Major honour for Oxfam

Oxford-based charity Oxfam received the Freedom of the City award on Tuesday in ceremony at the Town Hall.

The charity, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, was presented with a Scroll of Admission by the Lord Mayor of Oxford, with Chief Executive Dame Barbara Stocking accepting the honour on behalf of the charity.

Lord Mayor of Oxford, Councillor Alan Armitage, said: “Oxfam has made a huge difference to the lives of many millions of people across the world, during 70 years.

“We in Oxford can be very proud of the organisation’s strong links with our city, and the unfailing support it has had from our citizens.

“This is a good time to demonstrate our appreciation by awarding Freedom of the City.”

Accepting the accolade, Dame Stocking thanked the city for its “very special tribute to Oxfam”, noting that there is “nothing better than being noticed in your own home.”

She added: “Oxfam’s heart is in Oxford and it is very special to be accepting the Freedom of the City on Oxfam’s behalf.

“The Oxford community has played such an important role throughout our past and I very much hope this will continue into the future.”

Councillor Antonia Bance, who proposed the Freedom of the City motion,  praised the “truly global campaigning force”, noting that the Freedom of Oxford “recognises people and institutions that have made a significant contribution to the city”.

Councillor John Goddard, who seconded the conferment said this was a “special day for the city”, and that as a “world class charity organisation” Oxfam truly deserves the honour.

He added that Oxfam is “embedded in Oxford life” and has convinced the wider public that they are an organisation worth supporting.

Councillor Craig Simmons who also supported the decision to give Oxfam the Freedom of the City, said: “I am immensely proud to live in the city that gave Oxfam its name.

“Oxfam has stayed innovative where other charities have lost their focus”.

Simmons talked about how the charity “revolutionised [his] family” with its innovative ideas such as gift cards which buy a goat or a chicken.

He added: “In my family, it’s now common practice that adults get gift cards not gifts for Christmas.”

Dame Stocking talked about the history of Oxfam in the city, from its beginnings in 1942 as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief to its current standing as one of Oxford’s largest employers providing 700 jobs, and 20 Oxfam shops across Oxfordshire.

Discussing the future of the charity, she acknowledged that the “greatest success would be that [Oxfam] is not needed [however] meanwhile there is a lot of work to do.”

Oxfam was set up in Oxford in 1942 and has developed into a global movement working to overcome poverty worldwide. Today, Oxfam works in over 90 countries, including the UK. The charity also opened the UK’s first charity shop- here on Oxford’s own Broad Street.

The Freedom of the City is an honorary status only, with no rights other than to attend formal council meetings and ceremonial occasions. To be awarded the prestigious honour, there has to be a vote in favour of at least two thirds of Councillors attending the meeting. Councillors were unanimous in their decision to award Oxfam the  recognition.

Only a small number of people have been given the award, including  the Chancellors, Masters, and Scholars of both Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University, Sir Roger Bannister, Nelson Mandela and Philip Pullman.