Winnie Byanyima, executive director Oxfam International HARDtalk


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Winnie Byanyima, executive director Oxfam International

Stephen Sackur speaks to Winnie Byanyima, the Ugandan boss of Oxfam International who is overseeing the NGO's move from the UK to Kenya.


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LineFromTo

that the UK -- VDU P said it would

not support a deal that gave

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concessions to the Irish Republic.

Now, it's time for HARDtalk

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Welcome to HARDtalk A significant

shift is afoot in the world of

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international development, more of

the decision-making power is being

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located in the global South, closer

to the front line on the wall in

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poverty. There is less talk of aid

and more of empowerment, self-help

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and local solutions. And at the

forefront of this is my guest today,

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Winnie Byanyima, the Ugandan boss of

Oxfam International, who is

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overseeing the NGO's move from the

UK to can you. Is International

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development currently and fit for

purpose? -- Kenya. -- and fit.

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-- unfit.

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Winnie Byanyima, Wellcome.

Thank

you, Stephen.

We have talked to

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quite a number of top officials on

this programme, the bosses of

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international NGO's, you are

different from most because of your

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back story. Do you feel somewhat

different from your peers in this

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world?

A little bit. Not completely.

I feel different because there are

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few heads, maybe I am the first,

heads of a global organisation from

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Africa, from the south and who is a

woman. Sometimes I feel a bit

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different but generally feel the

same with my peers. We are all

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passionate commerce share the same

values and we fight the same causes.

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I am interested you pick that Word

fight, your life compare to most of

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your peers has been defined by this

notion of struggle and fight.

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Sometimes in the most liberal sense

because you did spend a couple of

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years in the Ugandan bush fighting

against the dictatorship in Uganda.

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So, for you, this idea of struggle

does seem to be very, very real.

It

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is. I grew up in a crisis country

and are a brutal dictatorship, I

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sought repression, I fled, I became

a refugee, I joined a struggle

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against dictatorship, so yes, my

life is shaped by a struggle, by a

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passion that I develop for human

rights, 40 quality, for women's

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rights and this is my natural home.

Working in social justice movements.

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-- fall equality.

Do you think you

are a radical almost to the point of

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being a revolutionary?

Revolution is

something that had evolved during my

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20s but I see myself as a practical,

pragmatic champion of human rights

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and social justice and that is what

Oxfam International is, it is a

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perfect home for me.

It is

interesting that you say that, too

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many people here in the UK we

associate Oxfam with the word

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charity, because they run charity

shops where you can donate clothing

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and other things and they can be

sold on to give you funds for your

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eight and humanitarian work. -- your

aid. But it isn't often associated

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with struggle, is it an easy

marriage?

It is, because behind that

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word charity is a very radical idea

that humanity is one and injustices

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must be challenged and fought. We

trace our roots to radicals who

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challenged Winston Churchill on the

war that was going on and wanted to

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take food aid to people who are

starving and they challenged and we

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have been challenging since.

Challenge power. Interesting,

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because in recent times you have

appeared to rail against the notion

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of charity given by the rich to the

poor, you said that we don't think

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charity is the way to solve these

problems, you are not going to lift

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everybody out of poverty through the

kindness of wealthy people. Is

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charity outmoded to a certain

extent?

No, it is that outmoded.

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This era of solidarity, kindness and

sharing is what drives what we do.

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But what I was saying is that Oxfam

tackles the root causes of poverty

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and that lies in powerlessness. So

we challenge political leaders,

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economical leaders, business leaders

to do justice for the poor, but to

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give them handouts but to do

justice.

Your version of Justice

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sometimes trades into controversial

political territorial. If I look at

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some of the campaigns that you and

Oxfam have run, you have run

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campaigns for fair taxation, you

have run campaigns on the minimum

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wage, you know, these in the British

political context had certain

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political connotations which, it has

to be said, has got Oxfam into

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trouble. For example, December 2014,

the Charity commission decided that

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some of Oxfam's tweeting had carried

a political bias.

Yes, sometimes we

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are drug, told by authorities that

we are crossing a line. But we are

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political, with a small p, we tackle

where powerlessness starts and where

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power is abused. We tackle

governments and we tackle companies.

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Among the examples that you gave,

you should have mentioned that we

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faced off pharmaceutical companies

to bring down the price of

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antiretrovirals to save the lives of

millions of people dying. This needs

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a challenge and we challenge.

