Justin Forsyth

Oxfam's director of policy responds to an article by the former deputy director of Greenpeace UK, who argued that pressure groups did not have much of a future
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The Independent Online

Chris Rose is right to emphasise the challenges facing NGOs such as Greenpeace and Oxfam in a rapidly changing world ("Is the golden age of pressure groups coming to an abrupt end?", 11 August). But he is wrong to conclude that, like dinosaurs unable to adapt, we will become extinct.

Chris Rose is right to emphasise the challenges facing NGOs such as Greenpeace and Oxfam in a rapidly changing world ("Is the golden age of pressure groups coming to an abrupt end?", 11 August). But he is wrong to conclude that, like dinosaurs unable to adapt, we will become extinct.

Yes, as a result of globalisation, the technology revolution and the new media, we do face new challenges to communicate to our supporters and the general public, and to influence politicians. But we are adapting to meet these challenges.

Recent campaigns such as Jubilee 2000 and the land-mines campaign demonstrate that NGOs are at the cutting edge of change. We now work together much more on a global level, using new and mass media.

Campaigners in Britain or the US now brief their supporters through video streaming and organise through e-mail. They can join together with campaigners in India or Mozambique in taking action on the same day.

Oxfam recently took part in a global week of action on education, which was organised through the internet and resulted in action in over 100 countries by teachers and activists. We can now reach people more directly and quickly, thereby increasing our impact.

The other reason why we will not disappear is that, as political debate becomes increasingly shallow, people want to support organisations that stand for strong values. That is why last week, we signed up our 500,000th supporter. The problems that these people care about have not gone away and, if anything, they have increased.

We can use the new media and technology as weapons in this fight against poverty and injustice. They provide new opportunities, not threats.

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