It seems its celebrity ambassador, Scarlett Johansson, has signed an advertising deal with SodaStream International Ltd, an Isreali company operating in the West Bank. According to the blog, The Electronic Intifada, the move has caused an "internal revolt" at Oxfam and the organisation's own website alludes to the conflicted position it finds itself in:
"We are proud of our relationship with Scarlett Johansson [and] Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors. However Oxfam believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law."
Despite the high profile of both the NGO and its celebrity ambassador, this would just be internal politics, under unique circumstances – except, of course, it isn't. Development researcher, Jonathan Glennie, tweeted as he shared the Electronic Intifada blog: "Was same when I was at @savechildrenuk."
And there are other examples of staff concerned about what affliation with a particular celebrity could mean. A Unicef officer in New Delhi is quoted in the Guardian as saying: "It's bad enough having to accommodate celebrities and their entourage in the aftermath of every major humanitarian disaster. But when most people think of the UN now they think of Angelina Jolie on a crusade, not the work that goes on in the field after humanitarian disasters or on a long-term preventive level."
While there is no doubt that celebrity endorsement yields financial dividends for NGOs and can raise the profile of a cause, it can also infuriate staff and create tensions with communities in which the organisation works. So what should Oxfam do? Take our poll and tell us your experiences or thoughts on celebrities and NGOs in the comment threads below.
Do you think Oxfam should sever ties with Scarlett Johansson?
Eliza Anyangwe manages content for the Guardian's Global Development Professionals Network. She also blogs about Africa and culture, and is one of the organisers of Africa Gathering, London. She tweets as @elizatalks