I am

tempted to ask you if that is the

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perception that you bring to your

work, why not actually be a

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politician? Occurs in the end,

sitting as you do at the end of

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Oxfam International, you can have a

powerful lobbying voice but you

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cannot will the levers of power,

whereas if you chose a political

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career and this knows, back home in

Uganda, there are many who would

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think that you have a very strong

chance of political success, if you

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did then you could pull the levers

of power yourself.

Let me tell you

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something. Political leaders can

only be as good as the people of the

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citizens are active. It is so

important that we raise the voice of

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citizens, that we support citizens

to hold their leaders accountable

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and hold this is accountable for

good practice. So what I am doing

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now, today is leading a global

organisation that fuels, that power

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was movements on the grounds of

citizens to push their governments

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to be just and to deliver to them.

With focus on what you have said

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about your role, which is very much

about political messages, about

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campaigning, about activism. But

what you didn't say is that it is

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also about delivering very real and

urgent humanitarian assistance on

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the ground. I wonder whether you

sometimes worry that the money used

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and has Oxfam on the campaigning,

the lobbying, the powerful political

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messages, that money is being taken,

in essence, from the humanitarian

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funds that you have two help people

in Yemen, Bangladesh, all sorts of

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different urgent pressing crises

today, that is a hugely difficult

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moral decision to take, is it?

Not

really. It is not a difficult

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decision. As I said, take the case

of conflict. Conflict happens and we

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rush there and we save lives because

we want to save lives. What we know

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that the solution to a conflict is

to find a peaceful solution to the

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issues that are driving the

conflict, so we must tackle the root

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cause is as well. If you take the

example of Yemen, it is the worst

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humanitarian disaster in the world

today, 7 million people on the verge

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of starvation. Berwick is a cholera

outbreak. We are there with water

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sanitation and food and everything

that we can. -- there is. But we

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also must speak up, we must campaign

and push those governance to fight

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for a political solution of peace in

the Yemen. We challenge the British

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government that is on the one hand

giving aid, the second-biggest

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donor, but which is also selling

arms to Saudi Arabia which arms are

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being used to kill them. So we speak

forcefully and challenging the

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British government on that. Stopped

selling arms.

There are many others

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delivering that message on arms

sales to Saudi Arabia, Westminster

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Parliament and many other political

lobbying groups, my question is that

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why does Oxfam need to do that?

Given that you have the facility and

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the manpower and the know-how to

actually use every pound that is

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given to you to help people on the

ground, is it right that you spend

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some of that money on political

campaigning that others would do in

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your place?

Absolutely, firstly

because we come with the credibility

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to speak on those issues. We are on

the ground. Before I came here I was

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having a meeting with some of the

people who are on the ground in

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Bangladesh, inside the country and I

know the picture, I know what is

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going on. In many spaces Oxfam is

invited there to speak because we

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bring the voice, and authentic voice

from where the problems are. So if I

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can share with you, this year I went

to a roundtable at the United

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Nations with the Secretary General,

with prime ministers, I was coming

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right out of Nigeria where there is

famine in that rich countries. And I

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could talk about the creeping

famines across South Sudan, Nigeria,

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Somalia and Yemen because I have

been to those countries.

That is

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because Oxfam is one of the very

biggest and most respected of the

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International aid, humanitarian

organisations. I wonder if there is

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time for a rethink...

What we spend

on our campaigning is 10% of our

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total budget, what we spend on

humanitarian crisis is almost half

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of our budget.

You, in the end, are

one of the big fish, one of the big

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multinationals, maybe it is time for

a rethink, maybe it is time for you

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to accept, that your day, if not

done, is perhaps not the future?

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Because it your own reporting on

this, for example a report from

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2015, turning the humanitarian

system on its head, emphasised the

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need to get much more local. That

local as was the best way of

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delivering real support to

communities on the ground.

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Absolutely. In fact, we are

committed. Oxfam has committed that

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by 2020 we will be channelling 30%

of the money that we get for

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humanitarian crisis through local

actors because they are the first

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responders, they know that context,

they can deliver better. So will we

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are out there, training our local

partners to take more and more

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responsibility for preparedness and

a full response when it is needed.

A

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powerful sentence from that report,

simply put, it said, we are not

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saving as many lives as we could. Is

that still true today?

Of course we

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would like to save all lies. We

always struggle at Oxfam and are

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striving for higher and higher

impact. When you say that, that

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talks to our DNA. We are impatient

for a world where there is no

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poverty or suffering.

