical decorations, like this lovely Sourced By Oxfam Handmade Bicycle Gold Work Decoration. Stock up on comforting treats too. Like these delicious white chocolate polar bears. Or these amazing amazing Medjoul dates to add to your cakes. And to make gift-giving feel extra special, why not try fabric knot wrapping, using recycled sari fabric instead of paper.

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Cards on the table, there’s no better Christmas gift than Oxfam Unwrapped

Trying to find the perfect gift can be tricky. So, this Christmas, instead of giving your Secret Santa another pair of novelty socks, why not give something different?

With more people on the hunt for ethical Christmas presents, an Oxfam Unwrapped gift is a gift you can feel good about giving to someone you care about.

The pandemic has made the most vulnerable even more vulnerable. For families already facing the threat of war, hunger and life-threatening diseases like cholera, Covid-19 only adds to the daily fear and uncertainty they feel.

By giving the gift of soap for at-risk communities this Christmas, you could provide a life-changing gift to a struggling family. Soap, which can be a barrier between life and death, is simple and cost-effective, but not readily available for many of the world’s poorest people.

Nur* is using the recently installed Contactless Handwashing Device in the Rohingya camp. Photo: Fabeha Monir/Oxfam

With this gift you are helping people like Nur* who has been in a camp for Rohingya refugees for almost three years and has had to face many challenges including living in a tent, extreme heat, monsoons and a lack of clean water.

To help families and women like Nur*, Oxfam has installed contactless handwashing devices and is providing hygiene education.

“We are not afraid, we know how to wash hands, how to be safe. We heard from volunteers, they told us.” - Nur*

Your Unwrapped gift can make a real difference to the families living in crisis. In the past few years, we have seen the impact that climate change has had on people who are already living in extreme poverty. Often it is the people least responsible that are the most vulnerable to a warming planet’s devastating impacts on their communities and livelihoods. But thanks to people like you, Oxfam can provide training for farmers to help them plan for climate change.

Patouma Alisen is a farmer in the Liundi village in Malawi. Oxfam has been helping her and other farmers, who previously had to rely on maize, to grow vegetables in small kitchen gardens. Now they use some of the produce to feed their families and can earn an income by selling the rest.

By buying an Unwrapped gift like There is No Planet B this Christmas, you could help prepare more families for climate change.

How to Buy

Once you’ve selected your Unwrapped gift, there are several ways you can buy:

  1. Online at oxfamireland.org/unwrapped
  2. Call our office at 1850 30 40 55. We’re open Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm.
  3. Or, visit your local Oxfam shop. There, you can select your gifts of choice and pick up some other items on your Christmas list.

It's an amazing feeling to give someone a gift that keeps on giving. This Christmas, make a loved one smile while fighting poverty and protecting the environment… one gift at a time.

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30 years and counting: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence even more important now in our COVID-19 world

Nancy and her son sought urgent refuge at Oxfam partner, Lifeline, a community-based, non-government, organisation based in Papua New Guinea, after her husband assaulted her. Once she recovered, Nancy received counselling and help from Lifeline, who engaged a lawyer and began working on her case to obtain a protection order for her. Photo: Patrick Moran/Oxfam

Women, girls, trans and non-binary people have always faced the horrific and sometimes lethal consequences of gender-based violence in our societies, throughout history, in all countries, and in all walks of life. Even before the pandemic, in 2018 alone, 245 million women and girls were subjected to sexual and/or physical violence by an intimate partner. That is more than all the people who contracted Covid-19 (confirmed cases) in the last 12 months.

But lockdowns have made gender-based violence spiral. Millions of people became trapped at home with their abusers, in situations of heightened economic and emotional tension. Even when more people moved into online spaces, the increased violence, bullying and harassment followed them there.

At the onset of the pandemic, activists and frontline workers sounded the alarm about the scale of the issue. Domestic and gender-based violence helplines recorded an increase in the number of calls from survivors seeking help. In ten countries including Argentina, Colombia, Tunisia, China, Somalia, South Africa, UK, Cyprus, Italy, and Malaysia the surge in the number of calls to GBV/domestic violence helplines showed an increase of 25% -111%.

We need to make the world safer for women, girls, and LGBTQI+

However, governments have not done enough to tackle GBV. Women's rights organisations have had their budgets cut. The collection of GBV data – vital information upon which to build proper and adequately funded global responses – remains woefully inadequate. .

This year marks the 30-year anniversary of “16 Days of Activism” against GBV since activists started it at the inaugural Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. This annual commemoration kicks off every November 25th to December 10th to create awareness about GBV worldwide. This year donors, governments, and individuals must reflect on the impact that the pandemic has had on GBV and commit to real actions to end GBV.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that governments can take extraordinary measures to protect their citizens and respond to deadly crises when spurred to action. We need to see more of this kind of effort to address GBV in their Covid-19 response and recovery plans. We need to be deliberate about making the world safer for women, girls, and LGBTQI+ people. Let’s act now!

Here are five brilliant questions you asked about our recent report and our work on gender rights and justice.

A young woman follows a literacy class at the Women’s Home in Bria, in the heart of the Central African Republic, which offers education to survivors of violence. Photo: Aurélie Godet/Oxfam

1. What do you mean when you talk about gender-based violence?

Gender-based violence is any act of physical, psychological, sexual, or economic violence directed against a person, or a group based on their gender, sex or non-conformity to gender norms and stereotypes. It does not only affect women and girls but can be directed at anyone based on these criteria. Trans and non-binary people are affected by GBV and this is often overlooked.

2. Are you saying that we shouldn't focus on the Covid-19 pandemic but on GBV instead?

No. We’re saying that as the world works toward a Covid-19 response and recovery, we must also make that a safer post-Covid recovery – and that means using this opportunity to prioritise gender-based safety and security.

Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on all our lives. This global health emergency needs decisive action and investments. Everybody regardless of where they are in the world need to have access to safe and effective vaccines. There is no question that the world needs to act now to stop the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, as our report shows, gender-based violence is affecting hundreds of millions of people with devastating impacts on the health and wellbeing of the survivors, with grave consequences that often lead to death. This is a severe pandemic in numbers and impact that needs to be tackled with urgency. We don't have another 30 years to wait until everyone can live safe and free of violence. This is urgent too!

3. GBV has existed for years, how would you be able to change it and, if it is possible, why is nobody doing it?

Gender-based violence is not a natural occurrence. As it is made, so it can be unmade. It is the result of patriarchal structures and unequal power distribution. In the 30 years since the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence started we have done much to highlight the problem, and provide solidarity with survivors and more understanding of the issue. But we are still not close to eliminating the violence itself. Instead, there has been a surge of violence during the pandemic which shows it is a deeply rooted problem within patriarchal structures and power imbalances that target women and LGBTQI people in excluding them from decision making.

If we are serious about ending gender-based violence, we need to change harmful social norms – that means everyone must get involved. It means that governments must invest in the prevention and response to GBV. It also means that governments must collect quality and better gender-disaggregated data to respond to the GBV pandemic adequately. Every response to the Covid-19 pandemic needs to include efforts to achieve gender justice. A recovery from Covid-19 is possible if the governments implemented gender-just policies and measures.

4. What is Oxfam doing to end GBV?

Oxfam has prioritised to fight for gender justice and against any form of violence toward women, and girls and LGBTQIA+ people. We believe we cannot have a just society unless women, girls, and LGBTQIA+ people, have full agency over their lives. We work to challenge harmful social norms and belief systems, including gender-transformative education. Oxfam advocates for policies and practices that protect the equal rights of women, girls, and those who suffer discrimination based on gender or sex. We equally value and recognise women’s leadership in different spheres of life. We work with over 750 women’s groups and partners in 40 countries to expose and change the patriarchal practices that prevent women from realising their rights.

5. How is Oxfam holding itself accountable?

We fully acknowledge our own history in failing to support and protect survivors of GBV and not holding ourselves accountable for violence against women perpetrated by former staff. We committed to fix these failings and we invited external scrutiny of our new and improved policies and procedures. We have increased staff and funding for safeguarding, set up a global database for references to make it harder for wrongdoers to move across the sector, and appointed an independent commission to review our culture and practices to make further improvements. Through our campaigns, programming, and research we work in solidarity with survivors and address the harms we have caused. We are on a journey and still always have more to do in changing our culture and improving our systems – but we are committed to do so.

We have the power to transform the world

You might feel too small to make a difference. But small is beautiful.

BEGINNINGS

I started my life in India. At the age of nine, I became a Jain monk. In my late teens, I became a follower of Mahatma Gandhi in the movement for land reform. With Vinoba Bhave and hundreds of thousands of people, we walked around India, calling for social justice.

Later, my friend and I were inspired by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell who was calling for nuclear bombs to be banned. We decided to walk from India to Moscow, to Paris, to London, to Washington DC. At that time, these were the four nuclear capitals. For two and a half years we walked 8000 miles, crossing 15 countries, connecting with people around the world. Because war comes out of fear. Peace comes out of trust.

"So you're small…small is beautiful. Trees are made of thousands of small leaves. And the trees are made of thousands of small fruit. Humanity now is 7, 8 billion small, small, individuals. So every individual is equally important, never underestimate the value of your work you are doing.” - Satish Kumar

DO NO HARM

My religion is humanity, respect and love for nature. My activism is about compassion for all living beings, whatever your religion, whatever your nationality, whatever your background.

Doctors take the Hippocratic oath when they graduate and promise to ‘do no harm'. I would like to promote the idea of a Hippocratic oath for humanity. Wherever you are, whatever your profession, you are guided by the principle to ‘do no harm'. Do no harm to nature. Polluting our oceans with plastic, destroying the rainforests that are the lungs of the earth are acts of harm to nature. Do no harm to people. Cheap labour and war are acts of harm to people. If we do no harm then together we can create a safe world for everyone.

Satish Kumar - small is beautiful | Oxfam GB

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CLIMATE JUSTICE

Climate change is affecting the poorest people who are least responsible for it. Therefore, social justice and climate action are deeply interlinked.

Fossil fuels come from deep down in coal mines and oil fields. I call it energy from hell. We have created climate change, which is like creating hell on earth. Pollution, poverty, waste and wars are all human-made.

What is made by humans can be changed by humans. We are creative and imaginative. Let's use more wind and water energy, which I call light energy coming from the heavens, from above. We have power to transform the world. We cannot change history, but we can change the future.

THE REAL POWER IS THE POWER OF THE PEOPLE

World leaders gathering at summits once a year is not going to solve the climate crisis. We have to create a strong grassroots movement of people to influence governments, business leaders, industrialists, economists to change course, and to make our world a safe place to live.

It's a journey. To be an activist, you have to be an optimist. Seeing all the young people around the world today demanding change and transformation gives me hope. They are taking the initiative. They will not be satisfied with a system that is causing climate change and destroying biodiversity. I hope that the pressure which the young people and grassroots movements are adding will lead to a much bigger change in the next five years.

You might feel too small to make a difference. But small is beautiful. Trees are made of thousands of small leaves. Humanity now is eight billion small individuals. Every individual is equally important. Never underestimate the value of the work you are doing. Whatever you do, do it imaginatively, creatively, lovingly, beautifully. That's all you can do.

Satish Kumar is an Oxfam Ambassador, Editor Emeritus of Resurgence & Ecologist, and co-founder of Schumacher College in Devon where he is a Visiting Fellow.

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