For Oxfam, fiscal justice is about all people having the space, voice and agency to exercise their rights and influence the fiscal system – whatever their gender, class, religion, ability. We enable individuals, groups and communities to influence and monitor fiscal systems, mobilizing greater revenue and increasing spending on public services.

Fiscal justice is critical in addressing extreme inequality and poverty. More than technical tax or budget systems, it is about power, politics and support in the fight against inequality. Our vision puts active citizens and the civil society organizations at the heart of our approach – paying particular attention to commonly overlooked groups, and the barriers to their voices, issues and participation.

Oxfam’s Fiscal Accountability for Inequality Reduction – Even it Up! (F.A.I.R.-EIU) program unites the work of Oxfam and partners in over 40 countries. To find out more, download the concept note.

Here you can find the Track Record of Oxfam’s fiscal justice & inequality work including case studies, videos, and reports. These bring together our approach, impact and learning on fiscal justice in areas such as citizen engagement, social accountability, budget monitoring, tax and spending.

Featured country case studies are available in English, French and Spanish.

Citizen-led campaigning, capacity building of civil society, and engagement with different authorities and ministries has been at the heart of work over the past two years in the areas of tax, budgets and active citizenship in OPT. Together with MIFTAH, AMAN and ARIJ, Oxfam in the OPTI combines strategies on both the demand and supply side of the governance process; strong public campaigning to mobilize citizens on the one hand, and increasing transparency and accountability on governments’budgets for social services on the other.

This case study highlights the supporting and meaningful participation of citizens in government budget processes, and how citizens have amplified their needs and voice through a public campaign which rallied more than 42,000 people in Palestine.

Lessons Learned

  • Flexibility is key. Even though it is important to plan your campaign, it eventually depends how your audience and the authorities respond to your campaign that determines in which shape or form you can continue. In the case of the Money 4 Medicine campaign, the greatest threat was its’ success. Because of the pushback, the team had to reassess and adjust the campaign.

  • Considering the limited space for civil society organizations to operate in the OPT, it really helped that the issue of Money for Medicine was put central in the campaign, not Oxfam or the partner organizations behind it. No logos were used from any of the organizations. This provided the campaign team with the space to act, and citizens with space to engage with the topic.

  • Cooperation between Oxfam and its’ Finance 4 Development partner organizations MIFTAH and ARIJ, with the different Ministries show that increased fiscal transparency is possible, and an important way to ensure that Palestinian national and local budgets are more responsive to the needs of the poor and the marginalized.

  • Creating a positive track record of cooperating with a specific ministry can help in building relationships with other ministries as well. Showing that increasing citizens’ involvement in the budget process has helped the service delivery and the fiscal transparency of the ministry, as made it easier to engage with other Ministries as well.
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The work in Vietnam illustrates how working on both the tax and the budget spending side of the fiscal system, while putting active citizenship at the centre of the approach can lead to strong fiscal justice gains.

By increasing citizen participation, and in particular women’s participation, transparency and accountability in the budget process is increased and promoted. When it comes to technical issues such as tax incentives, by promoting coalition building, multi-stakeholder dialogues, and being a credible actor with key expertise on taxation, Oxfam in Vietnam is continuously proving its value as influencing actor.

This case study highlights examples of meaningful citizen engagement in local budget processes and successful influencing of the tax system using, making use of country-by-country reporting, that strengthens tax transparency and tackles tax avoidance in Vietnam.

Lessons Learned

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  • When engaging with citizens as part of budget monitoring or social accountability work, it is important to be aware that our agenda as civil society organizations might be different from what citizens think is most important. The issues that citizens themselves have identified as needing change, will also be the issue where they find most motivation and engagement to act upon.

  • It is worth exploring possible cooperation with unusual allies, such as Oxfam in Vietnam did with the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce (VCCI). Even though their interests might seem worlds apart at first sight, both actors could find a common interest in increased transparency for multinational corporations with active operations in Vietnam.

  • Working in coalition with civil society organizations, think tanks, research institutions and other experts has ensured a mutual strengthening of each other’s technical and influencing capacity. The reach and influencing power of the collation on both tax and budget issues has increased due to collective action. In broader sense, coalition building helps to strengthen civil society, and makes civil society more effective in holding the government accountable for effective policies and implementation.

The work in Vietnam illustrates how working on both the tax and the budget spending side of the fiscal system, while putting active citizenship at the centre of the approach can lead to strong fiscal justice gains.

By increasing citizen participation, and in particular women’s participation, transparency and accountability in the budget process is increased and promoted. When it comes to technical issues such as tax incentives, by promoting coalition building, multi-stakeholder dialogues, and being a credible actor with key expertise on taxation, Oxfam in Vietnam is continuously proving its value as influencing actor.

This case study highlights examples of meaningful citizen engagement in local budget processes and successful influencing of the tax system using, making use of country-by-country reporting, that strengthens tax transparency and tackles tax avoidance in Vietnam.

Lessons Learned

  • When engaging with citizens as part of budget monitoring or social accountability work, it is important to be aware that our agenda as civil society organizations might be different from what citizens think is most important. The issues that citizens themselves have identified as needing change, will also be the issue where they find most motivation and engagement to act upon.

  • It is worth exploring possible cooperation with unusual allies, such as Oxfam in Vietnam did with the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce (VCCI). Even though their interests might seem worlds apart at first sight, both actors could find a common interest in increased transparency for multinational corporations with active operations in Vietnam.