The

implication was that your systems

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all your approach wasn't quite

right?

Of course, we are looking for

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improvements and in the last five

years I have headed Oxfam, after we

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formed our humanitarian system to

make it more effective and efficient

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at the truth is, the humanitarian

crisis around the world of the speed

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at which and the frequency and

intensity of disasters, the

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protracted miss of conflicts, we

cannot meet the need. We really must

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find solutions to prevent, we must

do more preventative work.

Is one

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way that you can be more quicker on

the ground and more flexible, moving

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the international headquarters to

Nairobi to place it in the global

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South?

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Yes, that is part of the change

that is making us more rooted

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in the work that we do.

It just cannot be right

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that we save lives and we solve

problems of poverty from 4000

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miles away, Stephen...

Is there something neocolonialists

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about the attitude that you see

in some of the Western-based

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international aid organisations?

Well, I can say that there

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is a danger of becoming less

and less relevant if organisations

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that were born in the north

and became global continue to make

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the decisions to do their work

from the north.

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We are moving our headquarters

to the south so that we are rooted

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there, so that we speak

with the legitimacy from where

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the struggles are.

Have you been stung by the degree

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to which certain African leaders,

and I am thinking of Paul Kagame,

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the president of Rwanda,

but also, actually interestingly,

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your host now, the president

of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta,

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they have expressed openly said

-- their doubts that international

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aid is doing an effective job

helping the poorer African nations.

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Just quote Uhuru Kenyatta,

he tweeted this, he said,

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"Dependence on giving which only

appears to be charitable must end.

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Foreign aid, which heard so often

carries terms and conditions that

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preclude progress, is not

an acceptable basis

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for a prosperity and freedom.

It is time to give it up."

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There are two things there -

one, the big picture.

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Developing financing,

aid is only a small part of it.

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Today, the developing countries,

the domestic investments,

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together with government revenues,

is a 7.5 times more than the total

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sum of flows which include aid,

foreign direct investment,

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remittances, loans, all that

so domestic revenues are very

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important and they are growing

and it is important though

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to understand that aid,

even though it is one part,

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has a very important part to play.

Take the 47 fragile countries,

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47 of them, fragile,

poor countries, for those,

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aid is the largest aid flow

externally. They need that aid

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but increasingly...

But what about those who say that

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giving aid to the very poorest

countries, often props up

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governments whose record

on governance and striving

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for economic efficiency

and delivering real economic

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benefits to their people is horrible

and that aid sustains them.

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There is a point in what you say

because aid should be used

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for purposes of strengthening

the institutions of government

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and strengthening the capacity

of citizens to hold government

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accountable.

So the purpose of aid is important

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that it is channelled to the poorest

who are not reached by markets,

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who are not reached by private

capital, that it is used

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to strengthen tax collections

so that countries get on their feet

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and raise enough resources,

that it is used to support

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the strengthening of civil society

voices to hold

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government accountable.

We have to use aids aid for those

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purposes, for it to deliver the

autonomy, the financial autonomy

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that governments want.

There is one specific thing that

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I want to put to you and it has come

out in recent days as a result,

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bizarrely, the scandal

in the United States

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concerning Harvey Weinstein

and allegations of very

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serious sexual abuse.

It has since transpired that a lot

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of female workers in the aid

and development business have,

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it seems, experienced abuse

themselves from other members,

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male members of staff,

over the years and,

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including staff at Oxfam.

It seems you have had,

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in the last year, a very significant

rise in the number of allegations

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made against your own male staff.

I'm tempted to ask,

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with a degree of surprise,

what on earth is going on that seems

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to make this sort of abuse systemic

even in the humanitarian

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aid business?

You know, that is a matter that's

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very close to my heart,

Stephen.

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Throughout my career, I have been

working to defend women's rights.

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It's true, Oxfam should be doing

more to protect them

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-- women who work for Oxfam.

Your former director in Nigeria,

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going back to the thousand and ten,

made allegations of abuse

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against another senior member

of Oxfam staff.

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She said those allegations

were never addressed and,

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not long afterwards, she was fired.

It does seem there is a problem,

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even in your own organisation.

Well, as I said, we

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should be doing better.

We should be doing better

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but let me be clear that,

one, a norm has changed

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in the world - American women have

stood up and have raised

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the question about safety for women

in the workplace.

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We've been working

at it for a long time.

