Established in 1995, Oxfam International (Oxfam) is a global confederation of NGOs working together to reduce global poverty and inequality. Incorporated in the UK and recently re-headquartered in Kenya, Oxfam consists of 21 member organizations working in 70 countries worldwide.

The organization’s main contributions regarding corporate capture have been research, campaigning, public policy advocacy, and innovations such as community-based human rights impact assessments, which allow for local cases to inform corporate due diligence and State responses to human rights violations, sometimes before they even occur.

What follows aretwo examples of Oxfam’s relevant capture researchand, most importantly, recommendations:

  • Captured Democracies: A Government for the Few”: Regarding the mechanisms used by elites to influence fiscal policy decisions in Latin America, Oxfam recommends:
    • Revolving door:“Regulating the income, movement and entry of public officials through explicit laws and codes of conduct; Establishing ‘cooling-off’ periods before and after holding public posts if coming from or going to the private sector; Enacting strict codes of conduct in the exercise of public duties to minimise the risks posed by abstract conflicts of interest; Instating obligatory recusal in matters linked to former clients or employees; Strengthening the bodies that control and assess these types of cases, both governmental and non-governmental.”
    • Regulate lobbying and prevent excessive lobbying capacity by elites:“Promote laws to regulate and ensure transparency of lobbying in order to restrict the influence of elites in public policy design and legislation; Keep a register of lobbyists that also includes their allocated budgets for lobbying; Guarantee formal spaces in public institutions in which all people and organizations can present their proposals and interests in fiscal debates.”
    • Strengthen constitutional courts:“Implement suitable and impartial mechanisms for the selection of judges that ensure a diverse and unbiased composition, without influence from elites of any type; Ensure that judicial decisions or legal opinions issued by Constitutional Courts on fiscal or tax matters take into account the international obligations enshrined in human rights treaties; Establish mechanisms for scrutiny and accountability of judges’ performance, aimed at preventing or penalizing the use of the judiciary to favour the interests of elites to the detriment of the rights and interests of the State or of society.”
    • Bribes and influence peddling:“Impose penalties and make an example of those who pay or receive bribes or partake in influence peddling in public administration; Ensure the independence of the judicial system.”
    • Tackle tax haven opacity and combat tax avoidance:“Eliminate banking secrecy; Implement laws on fiscal transparency; Eliminate tax havens that conceal illegal practices and enable tax avoidance.”

  • Extractives Industries and Political Capture Effects on Institutions, Equality, and the Environment”:
    • “The corporate capture of the state is directly related to the concentration of economic power. It is with these highly concentrated material resources that the economic elite can muscle into a porous and discretionary state apparatus, and take advantage of the weaknesses in civil society. These elites were fortified by the free market policies applied without interruption since the 1990s, and today they continue to be favored by state policies that prioritize the promotion of private investments. In Peru under Humala, we have seen that the main agents of capture are large domestic and foreign corporations (in particular extractive industries) whose material powers have continued to grow. They are able to use these powers to wield excessive influence. (…) In all, the phenomenon of state political capture has favored and strengthened the economic elite, harmed vulnerable social groups, weakened the neutrality and regulatory capacity of the state, eroded state legitimacy, concentrated and fortified political powers, blocked congress from playing a proactive legislative role, limited democratic deliberation, and reduced access to material resources and opportunities for poor people. We conclude by noting that a society can avoid these dangers by reducing concentration of wealth, improving balance of power, providing alternative access to the media, and promoting greater organizational vitality and civil society capacity.”

Oxfam’s community-driven human rights impact assessment tool, an innovation called theCommunity-Based Human Rights Assessment Initiative(COBHRA), serves both to assess human rights impacts and encourage companies to conduct due diligence that considers human rights risks, impacts, and the consent of affected communities. COBRHA has been adapted by organizations throughout the world, includingProject on Organizing, Development, Education, and ResearchPODER) in Mexico,where it was used preemptively as the primary research and public communication tool to prevent the negative impacts of an open-pit mine, a project which PODER and the community succeeded in canceling.

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