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WHY DOES OXFAM EMPHASISE THE IMPORTANCE OF ‘ACTIVE CITIZENS AND EFFECTIVE STATES’ FOR DEVELOPMENT?

Oxfam International, according to their website (http://www.oxfam.org) is 'a group of non-governmental organizations working worldwide to fight poverty and injustice,' with the ultimate goal of bringing about lasting change. JC Berthelemy (2008) states that 'emerging countries have pulled out of poverty after having made progress in health and education, and' thus, it can be assumed that Oxfam would be interested in issues surrounding development. This assumption is further reinforced by the recent publication (June 2008) of From Poverty to Power: How Active Citizens and Effective States Can Change the World, which investigates the relationship between poverty, development and the two key concepts detailed in the title. Written by Oxfam's head of research Duncan Green, and published through Oxfam's own publishing company, the book can be seen as a seminal text regarding the organisation's current mission statement.

Before explaining the importance of these two key concepts in relation to development, it is first necessary to fully understand both of their meanings. Green (2008, p12) is quick to clarify both early on, stating that active citizenship is the 'combination of rights and obligations that link individuals to the state, including paying taxes, obeying laws, and exercising the full range of political, civil, and social rights'. Effective states are defined as 'states that can guarantee security and the rule of law, and can design and implement an effective strategy to ensure inclusive economic growth (p13)'. Green also discloses that effective states are often referred to as 'developmental states,' which clearly emphasises the closeness of the relationship between the state and development.

Active citizenship also plays a vital part on this road to development. Green (p11) explains its role: 'active citizens use their rights to improve the quality of political or civic life, often through the sort of collective action that historically has allowed poor and excluded groups to make their voices heard'. He continues by explaining that people working together to determine the course of their own lives by fighting for rights and justice in their own societies are critical in holding states, private companies, and others to account and that without this accountability no meaningful change or development can occur. The text also provides several examples of successful cases of active citizenship, such as Bolivia's Chiquitano Indians, who through organisation and courage moved from being semi-feudal serfs to winning the rights to a million hectares of land within a single generation (p106-108).

Although Green (p13) concedes that most other organisations - both governmental and non-governmental - also recognise that active citizenship and effective states are important to development, he also notes that they tend to value one above the other in regard to their development strategy, dependent upon their official viewpoint. However his, and Oxfam's, experience is that the two are both central to the pursuit of any successful development and hence the organisation now seeks to promote both in relation to its policies. Without active citizenship, effective states cannot be held accountable for their decisions, and without the tool of an effective state, active citizens cannot achieve the stability and development that their actions warrant, and thus Oxfam argue that for any success the two ideas need to be implemented in tandem with one another. This is reflected by Green in the conclusion to his text (p429): 'only these two frameworks combined deliver the kinds of social and political structures needed to make development serve the poorest individuals and communities'. This is his ultimate aim, as well as Oxfam's and it seems that in utilising these ideas together they may have a chance of achieving it.

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