Oxfam Halifax’s Make Trade Fair Campaign Coordinator
This case was written by Deirdre Evans and Julia Sagebien. The authors wish to extend special thanks to
Brian O'Neill, Terry Nikkel, Anthony Abato, and Oxfam Canada.
Jamie Jones, the new Oxfam Canada Make Trade Fair Campaign Coordinator in Halifax
had just finished her first meeting with Brian O’Neill, the Canadian Program Officer for
the Oxfam Canada office in Halifax. Brian had discussed with her the parameters of the
job (see Appendix 1 for the Job Description) and had given her an overview of the
manner in which Oxfam meets its mission and objectives at international, national, and
local levels through coordinated campaigns. Brian had asked Jamie to prepare a 5-10
page communication strategy and action plan for the Make Trade Fair campaign in time
their next meeting.
Before leaving the building for a Big Noise event, Brian handed Jamie a copy of the
media advisory he had distributed to all the media outlets in the city as a way to create
press interest in the event. “Jamie,” he said, “what we are trying to do here with the Big
Noise is to gather local signatures so we can then add them to the millions of signatures
being gathered worldwide in support of the Make Trade Fair campaign. We will present
the signed petition at the WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong this December. Why
don’t you come along to the Big Noise event? I hope we have a good turnout for this. I
always wonder who will turn up. Generating interest in such events has been getting
tougher lately. I guess all we can do is hope for good coverage and keep going. We could
really use your help.”
Oxfam’s International, National and Local Organizational Structure
Oxfam was originally founded in the UK in 1942 to provide humanitarian assistance to
Nazi-occupied Greece. Over time, the organization has grown into a worldwide
humanitarian and social justice movement which aims to find lasting solutions to poverty,
suffering, and injustice. In 1995, Oxfam International came into being as a confederation
of autonomous national affiliates.1 Today, Oxfam International’s 12 affiliates are
working with over 3,000 partners in more than 120 countries and raise over $500 million
Oxfam International’s Secretariat is based in Oxford, England. As well, there are
advocacy offices in New York (which focuses on the United Nations), Washington
(which focuses on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund), Geneva (which
focuses on the World Trade Organization), and Brussels (which focuses on the European
Community). Policy is set annually by Oxfam International’s Board, made up of the
Chair of the Board/Trustees and Executive Director of the 12 affiliate Oxfams. Oxfam
International sets global priorities and global campaigns. The 12 national affiliates
12 affiliates: UK, Hong Kong, Ireland, The Netherlands, USA, Germany, New Zealand, Quebec, Canada,
Australia, Belgium, and Spain
contribute to these global initiatives for greater effectiveness and global impact. The
international, national and local offices are collectively known as Oxfam.
As a widely recognized and respected organization, Oxfam works to protect its image and
reputation by producing consistent, appealing and well thought-out advertising and
publicity materials. Great care is taken at all levels of the organization to see that Oxfam
branding is used appropriately and strategies set out by the Board and the Executive
Directors are followed consistently.
The organization’s approach to development is to intervene at multiple levels. This
approach generally has at least three layers. First, Oxfam works in the host country on
specific projects. Second, it works in member countries to lobby governments and
companies for change. Lastly, Oxfam engages in citizen education to motivate individuals
to play a role through their consumer activities and individual lobbying.
Oxfam Canada, founded in 1963, is a non-profit international development organization
which aligns its program and policy work with the priorities of Oxfam International.
Oxfam Canada supports “community programmes in food security, health, nutrition, and
democratic development with an emphasis on working with women”.2 (See Appendix 2
for the Oxfam Canada Strategy.) The organization is funded through private donations as
well as government funds. (See Appendix 3 for the Oxfam Canada budget.)
Oxfam Canada’s national office, including the Executive Director and the Manager of
Programs, is based in Ottawa, while the fundraising team is based in Toronto. In addition,
there are the five regional program offices that report to the Manager of Programs: St
John’s, Halifax, Toronto, Saskatoon, and Vancouver. The Oxfam Canada national office
sets the overall Canadian policy and priorities, including consideration of which Oxfam
International campaigns will be undertaken in Canada, and then the five regional offices
take on the responsibility for campaign execution at a local level and for generating
support from Canadians in their region.
