One Percent

Oxfam International added an exclamation symbol to simmering suspicion – predicting by 2016, “one percent” will control over half global wealth. As of today, the richest 1% control 48% of all wealth. More sobering – the top 80 possess 1.9 trillion, equal to everything shared by 3.5 billion people on the wrong end of the scale. Thirty five of those 80 are American, followed by Germany and Russia with 7 each. Seventy are men, 11 of them inherited their fortune. Their bursting coffers, almost exclusively sustained by finance, health care, insurance, technology and resources.

This week Switzerland hosts the World Economic Forum – 2,500 elite economic players gather to discuss global economy and trends. What exactly is a world economic forum? Their website says “committed to improving the state of the world”. Founder and executive director Klaus Schwab spoke to the Associated Press on the eve of formal proceedings. Schwab said – international teamwork was needed to generate economic growth and combat terrorism. He expressed concern that falling oil prices and deflation could put companies out of business.

Davos,  Swiss Alp resort host of WEF needn’t fret – local economy basks in financial reward. Not only will 40 world leaders join 2,500 economic big wigs, it seems celebrity favors the Alps in winter. Last year Matt Damon and Goldie Hawn  lent glamorous star power – Damon pitched, a charity he co-founded, Hawn reportedly led a meditation session. This year Al Gore teams with Pharrell Williams in a scheduled discussion “What’s Next, A Climate For Action”.

Pardon me for pondering the World Economic Forum as absurd. Attempting to shellac a gathering of global economic players under the guise of “committed to improving the state of the world”, is laughable. Trotting out celebrity panelists – transparent attempts to dupe us into believing the 1% give a damn – strikes me as painfully inept and juvenile. Look no further than the link below – 25 American corporations who spent more on lobbies than they paid in taxes.

Anyone naive enough to think the one percent gives a rat’s ass about making the world a better place, needs their head examined. Oxfam plans to be in Davos – urging world leaders to improve public services, introduce living wages, end gender gaps and come down hard on tax-dodging corporations. Oxfam doesn’t stand a chance.

Preventing Poverty Is Not A Mission

Oxfam began in England, 1942 as Oxford Committee for Famine Relief. Based in Oxford as a group of local citizens in support of the National Famine Relief Committee, a group calling on the British government to allow food relief through the Allied blockade of occupied Greece. In 1963, Canada became the first international country to open an office – the name Oxfam came from their telegraph address – by 1965, the organization was officially known as Oxfam International.

Oxfam’s mission is tackling poverty at the root. Working with local organizations in almost 100 countries, they view poverty as a symptom of poor education, human rights violations, injustice and oppression. Their goal – alleviate and prevent poverty through sustainable local programs, with emphasis on women’s rights. Oxfam’s ” approach sets forth five irrefutable rights …..

  • the right to a sustainable livelihood
  • the right to basic social services
  • the right to life and security
  • the right to be heard
  • the right to an identity

Under a law passed by Industry Canada in 2011, all non-profit charitable organizations were required to re-apply for tax exempt status by October 17 of this year. Oxfam submittted this mission statement…

“to prevent and relieve poverty, vulnerability and suffering by improving the conditions of individuals whose lives, livelihood, security or well-being are at risk.”

All Industry Canada submissions needed final approval from the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency), CRA officials informed Oxfam “preventing poverty” was an unacceptable goal. “Relieving poverty is charitable, preventing it is not”.  In minds of the CRA, preventing poverty “may or may not involve poor people” .

“A group of millionaires could get together to prevent their poverty, and that would not be deemed a charitable purpose.”

Oxfam dropped the word “preventing” – resubmitting with this statement….

“Our mission statement still indicates we’re committed to ending poverty, but our charitable (purposes) do not use the word ‘end’ or ‘prevent’ — they use the word ‘alleviate.”‘

As for the CRA…

Philippe Brideau, spokesman for the Canada Revenue Agency, declined to provide information on the disagreement with Oxfam, saying “we do not comment on specific cases.”

However, he said legal precedents mean charities cannot help people not already impoverished from falling into poverty.

“Purposes that relieve poverty are charitable because they provide relief only to eligible beneficiaries, those in need,” Brideau said in an email.

“However, the courts have not found the risk of poverty as being equivalent to actually being in need. Therefore, as the courts have indicated, an organization cannot be registered with the explicit purpose of preventing poverty.”

He added that charities are still allowed to teach money management, budgeting and other life skills, which could lead to the prevention of poverty.

How interesting that Oxfam was “singled out” by Harper’s Employment Minister Jason Kenney a few months ago for opposition to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Or that last July Oxfam signed a joint letter to Stephen Harper over allegations new Cabinet Members were briefed with a list of “friend and enemy stakeholder” organizations.

At this moment, 52 charities are under going audits – organizations like Amnesty International, David Suzuki Foundation, Canada Without Poverty and the United Church Kairos project (a faith based organization of Canadian churches fighting for justice, with vocal emphasis on environmental issues – opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline and tar sand development). PEN Canada, a Toronto organization advocating freedom of speech, was added to the audit list when it publicly raised eyebrows over “muzzling” of scientists on Federal payrolls.

Harper handed the CRA 13 million dollars “special funding” to audit groups critical of Harper policy, in particular those opposing environmental issues. Ponder this Stephen Harper – you don’t fool anyone. Human rights, equality, women’s rights, clean water, hunger, oppression and freedom of speech might not mean anything to you – they mean everything to the majority outside your precious ivory tower – your bastion of hypocrisy and greed will fall long before your “mission” has a chance to perpetuate more suffering.