Citizens and states

Sotzil community in Guatemala, where Oxfam-partner CONIC worked to support the rights of indigenous people. Credit: Annie Bungeroth/Oxfam

Unequal power relations perpetuate and underpin poverty and need to be addressed both at the institutional level and within the complex norms and customs of each society.

We believe that most marginalized people have the capacity to contribute to decision making processes affecting their lives and hold those in position of power to account to meet their obligations to respect and protect the rights of poor people.

Our goal

Oxfam strives to support people and their organisations to claim their civil, social and political rights, in a supportive and secure environment.

We create spaces for change with alliances and people’s movements and constructively connect communities to decision-makers and influencers, ensuring we are ourselves accountable and transparent to the people and organisations with whom we work.

Oxfam grounds all of its work in strengthening the ability of people living in poverty to demand and defend their rights. Supporting civil society is an important part of our work to help people in their own struggle for justice and equality.

Key strategies

Supporting people to raise their voice and claim their rights


  • We help to build the capacity of civil society organisations, including NGOs, social movements, unions and communities to know and demand their individual and collective rights.
  • See more on the Raising Her Voice project which aims to influence public policy, decision-making, and expenditure to reflect the interests of women from poor countries.

Ensuring that power-holders are responsive and transparent


  • Oxfam has a strong role in establishing and strengthening coalitions and national NGOs that work at the grassroots, bringing evidence from the ground and leveraging approaches and tools to promote accountability of those in power (both state and informal power-holders).
  • We also help build the capacity of governments at local, national, and international level to be accountable and fulfil the needs of people living in poverty.
  • We facilitate negotiation between citizens and the state for sustainable change. These will be different in different countries, such as rights for indigenous peoples or for small-scale fisher folk.

Building and protecting spaces for change


  • Oxfam has a role in ensuring voices of civil society and other actors (including state, private sector, unions and others) can be freely heard, in an open and safe environment.
  • Oxfam has a facilitation role to ensure dialogues are inclusive, and agendas are set in a participatory and constructive way.

Advocacy priorities

  • We work with others to enhance skills of civil society organisations to advocate for the rights of poor men and women and to track government delivery of resources and implementation of pro-poor policies.
  • Oxfam believes that a percentage of aid flows should be channelled to civil society organisations, to enable people to better hold their governments to account.