Oxfam Canada uses a multilevel campaign strategy. It combines work with program
counterparts and social movements in developing countries with educational and
advocacy efforts in Canada. For example, Oxfam Canada will carry out development
programs overseas and then inform Canadians about the program to raise awareness on
issues such as basic human rights, food security, and fair trade in developing countries.
Oxfam Canada then tries to engage the Canadian public through special events,
fundraising, petition signing and education programs.3
Oxfam Canada is currently involved with six international campaigns (Appendix 4) that
are mutually reinforcing. Make Trade Fair and Make Poverty History are the themes
underlying all the campaigns. For greater impact and increased effectiveness, these two
campaigns are being executed in conjunction with the other 11 Oxfams as well as other
Oxfam’s Halifax Office
Oxfam Canada’s Halifax office is composed of two full-time paid employees, Brian
O’Neill, the Canadian Program Officer, and Pat Kipping, the Major Donor Officer; one
half-time Volunteer Coordinator (who is herself a volunteer); and a core group of about
40 highly-committed volunteers. The Oxfam office in Halifax carries out development
education, advocacy, public awareness, and fundraising activities and builds support for
Oxfam’s work. The office itself provides a convenient meeting place, and is also a
distribution centre stocked with brochures, pamphlets, press releases, buttons, wrist
bands, and other materials handed out or sold at local campaign events. The overall
objective of the office is to mobilize the local public and to engage government and
corporations in support of Oxfam Canada’s campaigns and fundraising efforts.
The Halifax office does not have its own web page, but the Oxfam Canada website
(http://www.oxfam.ca) is well-designed and is quite effective in getting information to
visitors. The site makes it easy to become a volunteer and/or donor; links to related sites
like Make Trade Fair (http://www.maketradefair.com) and Make Poverty History
(http://www.makepovertyhistory.ca) are prominent.
Brian’s responsibility as Canadian Program Officer is to run the Halifax office,
coordinate all campaign activities, and supervise volunteers. He networks with
counterparts across the country to create and implement campaign strategies. Brian
actively recruits and motivates volunteers. Together, they attend festivals, gather
signatures, write letters, and attend public events and other gatherings to gain support for
Oxfam Canada’s campaigns.
Oxfam International’s global campaigns are publicized and often implemented at the
local level by “working groups” of volunteers. Brian makes sure that these groups receive
office and logistical support and provides them leadership and guidance as needed. He is
very careful to ensure that key messages from Oxfam International and Oxfam Canada
are delivered effectively and intact in the local campaigns. A number of working groups
are very active. The Make Trade Fair Working Group planned and organized the Big
Noise petition drive in downtown Halifax, and the No Sweat Working Group made
significant progress towards getting the Halifax Regional Municipality (Halifax’s city
government) to implement an ethical procurement policy for apparel such as uniforms
and shoes issued to city workers.
The Make Trade Fair Campaign
Oxfam International’s largest campaign, the Make Trade Fair campaign, is designed to
help solve the acute problems experienced by people in developing countries due to
unfair trade practices, primarily heavy subsidization of agricultural products by the
developed world. For example:
The USA and the EU account for around half of all wheat exports. Their export
prices are respectively 46 percent and 34 percent below cost of production.
The USA accounts for more than one-half of all maize exports. It exports at prices
that are one-fifth below the cost of production.
The EU is the world’s largest exporter of skimmed-milk powder. It exports at
prices representing around one-half the cost of production.
The EU is the largest exporter of white sugar. Export prices are only one-quarter
of production costs.
Due in part to pressure from Oxfam Canada, Canada has made progress in recent years in
reducing its practices of dumping surplus products on developing countries and of tied
aid, but it can still improve its record in defending the power of countries to control their
economy. “Canada doesn’t dump its agricultural exports like the US and EU,” states
Rieky Stuart, Oxfam Canada’s former Executive Director, “but Canada has joined with
the subsidizing superpowers to try to force poor countries to lower tariffs
quickly.” Oxfam Canada is now asking the Canadian Government to pressure the EU and
USA to improve their records on trade dumping and to respect developing countries’
“power to decide”.
Unfair subsidies of agricultural products by developed nations also affect local produce
markets. For example, in Mozambique, Oxfam has been working with the National
Farmers Union to make drought-resistant sweet potato and cassava seeds available, while
in South Africa it is working with the Women on Farms Program. These programs have
been successful in putting food on tables and providing a livelihood for farmers. The
challenge is that while crops are being produced through community projects, the local
market is selling competing international products at a lower cost, jeopardizing the
livelihood of these farmers. If Oxfam’s community projects are to succeed in the long
term, there needs to be a change in global trade practices.
