26 November 2009

Oxfam, Political Economy, and Migration


Matt at AidThoughts asked a few weeks ago why charities such as Oxfam don't push for increased immigration as a policy issue, given the obvious benefits, and the desire of many people to move (over a third of Sub-Saharan Africans would prefer to live elsewhere, permanently).
"Why should we continue to condemn people to shoddy governments, bad climate, meager opportunities and endless experimentation at the hands of (us), the aid community? There's been a lot of talk recently about allowing the poor to have a greater say in the development agenda. Why not let them do the voting with their feet?"
Duncan Green, head of research at Oxfam indirectly sheds some light on the question of Oxfam campaign choices in one of his introductory development lectures (kudos for sharing).

Duncan is well aware of the importance of migration for development - he has blogged about it here and here.

But when Oxfam comes to design a new campaign, it thinks strategically. It does some "Power Analysis" (political economy) and thinks about what is feasible and who needs to be targeted to effect change, and how. Seems to me that Oxfam just doesn't fancy taking on the 2 in 3 British voters who think that immigration is bad for Britain, and risking squandering some popularity and political capital.

Migration is a lost cause. Why bother. Just like British voting rights for women was a lost cause. And the African-American civil rights movement. And apartheid in South Africa. Lost causes, all of them. Why bother. Stick to something easy like sponsoring children.

Am I right Duncan? Where is your vision! Where is your ambition! Let's take on Global Apartheid and do something serious about poverty!

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