Few know Oxfam and its work better than Meyer Brownstone. An influential part of Oxfam Canada for the last four decades, Meyer joined the fledging organization in 1967 and became the chair of the Ontario region. He soon became the chair of Oxfam Canada, and during his 17 years at the helm, helped to form the constitution of Oxfam International. Over that period he stressed the need for Oxfam to go beyond its original charity status to recognize both development and the problem of “political poverty” asmajor steps towards equality.
Since then, Meyer has used his educational and professional background to contribute to development policy and advance Oxfam’s work in Canada and abroad. Today, he is the chair emeritus of Oxfam Canada and sits on the Ontario Regional Steering Committee.
Meyer is always moved to put his ideas into action. Another important way he contributes to Oxfam is as a donor and advisor to the Oxfam Canada Johanna Oosterveld Fund for Southern Africa, where he helps raise money in memory of a fellow board member, Johanna Oosterveld who died in 1994. The Fund currently supports innovative programs in Zimbabwe making connections between HIV/AIDS transmission, gender-based violence and the struggle for women’s rights and equality.
In all his work, Meyer with a doctorate from Harvard University, with a joint degree in public administration, economics and political science, as a professor with the University of Toronto and York University, and as acabinet advisor and deputy-ministerin Saskatchewan with the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation ( the CCF which eventually became the New Democratic Party) has applied his knowledge and expertise in the pursuit of ending globalpoverty, hungerand inequality.
Through his work with Oxfam, Meyer focused on liberation processes mainly in Latin America and Africa, and headed several commissions on first elections in countries including Nicaragua and Mozambique and the first universal elections in South Africa.
In 1986, Meyer was awardedthe Pearson Peace Medal for his outstanding contributions to international understanding and cooperation.
At the same time, Meyer workedwidely as a member on government committees,(e.g. Tanzania’s Presidential Committe on Decentralization,as the director of research in government(e.g. research supervisor RoyalCommission on Biligualism and Biculturalism)and educational institutions (e.g. evaluation of Univesity of Guelph’s programme in Indonesia), andas a UN expert in Jamaica, where he spent the better part of a year doing a report on the decentralization of local government that ended up being `too radical for the government. (but published some years later by the Michael Manley government)
Over the years, though, Meyer’s focus has always remained with Oxfam. It was through his work here that he gained his most valuable experiences.
`I did a lot of visiting to refugee camps in Central America, Honduras and other places, and I was greatly enriched by being with those people and listening to them and I was beginning to understand a lot more about the world than I had before, he said.
`I’m very hopeful, because the things that I have witnessed, which Oxfam has always supported, is the empowerment of civil society and classless movements. There are now thousands of those around the world, small but very effective in creating social and economic situations that are really transforming their societies on the basis of equality, particularly gender equality, and humanitarian values. Not through state action or state action alone, but civil society. That’s always been a focal point for Oxfam.