At the heart of the campaign is Oxfam International’s report, “Rigged Rules and Double
Standards”. According to the report, 128 million people could be lifted out of poverty if
the rules allowed Africa, Latin America, East Asia, and South Asia to each increase their
share of world exports by just one percent.
The Make Trade Fair campaign began in 2002 with 21 countries taking part (see
Appendix 5). The campaign targets politicians, corporations and the public at large so
that trade becomes part of the solution to world poverty, rather than part of the problem.
The images and slogans for the campaign are used internationally and the global
campaign is executed through local offices. Oxfam International recruited celebrities to
take part in the initiative, including Alanis Morissette, Antonio Banderas, Colin Firth, and
many others. These well-known faces appear on the marketing material (see Appendix 6
for sample celebrity campaign material).
The Make Trade Fair campaign is designed to raise awareness of trade issues and to
mobilize action. The awareness component takes the form of talks, rallies, and circulated
material. The call to action has two components: first, have individuals all around the
world sign the Big Noise petition that will be presented to global leaders and, second, to
have them send letters or e-mails to their politicians and government officials. The
petitions and the letter campaign have been set up both in print, with tear-off postcards
for politicians, as well as online to make it as easy as possible for individuals to take
action. Oxfam Canada actively pursues the implementation of the global campaign’s
awareness and call to action components. For example, it regularly holds events, gathers
signatures, and its website makes it easy for Canadians to contact their MPs and the
Prime Minister (see Appendix 7 for online petition and e-mail campaign samples).
If Oxfam Canada is to pressure the Canadian government into making a change in its
trade practices, it needs to show that it has the Canadian public’s support. Unfortunately,
only a fraction of Canadians have signed the petition. Brian understood that the Make
Trade Fair message was complicated and that a person needed to understand the issues
and the political, economic and social factors affecting international trade if the
campaigns goals are to be met in the long term. In Greater Halifax, the message and the
campaign had been somewhat successful in reaching high school and university students,
but had very low penetration in the general public. But he felt that if Oxfam in Halifax
raised awareness and more Nova Scotians were exposed to the message, they would sign
the Big Noise petition and support the Make Trade Fair campaign.
Jamie felt she had what she needed to prepare a communications plan for the summer
campaign. Brian had given Jamie many background documents including a copy of an
internship report by Anthony Abato, the Dalhousie MBA/LLB student who had just
finished working on the No Sweat campaign (Appendix 8). Being from Calgary, Jamie
did not know the Maritimes or Halifax well, but she knew that she could get lots of
information on the web about her target markets. She would have to work with: 1) people
in universities, as well as those who frequented cafés, farmers markets, health food
stores, and alternative venues and festivals; 2) the large summer tourist population; 3)
government agencies; and 4) the more progressive companies. She knew that her plan
would have to answer these questions:
What should the local campaign’s goals be? How do we go about raising
awareness, collecting signatures on the Big Noise petition, getting people to attend
rallies and send Nova Scotian MPs the Make Trade Fair letters?
Who is Oxfam’s audience in Halifax? How do we keep “the converted” active,
while getting the general public involved?
How can we bring about short-term results and long-term attitude changes?
What is our local message and who are our spokespeople? Is the message
understood? How can we differentiate ourselves and our message from other
NGOs? How can we frame the issues in a way that is understandable to the
What media outlets reach our target audience? What venues and activities do they
frequent? What kind of interesting media event could we stage? How can we be
newsworthy and get coverage and interviews? Can we get an Op-ed? Can we get
cartoonists, photographers, talk show hosts, or reporters interested? Cameras love
outfits and reporters love conflict. How outrageous can we get – wear pig
costumes, use pets, make outrageous posters? Can we use e-mail campaigns
without invading people’s privacy?
What can 40 volunteers do with only $2,000 for the whole year?
How should I spend my time during the 10 weeks of the internship?
1. Identify the possible target markets for this campaign.
2. Take a look at the accompanying videos available at
www.maketradefair.com/en/index.htm. Identify which videos you would use for each
target market. Justify your answers.
3. Prepare a 5-10 page communication strategy and action plan for the 2005 Make
Trade Fair summer campaign that addresses the questions Jamie asks herself at
the end of the case.