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We're not where we should be

but we have something in place that

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has been working and some

of this reporting, Stephen,

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is a result of the transparency

that we put in place,

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starting five years ago,

when we boosted our system

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and started a system of reporting

transparently the cases.

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I want to end by bringing

you back to Uganda,

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which is where we begin,

where we talked about the roots

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of your commitment to the struggle.

For 11 years, you were a Ugandan

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parliamentarian working quite

closely with President Museveni.

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He is now seeking constitutional

change which would allow him to run

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for another presidential term,

even though, according

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to the current constitution,

he would be too oldin 2021 to run

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again, and you have chosen to speak

out against any change

0:20:330:20:36

in the Constitution.

Why?

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Well, first of all, I must correct

you that wasn't working closely

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with him as a parliamentarian.

I was a critical parliamentarian...

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You were at the beginning.

Because if I may say so,

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you've had a long personal

relationship with him...

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Sure.

..you were close to him and indeed

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so was your husband many years.

That is true.

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We were in the revolution

against dictatorship together but,

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increasingly, as I became

a Member of Parliament,

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I disagreed and

eventually broke away.

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Why I am racing my voice now on this

issue is that this issue of changing

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the Constitution in order to extend

the possibility of a president

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who has been in power 35

years, to stay longer...

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And we should remind people

he would be 77 at the next election.

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It is not a partisan issue.

This is a citizen issue.

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This is where Oxon's voice

I think is important,

0:21:250:21:27

to energise the citizens to speak up

in defence of the Constitution.

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We made this Constitution -

I was one of the Constitution

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makers - it was the most

consultative, participatory way

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and we put in these checks

in the Constitution so that

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presidents do not use incumbency

to entrench themselves in power.

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Now, he did remove one

constitutional check and now

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he wants to remove the one in age

limits so it is important that

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I speak so that Ugandans

also rise and speak

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and defend their Constitution.

But you speak as the head

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of Oxfam International but the truth

is, you have a major vested interest

0:22:030:22:07

in it because your husband happens

to be the leading political

0:22:070:22:10

opponent, who has long fought

President Museveni and has fought

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to beat him in various presidential

elections so, for you,

0:22:140:22:22

this is deeply personal.

Are you so you should be mixing

0:22:220:22:25

the professional and personal

in the way that you have chosen?

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Look, I am a citizen of my country.

I cannot be credible

0:22:280:22:31

in my own country when I do not

speak on an issue that is

0:22:310:22:35

so important for the future

of our young people,

0:22:350:22:38

for our economy.

I have to make my statement and then

0:22:380:22:50

leave it for Ugandans to go ahead

and fight it.

0:22:500:22:52

I do not express myself

on the side of the opposition

0:22:520:22:55

or the side of the

government as I said.

0:22:550:22:58

This is a strictly citizen issue

and people across both

0:22:580:23:01

sides are speaking...

There are members would like you

0:23:010:23:06

to go back and be the main

opposition candidate in the 2021

0:23:060:23:10

election. Are you considering doing

that?

0:23:100:23:15

Look, it would be an honour to

be asked to lead my country but,

0:23:150:23:22

right now, I am enjoying an even

bigger honour to support the voices

0:23:220:23:25

of citizens around the world,

to stand up for economic justice.

0:23:250:23:28

So 2021 is a little way away.

Are you telling me that

0:23:280:23:32

you are categorically ruling it out

or is it a possibility?

0:23:320:23:35

There are many people

in your country that

0:23:350:23:37

would like clear answer to this.

As I said, it would be an honour

0:23:370:23:42

to be asked to lead the country

but right now, I'm happy to tell

0:23:420:23:47

you that I have just

signed my second contract at Oxfam,

0:23:470:23:53

to serve my organisation for the

next five years so my plan,

0:23:530:23:57

I'm not looking at the Ugandan

context, I'm looking

0:23:570:24:00

at serving Oxfam right now.

We will have to end there.

0:24:000:24:03

Winnie Byanyima thank you very much

for being on HARDtalk.

0:24:030:24:06

Thank you so much.

Enjoyed it.

0:24:060:24:16

Stephen Sackur speaks to Winnie Byanyima, the Ugandan boss of Oxfam International who is overseeing the NGO's move from the UK to Kenya. A significant shift is afoot in the world of international development. More of the decision-making power is being located in the global south, closer to the frontline in the war on poverty. There is less talk of aid, more of empowerment, self-help and local solutions. Is international development currently unfit for purpose?