  • Working in coalition with civil society organizations, think tanks, research institutions and other experts has ensured a mutual strengthening of each other’s technical and influencing capacity. The reach and influencing power of the collation on both tax and budget issues has increased due to collective action. In broader sense, coalition building helps to strengthen civil society, and makes civil society more effective in holding the government accountable for effective policies and implementation.
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Ghana

In Ghana citizen engagement is central to improving government transparency and accountability, all the more so after the financial crisis that followed the 2012 elections. In a country where 50% of the population is between 18 and 35 years old, young people are instrumental in creating change.

To get young citizens to engage in influencing policy change, the key to success has been music and culture! Through online and offline conversations including Ghanaian musicians and celebrities, youth are informed and encouraged to vote in a government that would work to reduce inequality in the country.

Oxfam and partners in Ghana are also working to increase the transparency and accountability of local and national governance. Through the now famous Shama model, citizens get to understand what their tax payment is contributing to and are able to have a say into budget allocations for local level development of their community. At the national level, a broad based civil society coalition has found a way to voice their recommendations to the government public finance management system using the IMF to build pressure.

This case study highlights the effective fiscal justice influencing for the Ghanaian government to set up a more progressive public finance management system, whilst working to increase active citizenship at the local and national level.

Lessons Learned

• Understanding the issues that matter to youth, the conversations they are interested in and their influences is helpful in connecting with this generation. Including pop-culture influencers in the civil society conversation about accountability and public finance management, drew young people into the debate. This enables a new generation of young active citizens to stand up in Ghana.

• Central to both the local and national level governance approaches are Ghanaian citizens themselves. They voice their needs, demand increased accountability of the government and are part of the development of their communities. Through organizing platforms for dialogue among citizens and government, Oxfam supports their voices being heard. Active citizenship is at the heart of this approach.

• Establishing a diverse strategic partnership (including civil society organizations, think-tanks and grassroots movements) has strengthened the call for greater accountability in Ghana. Standing together with a unified voice enables a strong, sustained dialogue between citizens and government. In this manner, we voice a continuous demand for accountability.

• Use global institutions and international influencing spaces as strategic levers for top-down pressure. The use of the IMF and World Bank influencing spaces in a multi-level civil society-led campaign with direct representation by citizens can lead to policy reform processes and implementation of improved fiscal responsibility at the national level.

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In Peru, young people are taking part in the debate on fiscal justice and inequality by connecting with investigative journalists, academics, movements, and civil society organizations. Through the digital platform Actua.pe this active citizenship is further strengthened online, using creative visuals to inform the debate on issues that citizens care most about.

This creative method is helping citizens to make the connection between taxation policies and the provision of social services- such as health care - in a concrete way. With increased citizens awareness on the one hand, and strong national advocacy on taxation and fiscal issues on the other, Oxfam and partners in Peru are effectively working towards sustained change.

This case study highlights the engagement of youth participating in public debate on fiscal justice and inequality, and shows the power of mobilizing people to become true agents of change.

Lessons Learned

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  • Connect across generations: Invite young people to the table and engage with them at the same level as other stakeholders. Provide them with the autonomous space they need to inform their political opinion and the impetus for action. 

  • Empathy, intersectionality and creativity are essential: Move your conversation beyond your usual networks. Discuss the issues in real time and connect with a variety of movements. Being creative helps to convey the messages. Use humour, cartoons, memes, social networks, and GIFs to connect with a broader audience.

  • Combining a specific fiscal issue that needs to be changed (tax exemption) with a topic of public interest: for example, health services for the treatment of cancer. When the connection between taxes and public spending is clearer, it is easier to gather support for the fiscal justice agenda.

  • Abstract and complex topics become relevant to the public when they connect to specific cases. Provide clear examples of how state capture works is key to success. Connecting academia, journalists and activists has been essential in sharing how state capture is affecting peoples’ lives.

In Peru, young people are taking part in the debate on fiscal justice and inequality by connecting with investigative journalists, academics, movements, and civil society organizations. Through the digital platform Actua.pe this active citizenship is further strengthened online, using creative visuals to inform the debate on issues that citizens care most about.

This creative method is helping citizens to make the connection between taxation policies and the provision of social services- such as health care - in a concrete way. With increased citizens awareness on the one hand, and strong national advocacy on taxation and fiscal issues on the other, Oxfam and partners in Peru are effectively working towards sustained change.

This case study highlights the engagement of youth participating in public debate on fiscal justice and inequality, and shows the power of mobilizing people to become true agents of change.

Lessons Learned

  • Connect across generations: Invite young people to the table and engage with them at the same level as other stakeholders. Provide them with the autonomous space they need to inform their political opinion and the impetus for action. 

  • Empathy, intersectionality and creativity are essential: Move your conversation beyond your usual networks. Discuss the issues in real time and connect with a variety of movements. Being creative helps to convey the messages. Use humour, cartoons, memes, social networks, and GIFs to connect with a broader audience.

  • Combining a specific fiscal issue that needs to be changed (tax exemption) with a topic of public interest: for example, health services for the treatment of cancer. When the connection between taxes and public spending is clearer, it is easier to gather support for the fiscal justice agenda.

  • Abstract and complex topics become relevant to the public when they connect to specific cases. Provide clear examples of how state capture works is key to success. Connecting academia, journalists and activists has been essential in sharing how state capture is affecting peoples’ lives.
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